Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4) review
It is time to delve into the past and relive a classic tale of death, comedy, crime and corruption with Double Fine’s adventure game, Grim Fandango Remastered.
The original Grim Fandango, which was developed by Lucas Arts in 1998 for Windows PC, was a bit before my hardcore gaming days, but even though I never played it I always heard people talking about and praising the game. So when I finally got a chance to play Grim Fandango Remastered on the PlayStation 4 my hopes for the game were high, and well all the praise I had heard in the past wasn’t wrong. The game is a fantastic comedic adventure based around crime and corruption in the land of the dead.
What makes Grim Fandango Remastered such a strong game is its setting, and the characters and story based around it. The game is set in the “land of the dead”, a place where recently departed souls must venture through to reach the Ninth Underworld. The world is very much inspired by the Mexican tradition of the “Day of the Dead” and how all the human souls who reside within the world resemble Calaca figures.
The game is centred on Manuel “Manny” Calavera, a travel agent (Grim Reaper) at the Department of Death, and his attempt to find and rescue Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, a woman who was destined for “The Number Nine”, a special train that takes pure of heart souls to the gates of ninth underworld in four minutes instead of regular four years, but she is strangely refused the Double N ticket required for the train, and is forced to take dangerous journey by foot. Sensing something was amiss Manny investigated the issue and learns that the underworld crime boss, Hector Le Mans, has being hording tickets and selling them to unworthy souls. This revelation spurs Manny to find Meche and retrieve the stolen tickets. Manny isn’t alone in his search for Meche as he is joined by his driver and demon, Glottis. Manny also runs into Salvador Limones, the leader of the Lost Souls Alliance, an underground organisation that is aware of Hector’s activities.
During Manny’s four year mission to find Meche, he takes on a myriad of roles that include him being the owner of a casino and the captain of a boat.
Grim Fandango Remastered’s story takes a show and tell approach to keeping the player interested in the game. For me one of the strong points of the game is how the game skips forward a year, and we see how Manny has somehow completely transformed his life and surroundings. One example is how at the end of the first year Manny is left to mop a dinner, but when we see Manny again (one year later) he has transformed the dinner into a profitable casino. The game doesn’t really explain what happens during the time you didn’t play, but I never found that to be a problem, as not every little bit has to be explained and it makes for good storytelling as Manny is constantly willing to give up all his success to find Meche and undo the crimes committed by Hector.
Apart from the story, the characters you encounter in the world are a treat to interact with. I found myself relishing the opportunity to see Manny interact with another character, just to see how they would react to him or vice versa. I personally found the interactions between Manny and his friend/driver Glottis to be entertaining as both characters have at times clashing personalities and their conversations also helps the player learn what happened during the time skips.
The characters Meche, Hector, and Domino (a fellow travel agent who has teamed up with Hector) are all interesting with Meche being a particularly interesting character as she is a pure of heart person trying to understand and live in a world dominated by crime.
The side characters are also very interesting as they offer a good degree of information on the world, which makes everything seem bigger and more vibrant.
As Grim Fandango Remastered is an adventure game you progress through the world by completing various puzzles. The puzzles in Grim Fandango range from requiring brute force to the complete obvious. The challenge behind the puzzles is that you need to think outside the box, just because a certain action would make sense in your brain doesn’t mean it would work in the game. For example an early puzzle requires you to break the company’s message sorting equipment – all you have are some balloon animals, unused balloons, bread, and your scythe. To solve it I assumed you had to clog the pipes by forcing back some of the items you possess to jam the machine, but after several failed attempts I found that the answer was to take the two unused balloons, fill them with packing foam and send them down the message pipes.
If you use the power of foresight the puzzles are kind of obvious, but the way the game lays out the items you require can make it challenging. To add to the challenge the game offer very limited hints, so when playing expect a lot of trial and error, or giving up and finding an FAQ and using that to help you solve the puzzle.
Since Grim Fandango Remastered is an updated version of the original, what does it do differently? Well like many remastered games the graphics, textures and music have all received an upgrade/enhancements. The overall graphical changes include improvements to lighting and shadows, and in terms of textures the game’s anti-aliasing is far improved with the rough textures and jagged models smoothed out. If you want to experience both the old and new graphics the game allows you to switch between the original and remastered versions with the click of a button.
Grim Fandango Remastered also keeps the game’s original 4:3 aspect ratio with the excess space being taken up by grey borders, although players can change the aspect ratio to the more tradition 16:9 by accessing the game’s special features. The game’s special features also allow you to listen to developers comment on various aspects of the game.
While my overall impression for Grim Fandango is incredibly positive there was one minor issue that kept bugging me, the camera. For the majority of the game the fixed camera positions were not an issue, but there were times when the camera liked to obscure entrances or make it difficult for me to see Manny. For example in one stage I had to go down a lift and it took me several attempts to enter the lift as the camera’s position made it impossible to see how close Manny was to the lift’s entrance. As I said it is a minor issue, but it did make me a little frustrated.
Grim Fandango Remastered is an amazing adventure game that keeps all the strengths of its original release. The game’s setting, plot and characters are all well developed, and despite my personal struggle with the game’s puzzles they were enjoyable.
+ Interesting take on the concept of death
+ Interesting cast of characters
+ Challenging puzzles
+ Remastered work is faithful to the original design
– The fixed camera position caused minor issues
|Double Fine Production||Double Fine Production||adventure||12+||PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC||January 27, 2015|
For more information on Grim Fandango Remastered, visit http://grimremastered.com/.
*A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.*
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.