• Grim Fandango


  • Graphic Adventure


  • LucasArts (original), Double Fine Productions (remastered)


  • LucasArts (original), Double Fine Productions (remastered)

Release Date:

  • October 30, 1998 (original), January 27, 2015 (remastered)


  • PC (original); PC, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (remastered)

Box Art Credit:

  • Giant Bomb

Systems Used:

  • Windows 7

On Wikipedia:

I was aware of Grim Fandango for a long time now (at least 10 years, maybe more), but even after I read about it alongside others like Beneath a Steel Sky and The Shivah. Unfortunately, at that time, Grim Fandango was more or less off limits. I had Windows XP, but firstly, it was old, and I didn't know for a fact if it would even work. Because it didn't use SCUMM, it used a new one ("GrimE", Grim Engine). Secondly, I didn't want to browse warez sites for it or fight over eBay over it. There were better games within easier grasp. I was able to get in early summer of 2016 when I found the "remastered" version, Grim Fandango Remastered, on GOG.com for a decent price.

I'm not going to sum up the plotline as I've done for my most recent adventure game review, Back to the Future: The Game, though it is a bit amusing: Manny, the skeletal hero of the game, basically works as a "Grim Reaper" for new "clients" to try to pay off karmic debt before he can get to heaven (or something).

For "remastered", it sure screams late 1990s. There's lots of dithering that's a result of compression and low resolution, no hint system, and no auto save! The game at least warns you fairly early on. The "remastering" mostly includes new resolution options, the ability to see spoken lines again, a director's commentary (yawn), and new character models, which look weird in the rest of the low-resolution environment. It's like playing an N64 emulator, where you have overly-crisp polygons running around in a world of blurry textures (it also becomes painfully clear what's 3D and what's just 2D objects in a 3D space).

Because the game was released at a time when adventure game sales were crashing, mostly because their illogical puzzles, Grim Fandango sold poorly and was the first step in putting the adventure games LucasArts was known for into a coma (turning LucasArts into, subsequently, a Star Wars game factory). Grim Fandango has its share of problems, and compounding this is if you forgot an item (even if you have a good idea of what to do), it takes a really long time to get from place to place just on the way the game is structured (even though Manny can run).

Around two-thirds into the first chapter, Manny finds out from Salvador (pictured) that he really IS getting screwed over by his employer.
Having had a job recently where I felt like I was getting shafted, I found it a surprisingly cathartic experience. (source: GrimFandango.net)

Other than that, Grim Fandango is good. The music, the voice acting, and the writing all are very well done, and I can't criticize that. Oh, and more thing. Given that whoever voiced Manny threw in bits of what TVTropes calls "Gratuitous Spanish", I thought that I might get more out of it in terms of "authenticity" by changing the language setting in the game to Spanish. But not only does it change the voice actor, I'm pretty sure it ruins the jokes. About a quarter into the game, there's a mention of serving lengua, to which Manny quips "It's been a while since I've had a tongue" (seeing how he's a skeleton). The picture of lengua comes back in a later puzzle in case you missed the joke the first time around, but I'm not sure how they could pull off the Spanish version. Of course, all the other little things would be missed too (like a sailor Manny meets being named "Naranja").

The biggest crime of GF is not the fact that as a "Remastered" game it falls flat...it's that GF is essentially incomplete. Characters appear and disappear with little introduction or denouement, and while more puzzles, stories, and characters were planned, they were cut. It was probably designed to be a multi-disc epic popular during that time, but that would've taken even longer and frankly, part of the reason why I think the adventure game genre died was because they were too long. One of the lines that do suggest a greater game never seen was in the fourth chapter where Captain Velasco mentions Rubacava being a "mob town" as he leaves to find his ship. Manny repeats that incredulously, but that's never really explored, there's only one puzzle in returning to that game with most of the rest of the area cut off. A pity.

I'm not the type that will spend weeks trying to figure everything out (especially as how some screens take a VERY long time to move through) so I did use hints to keep me moving along. With a few interface "gotchas", I think it's possible to figure out everything sooner or later...

July 21 2016