Death isn’t a subject you’ll usually find yourself happy to talk about. Most people don’t much like the idea of dying, but if death is anything like it’s portrayed in the much-needed remaster of Grim Fandango, then I welcome it to be honest.
When it first released back in October of 1998, Grim Fandango was widely considered to be a jewel of the point-and-click adventure games. With its humour, interesting characters, and overall quirky and enthralling world, it quickly won over the hearts of gamers worldwide.
Telling the story of Manny Calavera, an employee of the Department of Death, whose job consists of setting up the newly deceased with a travel package through The Land of The Dead onto their final destination. Travel options can vary from a high-class four minute ride on the No.9 train, to the sad four year trip with a mere walking cane. Which option you get all depends on what kind of life you lived. Unfortunately for Manny, he seems to only be getting clients at the worst end of the spectrum.
Steeped with heavy Mexican culture, the game’s art style and setting is extremely charming. The story itself has a very Pixar feel to it, by staying very innocent and child-like without being immature. Broken up into four years, the game has a wonderful flow and great pacing to it. With each section bringing new and even more interesting characters into the picture, you’ll never find yourself bored.
The gameplay is like that of any classic adventure game; you collect items and interact with other items or characters in order to progress the story. This title being arguably one of the best adventure games made, new comers and old school fans alike will be able to enjoy the puzzling romp through The Land of The Dead. While some of the puzzles left me begging for some sort of hint system, I’m sure the more hardcore players will be glad it doesn’t exists. I mean, we do have the internet after all.
The controls have also been tweaked, with the addition of free movement or 3D controls. This is a welcome change from the original’s only option of tank controls. Many feel that tank controls are extremely dated by today’s standards, so it’s a nice option to make the game more accessible to the newer generation of gamers. But old school gamers do not fret, original tanks controls are still available.
Visually the game looks more or less like it did seventeen years ago. While the character and 3D models have been given a huge overhaul and look fantastic, sadly the backgrounds remain more or less untouched. That’s not to say the backgrounds look bad, they can just seem a tad blurry when contrasted by the characters themselves. The pre-rendered cut-scenes still harbour the remnants of the past; with ghosting and degraded quality, it’s noticeably old. The biggest disappointment would be the fact the game remains in 4:3. They have added some nice artwork on both sides to make it seem less empty, but the aspect remains the same. I realize this would have been nearly impossible with the original assets, but it still leaves you wanting a proper wide-screen version.
One very cool little feature added to the remaster is the ability to instantly swap back and forth between original and remastered visuals. Simply click both R3 and L3 on the DualShock 4 controller, and presto! It really shows just how much work and passion went into improving the visuals as much as possible, while still retaining the original art direction.
The audio design still sounds fantastic. While you can notice some slight compression in the voice work, it still sounds, and is performed, better than some of today’s standards. The music is perfectly fitting and catchy at that, with deep thundering scores during the dark areas, to perky upbeat tunes for the more light-hearted areas.
In the end, Grim Fandango Remastered is a love letter to what is widely considered to be one of the best adventure games ever made. While the remaster still leaves some improvements to be desired, the game still looks gorgeous for being over seventeen years old. With its great humour, loveable characters, and memorable story, Grim Fandango is a game every player should experience at least once.