No one knows what happens after you slip from the mortal coil. Of course there are ideas from all over, with some beliefs suggesting you either go to paradise or to Hell depending on your actions in life. Others believe that you come back in a different form. In the universe of Grim Fandango if you’ve committed some sins you’re destined to work them off before moving on, unless you’ve been particularly bad. Of course if you’ve already played this you know all that, but for the uninitiated welcome to Grim Fandango Remastered.
First released in 1998 Grim Fandango tells the story of Manny Calavera, a dead guy who is trying to work off his time so he can move on. Pretty soon though everything changes, after Mercedes Colomar, aka Meche, walks through his office doors, and he finds that a major conspiracy is taking place. Soon Manny is on the search for answers, taking him to various corners of the Land Of The Dead. Along the way he’ll meet a varied cast a characters who will either help or hinder him.
Grim Fandango is a classic adventure title which won’t be overt with the clues it hands you to solve puzzles. The key is to pick everything up, listen to what the other inhabitants of the world say, observe their actions, and don’t expect the most obvious solution. You might not know right away why you need a balloon shaped in the image of poet Robert Frost, or some nitrogen, but it all comes in handy. The puzzles vary in difficulty and some will require you to backtrack across locations, while others can be worked out very quickly.
There were times where I was left scratching my head and walking/sprinting around the different areas trying to find an item that I may have missed to move on. There were times where I did get a bit frustrated with solutions sometimes feeling they were way outside the box. Now and again the solution almost felt too absurd. While that in itself was actually kind of expected I found the pace of Manny’s stride could really break immersion because of how slow he would move across the screen. I found myself occasionally just checking other things like my emails on my phone while I waited for Manny to trek across a bridge. At least his destinations usually turned up something worthwhile.
In terms of the actual remastering of the game there are improvements visually for the character models which certainly look smoother, but there are only slight improvements in textures for the environments. You can easily see the difference as there is the option to switch between the original look and the remaster. You can also choose to play the game in 4:3 or 16:9 aspect, though I recommend the 4:3 view since 16:9 makes the game look very stretched. The remaster also features some dynamic lighting, so you can see Manny’s face light up as he ignites a cigarette undersea. The music has also been re-recorded by The Melbourne Symphony, and that really does add to the atmosphere of this neo-noire styled world.
The remaster isn’t without its problems however. For the most part everything ran smoothly but there were three locations I noted where performance took a huge nose dive. The first is a club called The Blue Casket, which when I visited everything slowed down, and the music stuttered. It was quite frustrating because when clicking on something that input would take a few seconds to register. The same problems were faced in the high roller’s club, and the dock of Rubacava. The voice track and screen animations also didn’t always match up with character’s mouths moving, with the words following a couple of seconds later. It should be noted though that Double Fine were still working on the game’s performance this week.
One of the things that makes Grim Fandango memorable is the humour throughout the script, from Manny’s own observations to the way the rest of the characters reacted to his actions. The voice acting holds up well and the delivery of the lines often had me laughing. Double Fine managed to capture something quite unique in the bizarre normality of this world, where some of the situations shouldn’t make sense but do. You wouldn’t generally expect skeletons to get tattoos, but in Grim Fandango you don’t even bat an eye at it. However, and some fans may hate me for this, I found the character of Glottis to be a bit too annoying, especially his constant car-noise making shenanigans. Of course it fits his character, but the noises he made could be very distracting while trying to do something. I muted the sound a few times.
Grim Fandango is considered a great game almost 17 years after its release due to various reasons, though the main one has to be the humour within. It’s a game that makes you laugh out loud, and Manny is a great lead character. I do enjoy noire-esque stories, and Grim Fandango is something like that. If you like adventure games then it is definitely worth playing Grim Fandango Remastered, be it a replay or for the first time. However there are a few technical issues that need to be addressed including the voice and lip syncs being way out in some cases, as well as the frame rate drops within a couple of the game’s locations. Having said that, whilst Grim Fandango Remastered isn’t perfect it is certainly an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Version Tested: PC