Grim Fandango Remastered: Review

After so many years of pining for a re-release of Grim Fandango, it’s sort of shocking to realise, fairly early on, that the game isn’t perfect. This was my hype level going in: after a decade of longing, of hearing the game’s name evoked repeatedly and scanning my eye over the PC section of every Gametraders I encountered, Grim Fandango existed in my mind as a sort of mythical, perfect, face-melting game. Actually playing through it now, I am reminded that it is, after all, fallible...but despite this, I’m in no way disappointed.

Grim Fandango is very much a product of its time, for better far more than for worse. The point and click adventure genre never really moved forward from what Grim Fandango did: modern games in the genre tend to either pay homage to their 2D ancestors, avoid a focus on puzzles, or present gameplay similar (but basically always inferior to some degree) to what this game had.  With this in mind, this remaster is more like a restoration of a fading painting than a full remake: the image is sharpened, the edges smoothed, and some minor lighting effects are added. It’s just enough for Grim Fandango to move in line with the rose-tinted shades those who played it in 1998 might be wearing. It’s the right choice for a game that has been out of circulation so long, allowing new players to feel like they’re getting the same experience that people have been raving about for sixteen years now, complete with all the original game’s faults (although there is, thankfully, a new and more comfortable movement scheme).
Grim Fandango is very much a product of its time, for better far more than for worse
The basic premise is extremely charming. You play as Manny Calavera, a grim reaper whose life takes a neo-noir twist when he realises that his employer, the Department of Death, is even more shadowy than you’d expect a department with that name to be. It’s a neo-noir love story comedy set over four years, complete with a skeletal dame, a bunch of Casablanca homages, a big lovable demon-thing with a penchant for the piano and the best damn writing the genre has to offer. The world and characters of Grim Fandango are extremely endearing, the jokes genuinely funny, and the poignant moments land. Grim Fandango comes from a time when obtuse puzzles were the norm in adventure games, and while it’s much, much better than most of its contemporaries, every now and then you’ll stumble upon a chain of events That doesn’t quite click. For the most part though, puzzling through the game’s huge locals and figuring out the proper order of interactions is a delight, and whenever I became frustrated it was more at the process of needing to review the game than anything if I was given weeks to finish, I gladly could have let it slowly wash over me. The world of Grim Fandango is just a delight to exist within, and finally being given the opportunity to discover it feels like a minor miracle. 

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