‘Grim Fandango: Remastered’ preview: the game that never dies

The great day draws closer, the moment that will once more change the world forever. Yes, that’s right. Not too long from now, on 27 January, a remastered version of Grim Fandango will be released to the public.

If you do not know why this is such a momentous occasion, or you need reminding, then it will do you some good to read my Grim Fandango Retrospective from last week.

Tim Schafer’s epic cult classic has been fully remastered in HD by his developing studio, Double Fine Productions, a company he created after he left LucasArts (the original developers of Grim Fandango).

The new title has been “restored for a new generation” and will have enhanced lighting, improved high-res textures and remastered audio.

The section that follows is my remarkably biased preview of Grim Fandango: Remastered, please enjoy…

Story Time

An excerpt from my Grim Fandango retrospective:

You play as Manny Calvera, an after-life travel agent who books travel packages for the recently deceased to the Ninth Underworld, their final destination in the The Land of the Dead. Those who have lived a kind life receive a ticket on the No.9 train, a speedy 4-mintue journey. But those who have lived cruel lives are forced to walk, a gruelling and much lengthier 4-year journey.

The problem is that Manny has recently only been receiving the bad apples of the bunch, putting him on the verge of losing his job and in the firing line of his dictatorial boss.

That is until the arrival of Mercedes Colombar, the purest heart the agency has ever seen. But somehow the booking system says that angelic Mercedes does not qualify for the No.9 train, something Manny knows must be a mistake. He starts to investigate and in the process uncovers a massive and twisted conspiracy that will take him on an adventurously eccentric journey across the Land of the Dead.

Read more: Grim Fandango: remembering a gaming masterpiece

Play Time

The original game trailer

Grim Fandango is a pleasingly eccentric point-and-click puzzle-solver driven forward by a highly entertaining and adventurous narrative. The immersive story contains strong influences of the Neo-Noir film genre and you will see many hints towards films such as Casablanca and Double Indemnity.

The world you will find yourself in is a creative and unique combination of the Aztecs’ Land of the Dead and the more mundane world of 90’s reality. This effectively introduces the player to a world that is both foreign and familiar at the same time, a masterful blend that not many games have achieved.

Grim Fandango brilliantly incorporates puzzles into its narrative making is both an immersive and engaging experience. The game play has a bit of a learning curve but once you get the hang of it then the rest of the game will be downhill.

But this doesn’t mean that the puzzle will get any easier. In fact, it is the exact opposite. As the game progresses you will encounter more and more challenging puzzles, especially compared to present titles, a trade mark of old school games.

This is partly due to Grim Fandango’s more “open world” approach to puzzle solving. Unlike most adventure puzzlers, moving forward as you complete puzzles, this game will have you running back and forward between scenes in bewilderment. Keep a pack of band-aids in close proximity. You will suffer some wounds due to severe scratching of the head.

But don’t let this discourage you. There is more than enough entertainment to make you oblivious and forget the harshness of the game’s mysterious enigmas. There is never a dull moment in Grim Fandango.

The updated trailer 16 years later

On your journey through the Land of the Dead you will engage with a massive host of odd and peculiar characters, much of who will play their part in your solving of the game’s great overarching mystery.

You’ve already been introduced to Manny, our protagonist, and Mercedes, the story’s maiden in distress.

Then there is Glottis, your childish demon side kick that has a keen knack for building kick ass cars. And don’t forget Domino Hurley, Manny’s greatest rival and all round jack ass. He, among others, will be a great source of frustration throughout the game. And last but definitely not least is the villainous Hector Le Mans, the main antagonist of the story.

These are only a few of the large cast of characters you will meet. But every last one of them, even those with the minutest of roles, will leave a memorable and long-lasting impression on you.

The original Grim Fandango also boasted a few firsts for the industry and developers, LucasArts, which you will see in the game.

For LucasArt’s it was their first game to use 3D computer graphics, or at least 3D characters rendered on static 2D backgrounds. The game designers created the world in 3D so that they could constantly change the angles and render them as static images, reducing development time seeing as they didn’t have to ask the artist to draw the world from a new angle every time.

Tim Schafer playing the first few hours of his masterpiece

It also had a big impact on the game industry as a whole. It was the first game to combine the film-noir film genre with an adventure game. This led to the game being praised as a unique and creative masterpiece.

It also introduced a game play mechanic that can be seen in many modern games today. In those days most interactive or important objects in the game were either highlighted or pointed out via some text. Grim Fandango went in a new direction.

Interactive elements in the game were emphasized by Manny himself. Whenever he would pass an object he could interact with he would start looking at it not breaking site with it until it passed out of his line of sight. It was a risky decision, as any innovation is, but in the end it paid off and left its mark on the gaming world.

Parting Words

The making of the Remastered edition

Grim Fandango contains all the ingredients that make an excellent game. Its characters are memorable, its game play is challenging, its story is hypnotising and its world is unique. It will introduce you to a genre that not many are interested in anymore and show you that blood and guts don’t make a good game. It is a historical gem of gaming, and I feel will still firmly stand its ground against any modern titles.

Even though I hate to admit it, Grim Fandango will not be a game for everyone. Unfortunately, in today’s gaming world a lot of us are obsessed with cheap thrills and short term satisfaction (and I’m not excluding myself). Some of us approach unusual games with much scepticism and will give a game a mere few seconds to enthral us. Some of us feel we just don’t have the time.

But I beg of you, give this game a chance and take some time to play it. It’s more than a game. It’s an interactive work of art in narrative, game play and creativity. I promise this game will mesmerise you. And if not, it certainly won’t disappoint you.

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