Review: Grim Fandango Remastered
Before this week acquiring a copy of Grim Fandango legally wasn’t easy or inexpensive. Also just from the little research I’ve done it doesn’t seem like it’s all that easy to actually get the original game to run on a current PC. Grim Fandango is a game that I’ve wanted to play for years now and, due to the things I’ve just mentioned, I’ve been unable to. Remastering Grim Fandango and releasing it now speaks to a larger discussion about video game preservation. There’s a need to keep games like this readily available for anyone who’d like to go back and revisit specific moments in the history of games. Specifically an adventure game that a lot of people have very fond memories of.
Manny Calavera is a travel agent working for the Department of Death, something that he must do for an undetermined amount of time to repay a debt to society, finding travel packages for worthy clients that’ll take them into the afterlife. Not long after the game starts Manny finds himself in the midst of a larger conspiracy and thrust into a journey, accompanied by his demon friend Glottis, through the Land of the Dead. Manny’s journey covers the next four years of his life (you’ll play one day a year leading to a big time skip at the end of each chapter) as he attempts to uncover the corruption within the Department of Death and find his perfect client.
The writing in Grim Fandango is funny, the characters are memorable, and the voice acting actually holds up really well today. (Granted I think playing nothing but Resident Evil Remaster this past week may have impacted my feelings on the VO quality in Grim Fandango.) Now this might be controversial, but I don’t think the overall story delivers considering how great the premise is. The reason I’ve wanted to play Grim Fandango for so long is because I found the premise to be absolutely fascinating. A reaper/travel agent working to find travel packages into the afterlife for the recently deceased? Sign me up! A conspiracy that forces said travel agent into a four year journey across the Land of the Dead? Yes! The story itself is fine, but I think the time skips make this adventure feel smaller than it actually is. You’re only experiencing what amounts to four days (I’m sure the story was written with this in mind) and this just left me wanting for something more. It’s unfortunately a side effect from playing a highly praised game for the very first time. Like it or not you tend to form expectations for what something is after years of hearing about just how incredible it is. I still really enjoyed Grim Fandango, but I didn’t love the story in the way that I was hoping.
As an old school adventure game the puzzles are often really tough and can be a bit obscure. If you’re familiar with this kind of game then you’ll know exactly what to expect. There’s a lot of item combinations necessary that’ll require you to think outside the box. It’s important to make sure that you examine everything in the environment, try to use every item on other objects, and exhaust all dialog options. Typically the puzzles are a bit more logical in comparison to other adventure games, but the solutions will by no means be obvious.
Grim Fandango Remastered includes new lighting, cleaner character models, developer commentary, and an alternate control option. At any point in the game you can click the right analog stick to switch between the old and remastered graphics. You’ll immediately notice that the backgrounds and environment was largely left the same. The graphical updates come in the form of better looking character models and added lighting. It might not sound like much, but both of these updates go a long way. Seeing the light shine through the blinds onto a character helps more than you might think. It’s also worth drawing attention to the way in which the trophies in the game reward experimentation. Using items in unique ways (like if you attempt to scare off birds with a specific balloon) and choosing specific dialog options will lead to trophies. If you’re thorough you’ll likely unlock most trophies in a single playthrough.
There are a handful of moments throughout Grim Fandango that I’ll always remember. Hearing Glottis attempt to sing a certain song (one that I won’t name so people can experience it themselves) will probably go down as a personal favorite moment in games for me. So much of Grim Fandango for me will always be about just meeting the large and diverse cast of characters within the game. It’s an absolute must that you talk to everyone you see just to hear what they have to say. The Day of the Dead theme that runs throughout the game is what drives everything home and helps to flesh out a world that feels real. There’s also things like ‘sprouting’ that helps give context to how things work in Grim Fandango. The Land of the Dead feels like an actual place with many different types of characters living in it.
For newcomers like myself this remaster opens the door for a new generation to experience a piece of gaming history. It has faults, and the remaster might not be as extensive as some would hope, but Grim Fandango has aged well. More importantly Grim Fandango’s new lease on life ensures that it will be easily available to anyone for many years to come.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Big cast of memorable characters. Specifically Glottis
- Playing an old school adventure game again
- Updated character models, lighting, developer commentary, etc.
- Glottis sitting in the car making vrooom sounds
- Day of the Dead aesthetic
What I Dislike:
- The time skips in the story
- While using tank controls it would sometimes be impossible to walk through a door or up stairs. It was as if an invisible wall randomly showed up.