DEATH IS PATIENT
After more than 15 years since its original launch, Tim Schafer’s classic adventure game, Grim Fandango, has been remastered and re-released for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. As most fans know, this isn’t an ordinary re-release. After some of the original code was lost and Tim Schafer left LucasArts to form Double Fine, Grim Fandango got shoved under the rug and largely forgotten. For years the only way to play Schafer’s cult-classic adventure game was to download it illegally or track down a physical copy. Fortunately, thanks to this remaster, fans and newcomers like me can now play the classic for $14.99.
Grim Fandango follows the story of Manuel “Manny” Calavera, a travel agent for the recently departed. After Manny makes a few mistakes and sends an innocent woman named Mercedes “Meche” Colomar to walk to the far reaches of the Underworld, he sets out to rescue her. Along the way you will visit many locales and meet an eclectic group of characters brimming with personality. As one would expect from a Tim Schafer game, the characters are the strongest element in Grim Fandango. Each of the characters have their own little quirks that set them apart from the next, and when you pair that with the excellent voice acting, it is hard not to fall in love.
The unique setting and presentation is also what is to be expected from Tim Schafer. The noir tone mixed with the colorful Dia de los Muertos vibe holds up beautifully on today’s technology. You don’t have to look far to see remnants of the game’s limitations it had when it originally released, but the improved resolutions and textures make Grim Fandango easy on the eyes. The game also allows players to switch between the remastered version and the original with the touch of a button. One of my favorite additions is the inclusions of a Director’s Commentary. If you choose to turn this on you can activate short audio clips from Tim Schafer and other key designers that add a bit of insight to the development.
Grim Fandango is first and foremost an adventure game. As Manny you will be exploring different areas, examining objects, and figuring out what to do with the objects you pick up along the way. After the first few puzzles it becomes immediately clear how much handholding is present in video games today. There are no tutorials or hints in Grim Fandango. At times I found this freeing, and all the more satisfying when I finally got passed a puzzle I had been scratching my head over. Unfortunately, this also left me frustrated for a majority of the experience. The logic behind the solutions to some of the puzzles could easily force players to set down the controller and move onto a different game.
However, If you have the patience for it, Grim Fandango is a satisfying and sobering experience that will remind you of the game design of the past. You aren’t just along for the ride in Grim Fandango; in order to complete it you will need to flex your problem solving muscles and imagination, something we don’t see too often in games today.
I also stumbled across some glitches during my ten hour playthrough, one of which forced me to restart my game. Like many classic games, Grim Fandango does not have an autosave function. The game even warns the player of this as it starts up. I recommend saving often and in multiple spots, so if you do get stuck in a glitch you won’t be forced to restart as I had to. Despite these issues, Grim Fandango plays as well as an adventure game should. The controls are simple and the game runs smoothly. Occasionally I would get turned around when the angle changed as I entered a new areas, but this are small gripes in an otherwise smooth experience.
Those who played the original should feel right at home. The improved resolutions, textures, and the developer commentaries make it worth the time and money for a second journey into the underworld. New players, such as myself, may have a difficult time getting past some of the trickier puzzles, but in the end the story, characters, and unique style make for an enjoyable adventure.
The Verdict: 8.2 out of 10.0
Grim Fandango is a sobering experience, and one that forces the player to harken back to a time when handholding was nearly non-existent. It can be jarring at first, but once you find your footing Grim Fandango becomes a charming adventure game with a heart that is seldom seen in games today.
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Jacob Dekker is a Senior Writer for MONG. For sporadic, yet infrequent updates about nothing follow him on Twitter.