Grim Fandango was released for Windows 95/98 more than twentyfour years ago (1998). Shortly after that, developer Lucas Arts stopped making adventure games and the entire point-and-click genre was shelved. Tim Schafer, the original creator, has chosen with his new studio (Double Fine) to breathe new life into this memorable piece of history and has dusted off the robes of the famous Grim Reaper and sharpened his scythe.
Grim Fandango tells the story of Manny (Manuel) Calavera. He works as a grim reaper at what is supposed to be a travel agency in the land of the dead and has to work four more years before he can finally go to his final resting place. All the dead Manny treats are eligible for a trip to heaven. Depending on how people behave on earth, it is determined how quickly your soul will find rest. This can take a few months, or a few years. The deceased who have behaved like badly are required to walk to their final destination, while nuns are carried there. Unfortunately for Manny, lately he's only seen the dead who have behaved badly and thereby give up the journey to heaven, while his boastful colleague has the nuns up for grabs.
Manny rises from the dead
For anyone who has never played this gem in one way or another: Grim Fandango is literally an old-fashioned adventure game where puzzles predominate in combination with a strong story. The Grim Fandango story spans four years and uses the best of an old film noir, combined with a masterful jazzy soundtrack and humorous dialogue. Before you know it you are just hours away. In total you will spend about fourteen hours in the land of the dead, depending of course on how quickly you can solve the various puzzles.
You can progress by walking around, investigating things and finding and using objects. If you are someone who does not like to explore all possible solutions, then this game will not be for you. You are not being guided all the way. Solutions are only found through logical thinking (although some solutions are very far-fetched) or trial and error. So it may be that you are walking in circles for half an hour and an object just passes squarely.
Where in 1998 you used the mouse to click Manny from location to location and pick up objects, the player now uses a controller with analog control, which is fortunately doable. Obviously not everything has been overhauled; for example, the old-fashioned 4:3 aspect ratio is still the standard and you still have to save manually. If you forget this once, it is possible that you will be set back a few hours. If you prefer to play with a 16:9 aspect ratio, you can easily adjust that via the settings. The big disadvantage of this is that the image looks stretched and Manny and the other characters are pulled out of their contours.
Just a minor facelift
To reassure the older generation among us: Grim Fandango has lost none of its charm. The humor, which helped make Grim Fandango the most memorable adventure game of its time, is still there. From the way Manny observes his environment, to the way other characters react. Call it positive or negative, but this 'remaster' has only received a minor facelift. For example, the characters are more detailed, the lighting has been improved and the new soundtrack is provided by The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The former improvement is immediately visible when you switch between the original and the remaster at the push of a button, where it is quickly clear that the backgrounds are unfortunately not included in the remaster process. To give the fans something extra, comments from Tim schafer have been added. This way you get audio commentary from the developers with every piece of the story at the touch of a button. Nice for the fans to reminisce about the "good old days", but if you haven't played the original it won't add much.
The best of adventure games
Unfortunately, the remastering didn't go completely smoothly. For example, I suffered from some framerate problems, and that is quite remarkable for a game that is sixteen years old. Nevertheless, that should certainly not spoil the fun. Even after more than sixteen years, Grim Fandango is still one of the best in its genre and it is still worth reliving this adventure. It may not be the perfect remaster, given the minor improvements and minor technical bugs, but it's certainly a pleasant and memorable experience.