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Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4) Review

/ Feb 12th, 2015 No Comments

Grim Fandango

It has been a long, difficult road to bring Grim Fandango back to fans. The path to this point somewhat mirrored the arduous journey main character Manny Calavera undergoes in the game, if you replace Manny’s inability to get good clients with the rights to the game getting intricately tangled up. Yet, much like Glottis’ suped up hot rod, Sony swooped in to help revive Grim Fandango.

Grim Fandango Remastered lovingly updates the late 1990s PC adventure game. The strongest aspect of the game, its writing, remains sharp, hilarious, and compelling, while puzzles are still clever enough to force players to think critically.

But Now We Dance…

Manny Calavera used to be on top, and things looked good for him. He had the best office, good clients eligible for Double N tickets, and he had a shot of working off his debt in quick time. But that didn’t last long. Now, he has the worst office, he only gets the shadiest clients eligible for only a walking stick or a coffin in the back of a hearse, and he has only a slight chance of ever working off his debt. If Calavera doesn’t get a good client soon, he’ll be stuck selling bad travel packages to the dregs of the afterlife.
 

Grim Fandango

It always a dame, ain’t it?

Calavera realizes that his fortune isn’t going to change if he waits for his boss to give him a good client. If he wants a shot at getting out, he is going to have to take a good client for himself. Enter Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, a saint if ever there was one. She’s got a sure spot on the Double N, a gold mine. Or so Calavera thought. When he tries to set her up with her travel package, he finds she isn’t eligible for anything despite not having hurt a single soul. After Manny tries to figure out what went wrong, he comes back to see Colomar has left.

She is out on her own braving the terrible Petrified Forrest, and the long arduous path to the Ninth Underworld. When Don Corpal, Manny’s Boss, and Domino Hurley, Manny’s nemesis, discover what Calavera has done to Mercedes, he is locked up in the garage to await his punishment. It doesn’t look good for old Manny. He is likely going to be sprouted.
 

Grim Fandango

Getting to the heart of the matter.

Before his judgment comes down, he gets some assistance from Sal and the resistance. It turns out something is not right in the Department of Death (DoD), and it is up to the resistance and Manny to figure out what is rotten. But Manny has something more important to do — find Meche and get her safely to the Ninth Underworld. With the help of his driver, Glottis, and a colorful cast of characters, he might just be able to save Meche, and uncover the conspiracy in the DoD.

As a Tim Schafer joint, one of Grim Fandango’s most obvious strengths is the caliber of writing. It is nothing short of spectacular. It captures the noir tone perfectly while blending in humor and heart in equal measure. The noir underpinnings are handled with a deft hand, so the dialogue never feels like a noir parody even when Manny talks about being more frayed than a beat-up deck of cards with fewer suits. The plot builds upon traditional noir elements by incorporating recognizable noir story elements and references to popular noir media in subtle ways, but it is how it inverts and plays off these references that makes it special. The conspiracy of the DoD and Manny’s four-year journey to find Meche are wonderfully complex and engrossing.

Save the Comic Book One-Liners

The game is a very traditional adventure game, which works well with the noir vibe. Manny is a man of action, but he is not about trying to use brute force to get through obstacles. Rather, Calavera utilizes his ingenuity and cleverness to get what he wants, and he will need all his smarts if he wants to rescue Meche.
 

Grim Fandango

Yeah, you want to punch him in the face, but keep a keen eye because certain items will be important later.

Since the game’s story is broken up into four different years, Manny will be thrown into multiple locations. These locations are filled with various buildings and areas to explore. Some will have people to talk to or items to grab for later use. A good rule is to interact with everything and take any item you see. Even if you don’t think you’ll use it, Manny probably will need it for a puzzle later on.

It is also a good idea to talk with everyone you see and go through all the dialogue options before leaving. Not only is the dialogue a delight to listen to, but often characters will have important information or items for you upon triggering the right combination of dialogue options.
 

Grim Fandango

Puzzles, man.

One of the toughest aspects of Grim Fandango is gathering up all the items needed in any given location. The key to avoid getting stuck is to explore every possible area, grab every item and talk to everyone, then figure out what to do from there. Players may need to use trial and error, and how items are used can be a bit nebulous at times. The best thing to do is experiment by trying different approaches to solve a puzzle, and remember there is a good chance that items have some usefulness.

Overall

Despite its cult following, chances are many people haven’t played Grim Fandango. Grim Fandango Remastered gives new fans an excellent way to experience this lauded classic. Given the recent rival of adventure games, Grim Fandango still stands out as a spectacular example of the genre.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. Currently, he lives in Tustin, California. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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GRIM FANDANGO REMASTERED (PS4) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall92%

GAMEPLAY9

The game has very traditional adventure gameplay, which focuses on finding items and figuring out how they can be used to solve puzzles. Puzzles are quite difficult.

GRAPHICS9

Some work has been done to update the look of the game, mainly making models smooth and advanced lighting.

SOUND9.5

The voice acting is top notch. Tony Plana brings Manny Calavera to life. His performance drives the game, and imbues Calavera with charm and grativtas.

STORY9.5

What's up with airplane food? That may be the driving force behind Manny Calavera in Grim Fandango. Not really, but transportation factors heavily into this compelling noir tale. The plot twists build in such an intricate way as any good noir story does.

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