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Grim Fandango Remastered

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Double Fine Studios
Developer: Double Fine Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Remastered releases are kind of a new breed. As new technology becomes available, it must be tempting for publishers and developers to revisit old masterpieces. But not every game is screaming out for such treatment. Make no mistake: I would absolutely love to see the complete Gears of War trilogy on Xbox One and the Uncharted trilogy on PlayStation 4 as much as the next person. But there are a ton of them out there that weren't particularly asked for. But here's one that is most welcome: one of the most critically acclaimed adventure games of our time has made a smooth and easy jump to a next-generation video game console. Grim Fandango Remastered is simply wonderful.

I'm not really certain that one of the main reasons for putting Grim Fandango Remastered into production was to clean up the visuals. Instead, I look at this release as a noble effort from Double Fine to introduce the non-PC playing populace to one of its most creative projects to date. This game is an artistic triumph rather than a technical showstopper. The horsepower is not important. Instead, it is the darkly wacky universe dreamed up by Tim Schafer and his crew. Discussing what makes this bizarre world tick would ruin one of the many pleasures of playing this game for the first time, so I must refrain. All you need to know is that you haven't seen anything like this before. Finally, you can switch between the graphics of the original 1998 release and those of this remastered version. The differences are minimal at best; only the character models have been cleaned up, and the backgrounds have been left untouched. So it feels like there's a bit of a disparity. But that's a small complaint.

While the sole complaint I have about the visuals is of almost no consequence... I have no complaints whatsoever regarding the sound design. Everything, from the varied, bizarre soundtrack (with cues from all kinds of music, but mostly jazz, big band, swing, and mariachi) to the impeccable voice acting, is perfect. It's essentially a Double Fine tradition at this point; sound so creative that it is wholly their own and recognizable at almost every turn. These are the same people who made Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and Costume Quest. They know what they're doing, and all of their work is guaranteed to be both ear and eye candy in their own wonderfully strange ways. And so it is with Grim Fandango Remastered. Tony Plana is a wonderful Manny, with his charming Cuban accent meshing perfectly with the Dia de Muertos theme. María Canals Barrera lends a wonderfully sweet and curiously retro voice to Meche. While the two leads are the standouts, the rest of the cast is, amazingly, just as brilliant.


In the world of Grim Fandango Remastered, the grim reaper isn't so much the fearsome entity that harvests souls for the afterlife as he is one of several postmortem travel agents. As above, so below: the hereafter is governed by the same bureaucracies that plague us up here in the land of the living. The so-called Department of Death, or DoD is responsible for assisting the newly-deceased to their final resting place: the Ninth Underworld. It seems as if being a good person in life is a currency in and of itself, and that currency can be used to buy a more comfortable and expedient travel package that reduces the travel time, which, on foot, is about four years. The best of the best can afford passage on the legendary Number Nine train, which is capable of reaching the Ninth Underworld in four minutes. The worst of them are sent on their not-so-merry way to schlep it Fellowship of the Ring style.

You play as Manuel "Manny" Calavera, a DoD travel agent stationed in the city of El Marrow. He's not a travel agent by choice; all that you know from the start is that he has a debt to pay, and this job is the best way of doing it. But it's particularly difficult when all of his contracts are assholes and all of the good ones are being funneled over to his rival, Domino Hurley. After finding a way to steal one of the "good ones" from Dom, Manny is swept into a plot of deceit and intrigue that undermines everything he thought he knew about the DoD.

Grim Fandango Remastered is an adventure game in the truest sense of the word. The gameplay consists of exploring Manny's surroundings, talking to the individuals that inhabit it, and interacting with certain parts of the world. Most of your interactions will have to do with solving one of the game's many puzzles, and for those, you will usually have to combine your knowledge of the interactive parts of the world with items that you pick up over the course of the game. It's simple, classic adventure gaming at its best.


Grim Fandango Remastered, being an old-school adventure game, might throw you for a loop every now and then. After all, adventure games are often built with puzzles that often don't make much logical sense. You're usually given a series of strange items that are mostly (if not completely) unrelated to each other and expected to MacGyver together some strange solution to each problem you come across. And with Grim Fandango Remastered, that is most certainly the case every now and then. It can be a bit of a pain sometimes, especially if your allowed exploration space is too large. You may come across puzzles that have you wondering exactly what to do with what -- and where to do it. Putting all three together is hugely satisfying, but sometimes the struggle can be brutal.

One strategy you'll definitely benefit from is watching Manny's head as you explore. His attention is automatically drawn to interactive objects. So when he turns his head, investigate post haste. This will help lessen the frustration, if only by a bit.

Game Mechanics:

Most old-school PC adventure games are of the point and click variety. You point where you want the main character to go, and click the mouse to have the main character start moving. This isn't the case with Grim Fandango Remastered. No, in this game, you have full 360 degree control of Manny. Moving him around is a breeze, though the fixed camera angles sometimes cause confusion. You might be running down a hallway only to have the camera angle suddenly reverse on you, which in turn reverses your direction. It takes some getting used to.

Manny is kind of like a dead Mary Poppins in that he can carry a virtually limitless quantity of random knickknacks in his business coat. It's not just there for his scythe. By pressing a button, you can have him reach into his coat and pull out an item, and you can cycle through his possessions from there. It's a fantastic alternative to a standard inventory screen that only helps keep the illusion alive. And it cuts down on the time you'd otherwise spend fruitlessly trying to make progress.

If you own a PlayStation 4 or a PlayStation Vita and have not yet played Grim Fandango, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Grim Fandango Remastered. It's endlessly charming, witty, hilarious, and surprisingly touching. If you're a sucker for expert storytelling, as well as a fan of all things quirky and/or darkly humorous, this is a game you should own.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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