Grim Fandango is a well known game that came out on the PC back in 1998, having never really played PC games this one passed me by. I only heard about it years later being described as one of the last great adventure games which was now extremely difficult to get a hold of and run on a modern computer. Well the good news is that Grim Fandango has been remastered and is available now for €14.99 as a cross-buy for the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 4, making it accessible to longtime fans as well as younger players and those of us who didn’t get around to playing it back in the day. The question is will this old game impress newcomers now over 15 years later or is this going to be a game that can only be enjoyed by those who have fond memories of its original release?
The remastered version hasn’t made any massive changes, the screen is still 4:3 so you will have plain black strips on either side of your screen or a decorated border. There is the option to stretch it to 16:9 but I wouldn’t recommend this. The background settings remain unchanged, they are detailed settings that feel similar to the style of Final Fantasy VII and the characters are blocky 3D models. The 3D models have been improved slightly and the blocky visuals even work well with the style of the skeletons, not so much for the demons who look as bad if not worse than the models did in Final Fantasy VII. I’m using the Final Fantasy VII comparison as I feel this might be what players trying that game for the first time now might think when looking at it, you hear all this praise about how fantastic it is but when you look at it with fresh eyes the game of course looks very dated.
You can instantly swap between the remastered and original versions at any time by pressing the select button to compare them. There is also a director’s commentary you  can can select from the menu, letting you hear interesting little pieces of information as you play through each area. The only other big change is the option to use different control schemes, with the Vita you can use the touch screen to point where you want to go or use the analog sticks to move Manny the main character around. The original controls are still there to use if you wish, (in fact you earn a trophy by completing the game that way). I found the controls a bit irritating when Manny would be walking along and suddenly he would be in a new area with the camera switched around a different way so he would quickly change direction and walk back to the area he had just been in, this happened to me several times. At other points moving from area to area would take several seconds to load and make the game look as though it had frozen. The game freezing on me actually happened twice, at one point I was in a menu screen and none of the buttons would work, however the touchscreen still would and once I came out of the menu all controls started working again. The second time this happened I wasn’t so lucky, everything froze and I had to switch the game off and on again, losing my progress. There is no autosave feature in Grim Fandango and while you can’t ever die or get a game over I still recommend you save often in case you have any freezing issues like I did.
What hasn’t aged about Grim Fandango is the excellent story, style and the music (which was rerecorded by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra). The style of the game feels like a Day of the Dead holiday inspired by film noir and Latin American culture. You take the role of Manny Calavera, a skeleton selling tickets to dead souls so they can get through the land of the dead faster if they lived a good life. After an incident occurs with one of his clients Manny finds out the business he is in may be corrupt and sets out to uncover the mystery around it in order to help his client. The story spans over four years and sees Manny go through many changes while meeting new and old acquaintances along the way.
What has aged is the gameplay. Grim Fandango is an adventure game that has you solve puzzles to progress the story and in its day these seemingly obscure puzzles that you had to solve were more commonplace. Thats not to say this is a bad thing for those old fans who are about to give out that younger players just aren’t able to solve puzzles like they did. Its just that this style of a game, with its slower pacing and puzzles that almost have vague, trial and error logic, are not what you’d typically expect from the faster moving games of today, particularly on consoles. There are large areas for you to explore and see what you can and can’t interact with. Seemingly random items will have to be used in a very specific way at different points in order to progress the story and I’ll admit that I did grow impatient at times trying to figure the puzzles out. At times I didn’t even know what I was supposed to be trying to do and I did resort to an online guide for help. Sometimes it would turn out I was trying to use the right item on the right person but needed to be standing beside them at a slightly different angle to get them to recognise it.
When it comes down to it though this is a game from 1998 and the remastered version hasn’t changed the main gameplay by adding a hint system or any kind of help for less patient players so once you know what to expect you won’t be disappointed. Grim Fandango is a classic game that deserves to be tried.


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