Review: Grim Fandango Remastered (Vita)

Developer: Double Fine | Year: 2014 | List Price: $14.99 | Buy from Steam

gfheaderGrim Fandango is another one of those games that you’re vaguely familiar of, but haven’t tried. In this case specifically, it was practically impossible to get a copy, since it was only released once, back in 1998 by LucasArts. Back then, Grim Fandango did well critically, but didn’t sell very well, and had a rather small run. In fact, the original developers didn’t actually save a full copy of the source code, and the process of remastering Grim Fandango was uncertain and arduous. The operation was ultimately successful, and late last month Grim Fandango Remastered was released to PS4, Vita, and PC, Mac, and Linux. But how does a game hailed as the last of the adventure-game era hold up today? Let’s find out!

Being an adventure game, story takes centre stage in Grim Fandango. Fortunately, it’s engaging and immediately interesting. It’s set in the Land of the Dead, and you play as Manny Calavera, who must atone for his sins by selling travel packages to the newly dead. Early in the game, he meets Mercedes Colomar, a mysterious woman who soon disappears without a trace. The story spans Manny’s four-year journey to find her, and you’ll encounter a myriad of lovable characters and hilarious situations along the way.

The setting is decidedly Mexican-inspired, from the brassy soundtrack to the voice acting. It also emulates the films noirs of the 40s and 50s. The well written dialogue and suave characters certainly remind me of Casablanca, even if that’s not really a film noir, I’m sure you get the idea. I really got lost in the world, and I enjoyed interacting with everything I saw to see what kind of interesting things people would say.

This might be a somewhat controversial statement, but I didn’t actually enjoy Grim Fandango’s gameplay a whole lot. That’s just me though. Plenty of folks love the hard, puzzling adventure games of the 80s and 90s, and Fandango is often described as the last true game of the genre. But I was born the year this came out, and I have no nostalgia associated with these kinds of games, not to mention I’m really just not savvy enough to solve the diabolical puzzles. After spending over an hour on a relatively simple puzzle in the first scene, I decided to simply follow a guide, and I don’t thing I’m worse off for it. Honestly, even if you don’t normally like adventure games, I strongly recommend giving Grim Fandango a try. Just don’t hesitate to use a guide, because the story is one you won’t want to miss.

Design: 10/10 Grim Fandango’s setting is interesting and evokes a certain mid-20th-century charm. The story is interesting all the way through, and the characters are all extremely likable (especially Glottis!). Grim Fandango may be an old game, but it’s design and overall premise still hold up just as well today as they did in 1998.

Visuals: 8/10 The blocky polygonal models and pre-rendered backgrounds of the original game are largely intact in this remaster, though lighting and some pixelation has been fixed. You can switch between the original and remastered visuals on the fly, but the difference is not always noticeable. Overall, the graphics look slightly better than the best of the PS1, and at least on Vita, that’s okay.

Sound: 9/10 The soundtrack does much to supply Grim Fandango its overarching Mexican style. It’s rather varied, featuring everything from brassy jazz instruments to haunting Aztec-inspired tribal pipes. There’s a lot of voice acting, and it’s absolutely superb.

Gameplay: 6/10 If one thing has aged badly in Grim Fandango, it’s definitely the puzzles. Grim Fandango doesn’t do a lot to guide a player who’s not used to the adventure games of yesteryear. If you already love the genre, you’ll love Fandango, but this is not the game that’ll convert the uninitiated.

Value: 8/10 Priced at $15, Grim Fandango’ll give you around 4-6 hours of gameplay if you follow a guide (or are just a genius), and more if you don’t. There’s no real incentive to repaly Grim Fandango, but I suspect it’s the kind of game you’ll revisit every couple of years as you would your favourite movies.

Total: 41/50 (B+)

List Price: $14.99 | Buy from Steam

I finished Final Fantasy IV last weekend, so look forward to that review really soon. I’m about two hours into Final Fantasy VIII, but I’m seriously considering not continuing. It just doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy game to me, though the story is starting to pick up, I guess. (Tell me what you think! I want to finish the first 7 American Final Fantasy games so I can rank them on the site, but the going’s getting tougher as I move toward the … “less good” entries in the franchise.) In other news, I just started Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the first time yesterday. It’s my first Castlevania game and I’m absolutely riveted!

Until next time, check out the rest of our video game-related content here, and see an always-up-to-date ranked list of my favourite games of all time right here!

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