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Grim Fandango Remastered Review

Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Double Fine Productions
Double Fine Productions
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
January 27, 2015

There was a time when adventure games, driven by a charming and compelling narrative, were actually common. As technology advanced and general interest began to gravitate toward faster and flashier, our video games changed. Priorities shifted, which is why big-budget productions today often don’t rely on the dramatic and cerebral. We’ve also lost a lot of that whimsical, goodhearted charm; much of what we see today is extremely dark, gritty and even downright disgusting. That’s why a trip down memory lane with Manny Calavera and friends is just so darn refreshing.

Yes, it’s true, a game that first released in 1998 won’t stand up to today’s graphical standards. However, for those who understand that visual presentations are about more than the number of pixels and overall clarity, they’ll appreciate the wonderful artistry in Grim Fandango Remastered . It’s subtle and kooky; it’s even comical and occasionally over-the-top. But such terms should only be applied in a lighthearted way. If you’re a fan of the game, you know what I mean. Sadly, I will admit that they didn't do quite enough for a remaster; the textures look just about the same, for example.

The sound fares better, simply because the audio has always been unique and extremely well orchestrated. I’ve always loved the effects in Tim Schafer’s games and the soundtracks are usually carefully selected and nicely implemented. Honestly, one of the reasons why his games feel so original and engaging is because the developers never ignored the importance of great sound. Again, this sound is outdated in direct comparison to today’s productions, but I don’t have a problem with that. To me, it doesn’t lessen the immersion or have a negative impact on the quality; it’s merely an older style and in many ways, almost a design choice. It’s not simply inferior tech.

Manny Calavera is a travel agent in the land of the dead, so he’s surrounded by other dead characters. On the surface, and based on what we know of games today, one might assume this to be a dark and perhaps even horrifying atmosphere. But it’s quite the opposite. There are some bizarre sights and sounds, obviously, but it’s all amusing and tongue-in-cheek; it’s more of a farce than a drama. There’s even some romance, as the main character takes off after his heart’s true love and in so doing, embarks on quite the journey, during which he’ll encounter all sorts of colorful characters. For instance, Glottis is Manny’s closest friend and he’s the very definition of a “character.”

The Mexican influence is clear from the start, as Manny explores Mictlan, the afterlife as believed by the Aztecs. The environment is surreal and absorbing, and the artistry reflects the designer’s interest in Aztec and South American culture. If you’re familiar with Dia de Muertos, you’ll probably know what to expect from Grim Fandango . And if this is indeed what the afterworld is like, we can all look forward to a funny albeit bizarre world, where laughter is more prominent than any other emotion. Beneath that humor, however, are quaint traits like tenderness and hope. In other words, it’s an adventure steeped in lighthearted goodness, which is of course in stark contrast to its decidedly grim setting.