REVIEW – While writing the reviews, I rarely have the chance to use this expression: Mise-en-scene, without looking like an idiot. Now however I have the opportunity to use this expression for the review of this video game. It’s a French word that encompasses games with the artistic environment and interactive story elements. Grim Fandango exploded in 1998 with this style, and 17 years later, the classic adventure game based in Mexican Underworld returns. This sounds great, and the best thing is that they were able to provide a new control scheme and perspective to the remake.
The story is about Manuel Calavera, the traveling agent’s adventures, who is looking for the route to the Ninth Underworld. While trying to help a recently deceased client reach his final resting place, he uncovers a corrupt person under the underworld. Who is, by the way, Raymond Chandler from the Land of the Dead. Chandler has all the good, and funny characteristics, which we’re used to with Lucas Arts adventure games.
Time passes intelligently
Let’s see how Grim Fandango handles the passage of time. The entire adventure takes up four years. During these four years, we will see character development, friendships, and relationships change as never before in a video game. The four years can be completed around twelve hours, and the events that take place have a sense of direction and reason. This great mood is even upheld when some of the elements might seem as filler. Remarkable sound design, and thanks to the fitting jazz themes, the Ninth Underworld seems authentic, even if all of its inhabitants are dead.
A story fits for a novel
The success of Grim Fandango is that the story contains a well-balanced amount of funny, and grim parts, just as the original that was released more than ten years ago. It has the same charm, and odd levity, plus some rather effective puzzles. It’s just like a relic from the past. The adventure game’s logic is well represented here, and not annoying, yet every pixel has to be examined. The puzzles aren’t too difficult, but there are parts where I was seriously stuck. During such times, I wondered if someone else would have found the answer more effectively. Luckily in such cases, the internet was able to help to find an answer.
Sadly the graphics also belong to a novel
The graphics might not be for everyone as they are pre-rendered 3D environments. The character models and lighting are better a bit, however, the low resolution, static backgrounds really do remind me of the 90s. While the pre-rendered backgrounds provide larger movement space for the camera, here this causes issues. There will be a lot of times where we won’t know which we to progress, and a bit sharper resolution would have made the navigation easier.
In the remastered edition during the game, we have the option to listen to commentaries if we enabled the options. These commentaries are triggered in certain places if we’re fast enough to press the necessary button. Usually, director Tim Schafer and director Peter McConnell with many actors / programmers will tell interesting stories about the making of Grim Fandango. Nostalgic memories are mentioned about the movie The Big Sleep that was basically the main inspiration for Grim Fandango’s birth. These part’s full version can be found on youtube if someone is interested in the entire making of the story.
Where’s the autosave?
The game doesn’t contain new additions or features, but Double Fine added new options to the Remastered release. The old moveable background control is in (seen in the early Resident Evil games) while new functions are controlling the game with a controller, on PC with a mouse, while on the VITA touch screen is used. This is only weird on the VITA, as it is not too comforting to navigate in the underworld by constantly tapping the screen.
Sadly besides the control updates, there is nothing else noteworthy to mention with regards to new features. As in the original, there is no user interface. This enhances the cinematic feel, but in the beginning, of the game, there is no tutorial. It can cause difficulties for new players as the first steps will have to figure it out by them all alone. There are no hidden hints like in the Monkey Island Remastered, so if we get lost, only the internet will help. Widescreen option is horrible and stretches the 4:3 ratio. Finally, the developers did not implement an autosave system (in 2015 none the less), which means that unless you save manually, you can end up in problematic situations.
BUGS! Bugs everywhere!
This edition contains loads of bugs. The sound effects are constantly cut short, inaccurate lightning makes some items blink pointlessly, and the cutscenes are awful. Sometimes when I closed a door it would not open again. Another time I gave an item to a character, and it started spinning around its own axis, and it didn’t look like it wanted to stop it anytime soon. This will result in the need to restart the game, and if you didn’t save before, it could mean hours of gameplay out the window.
It’s a shame
Awkward: that’s how I could describe this edition, and while the original game is spectacular, this edition is not. It’s a game where the developers showed that you can push your game to the limit with regards to fun characters, and story / content. Not to mention that Lucas Arts was the king of this genre.
The remastered is worth one play through, for those who loved the original, but the execution is lacking and deserves more. My final verdict is only a bit reasonable, as I bow before LucasArts great history. I liked all of their products.
+ Story is original and exciting
+ New control methods help navigation
+ Commentary with fun and interesting stories
– Adventure game logic is overcomplicated
– Doesn’t feel like a real remaster
– Lots of bugs and no auto save feature
Editor: Double Fine Productions
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Genre: point ‘n’ click adventure
Publication: January 2015