Grim Fandango Remastered PS4 Review
Publisher: Double Fine Productions Developer: Double Fine Productions Genre: Graphic Adventure
Players: 1 Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: PS Vita
Grim Fandango was originally released in 1998 by Lucasarts for Windows and was critically acclaimed by many, with the games surreal art style receiving the most attention. Upon first playing the new, Remastered edition of the game, the graphics certainly popped out, with its Tim Burton-esque style of dark, shadowy, almost stop-motion-like animation making for some engaging and eclectic environments. The characters of the game bear a striking resemblance to Jack Skellington, the main character of The Nightmare Before Christmas, a critically acclaimed film produced and co-written by Tim Burton, but whether the game was inspired by Burton’s unique take on films is questionable. The distinctive characters are designed around decorations used during Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, a holiday that is referenced throughout the game.
Grim Fandango Remastered follows the story of Grim Reaper/Travel Agent Manuel ‘Manny’ Calavera, who works for the Department of Death, a company which determines how people travel to their final destination – to the Ninth Underworld – based on how they lived their lives, whether they were good or bad. Good clients receive the best way to travel, earning themselves a ticket on the elusive Number 9 luxury express train. Frustrated with only receiving meagre clients, Manny decides to steal a good client from his more successful colleague, and in doing so, uncovers some shady business within the company, after a consultation with his stolen client, Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, shows she does not qualify for the much sought-after ticket that she is entitled to. This leads Manny to investigate his company and what follows is a long journey to find Mercedes after he reluctantly sends her on a four-year journey through the Petrified Forest, a journey usually only recommended for people who have lived the shadiest of lives.
What may attract people to play Grim Fandango Remastered is not the gameplay, but the characters and the story. The characters are very well portrayed and voiced, and they all make their mark, each having very distinct personalities that bounce off one another perfectly. Manny’s sidekick, Glottis, may be the only grating character, with his tone of voice sounding rather irritating to listen to, and Lupe, the coat-check girl working in Manny’s club, can also sound rather annoying, but even though both she and Glottis have the most irksome of voices, their personalities more than make up for this. Lupe has a small role within the story, though Glottis does make more of an appearance so his voice will take some getting used to. The story itself is intriguing and very engrossing, meshing greatly with its theme of death.
The puzzles are very ambiguous and lack any sort of logic, so it is difficult to know what you are supposed to do with some of the items that are found, and with Manny picking up many items throughout and not being able to use them immediately, this can lead to some frustration and a lot of back tracking as you work out what needs to be used and where, which can become rather monotonous, impacting the flow of the story. As the game begins, the environments are small and so it is somewhat easy to work out where certain items need to be used, and the first section of the game can be completed relatively quick, but as the game progresses, the environments become drastically open, and it is then that players may find themselves turning to a walkthrough guide as they wander around in confusion, asking themselves what on earth they are supposed to do next. As frustrating as the puzzles are, they are certainly clever – maybe even too clever for their own good – but they make for some imaginative uses of items, and it is always a ‘hallelujah’ moment when you manage to work out a puzzle for yourself, which feels very rewarding.
The controls in the game can be very finicky, with fixed camera angles making for some rather awkward movements. As the game was originally a PC point-and-click game, manoeuvring Manny around with a console controller will take some getting used to. Moving Manny to a certain area will cause the camera to change, and can make the controls feel as though they are suddenly switched around. This isn’t a major problem in the game, but it can feel rather disorienting, if a little irritating as you try and motion Manny through a doorway, for example. Fixed camera angles certainly work in this game, as they are positioned in a way so that you can view the quirky environments, enabling you to have a thorough look around at the colourful detail and absorbing yourself in the surroundings.
The music is also used to great effect in the game, with different areas all having their own jazzy melody; it adds to the mystique of the environments as Manny enters new areas and the music changes, helping to alter the tone of that area almost immediately and adding to the games sense of film noir.
Grim Fandango Remastered is an excellent game, one that should definitely be given a try, just to say you have experienced its surrealism. Its environments have a very spooky, odd feel to them which immediately pulls you into its world, making you want to know more about the place in which Manny resides. A few minor problems do cause the pace of the game to slow down during the middle, with many head-scratching puzzles and back-tracking likely to infuriate players that prefer to complete a game without the use of a walkthrough, but it is an enjoyable, bizarre game for the most part, and with so many interesting and likable characters paired with an intriguing story, it will be a game that keeps you hooked for hours.