Disclaimer: This post is made as an entry for PS Asia’s PS Plus Junior Reporter competition. The points and views raised in the review however are not affected in any way.
Well this is a surprise. Grim Fandango is known to be one of the last great adventure games of the now-defunct LucasArts. Released in 1998, it’s actually the first foray of LucasArts into complete 3D games, leaving the legacy SCUMM engine, pixelated 2D graphics and point-and-click controls.
This game is directed Tim Schafer, now known for his company Double Fine, famous for Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, running the biggest crowdfunding game on KickStarter at the time, and an interesting Let’s Play series. Somehow Double Fine managed to recover this IP from the demise of LucasArts after Disney purchased LucasFilms- and its sub company LucasArts- and now re-released in a remastered form.
So, with some HD retextures and some changes made, does the Remastered version able to capture the nostalgia of the original, and make it accessible to the new generation of gamers? Read on to find out.
Graphics & Sound
Grim Fandango Remastered took a great feature I love in the first two Monkey Island remasters- the ability to change from original to remastered with a press of a button, a great way to compare and contrast the changes.
On an interesting note, the remastered version does little changes to the overall graphics and sound. The only noticeable change is higher-res character models. The environment is all pre-rendered and still holds up well. The ambient music is charming as ever. The downside would be seeing some really blocky models of the 90’s, but at least the blockiness fits with the artstyle.
To see a game aged well graphically, only require some small changes, is astonishing. The sound too. I recommend playing it with 4:3 screen resolution as intended, as the widescreen option just stretches the environment, which did not look as appealing personally. It runs at a smooth 60fps, until the a bit dated FMV plays where it is left as is.
This is a classic LucasArts adventure game, first and foremost. As Manny Calavera, you are a dead guy in the Land of the Dead.. sort of. He seemed to have a rough life to not afford going to the Land of the Dead, so now he works as a travel agency salesman, greeting newly dead people from the Land of the Living and sell them the best travel solution they can afford, which is determined by how good you are in life, and how wealthy enough. Sell enough premiums and maybe he can get promoted out and leave. If only he can find a decent client.
An interesting setting, taking inspiration from Día de Muertos holiday celebrated in Mexico. With witty dialogue choices and quips that are still funny to this day, it’s fun exploring the world, and adjusting to what is the rules of the world. Like how Manny and other sales agent can’t drive. The writing is just fantastic. I find how the clown’s cheeky remark that he can make balloon animals and dead poets turned into a visual gag as well.
Gameplay relies heavily on puzzles, and the only way to enjoy the experience is to stay attentive to all the hints and foreshadowing. There’s no quest tracking or obvious hints on what you have to do like modern games, so be warned. Search every nook and cranny and you’ll figure it out eventually. Although if it is troubling, guides are aplenty to help out.
Speaking of searching, the usual drag of pixel hunting (searching for something that can be interact) is much harder as you control Manny directly. Thankfully, the game defaults to a more bearable control scheme instead of the original tank controls. But there’s a gold trophy for playing the whole game with that control scheme though, so take note trophy hunters. As a heads up, Manny will focus his head to any interactive object if he is close to it, so take note where his head is facing.
Content & Longevity
The game length and as reported by howlongtobeat.com it can go for about 12 hours of game time, maybe longer if you’re stuck at puzzles, and made a wrong step in solving it which you have to repeat all over again (Remember to save!). The game is slow paced, even Manny’s walk speed is slow. Take it slow and steady and it’s a fun ride. There’s also developer’s commentary too, as added content for the remastered version.
Grim Fandango is a good adventure game on release with some issues, and Grim Fandango Remastered is a great update for people who missed out, like me. An improved control scheme, and some small graphical updates help the game experience to be a more welcoming one. However, puzzles may leave you head-scratching if you miss some hints, foreshadows, and the illusive interactive item you might miss.
As a verdict, Grim Fandango Remastered deserved a great 8/10 for being a great adventure game that is easy to recommend, but with some nitpicks here and there. The overall writing and world is a good enough of an experience to wade through some nuisance puzzle design and slow navigation.