Though my generation grew up with the Atari, Nintendo and PC as a gaming platform, and we’ve considered ourselves gamers all our lives, the sad fact remains that there was a window in there where we all enjoyed games but weren’t old enough to have jobs that supported that habit. What that meant was we were reliant on birthdays, allowances and the taste of grandparents to feed our habit. Then further on in the early college years there were just as many games that passed us by not because they weren’t worth our time, but perhaps because for that week of releases we were sick of supping on Ramen and had opted for a steak. Grim Fandango is one such release that I regretted missing, where a free demo sufficiently intrigued me but the quick advance of technology made the retail release unplayably obsolete.
For years the game sat at the back of my mind, like a memory of a girl I wish I had asked out but just never worked up the nerve before the summer suddenly appeared. And I honestly thought Grim Fandango would be one of the ones that got away, up until the Remastered version was announced. Then of course trepidation sets in — was the humor really as good as I remember? Or was it all just romanticized? More than overcoming nostalgia, for a lot of people Grim Fandango Remastered has to overcome what it was we imagined the game could be. Thankfully, after finally having the opportunity 17 years after its initial release, I can say with certainty that it wasn’t all just a dream. Grim Fandango and I really could have had something way back when. And now, despite the fact that we are both beginning to show our age, we’re reunited (and it feels so good, hey hey).
In case you missed it years ago and don’t quite share my absurd enthusiasm for the game’s return, Grim Fandango was a LucasArts point-and-click adventure game with a unique world and unsurpassed sense of humor. Set in the land of the dead you play the role of Manny Calavera, a salesman of sorts who must work off his debt to society by arranging for the newly deceased to find passage into the best circles of the underworld. The problem is that Manny keeps getting stuck with clients who were less than saintly (or so it seems), and he can never earn a commission on his sales. Forced to take unlife by the horns, Manny meets a presumably lovely skeleton girl named Meche whom he sends off into the dark underworld alone. Regretting placing her in distress (and possibly holding a little flame for her), Manny takes off after her and passes through many interesting locales along the way.
As far as adventure games are concerned the puzzles aren’t terribly difficult and the number of interactable items in each screen are relatively low. Using the mouse to hover over objects quickly tells you whether or not you can do something with a piece of the environment and the detection windows are fairly generous, so the only real guesswork in the game comes from finding those creative solutions to puzzles. It should be noted that attempting to play with a gamepad, while supported, is not advised; not only does this remove the reticle from the screen, it also makes interacting with things that much more difficult (because you have to position your character manually, rather than letting the game do so when clicking something from afar). Incidentally, though the PC version was the only one we played for review, this makes me leery of the console versions.
The game throws in its fair share of red herrings, but for the most part there is a clear and obvious path where you need to go; where some games give you too much world to explore, the areas here are well compartmentalized. Every character is convincing and the myriad accents keep things lively (even though the characters are all dead). While a great deal of work has gone into smoothing out textures, altering shading and adjusting lighting, the game’s characters are still quite blocky. As far as remakes go, enough was done to make the game more palatable for new players, but unless you really miss Manny and the host of other players here, the new visuals aren’t enough in and of themselves to warrant a second purchase. Apart from the facelift it doesn’t seem as though anything else (like puzzle solutions) has fundamentally changed (based upon the three hours of walkthrough video for the original which I’m comparing it to).
Grim Fandango Remastered is certainly an excellent adventure game, and one you may have missed years ago. If that’s the case, then there’s no reason for you not to make this purchase; the quality of the experience is completely undiminished, despite the fact that it isn’t beautiful by today’s graphic standards. It is the story and the characters that make this experience uniquely enjoyable. As such, if you played through the original there isn’t much to draw you back here; sure, it might be nice to rekindle that old flame, just don’t expect things to be much different than they were back in school.
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10
A code for Grim Fandango Remastered was provided to Pixel Related for review.