Gaming - Grim Fandango Remastered

The Defective Inspector turns noirish gumshoe and tips his fedora towards his latest casefile and the seedy underworld of Grim Fandango Remastered...

Following the excessively generous option to provide free literature I felt compelled to think back to a time where I’d play games based around deep storytelling, conspiracies, lost loves and gripping moments. It didn’t take long to realise I was going back to the ol’ point and click time of my childhood and one story stood out amongst them all; Grim Fandango. The story of a downtrodden government employee in the 8th level of the underworld, working his way to go to his final resting place by flogging expensive travel packages to good people. Problem is the system seems rigged against him, there are rumblings in the upper parts of the underworld and suddenly a creature called Glottis is driving a company car through hell itself. On that note I welcome you reader to re-join me to a day when Lucas Arts made good games (Eat my force finger Lego Star Wars…)

Why Grim Fandango? Well it’s certainly not the Mexican folklore that much I can tell you, it’s more to do with the skeletal plot and strangely dark and almost macabre noir settings. Not to mention it FEELS like a detective story without being one. The chase for the mysterious girl you’ve once lost, the nonchalant drinking/smoking, the crooked plots and gangster like scenarios. The 1920s roars through every corridor of this game and any reason to replay such a glorious classic is welcomed. The trouble I have with anything that’s been “remastered” is I worry about how well the game holds up because the changes are more a matter of polishing a table rather than re-carving it. You can still see the splintering wood, the outdated patterns and there is a moment when you wonder if someone “not of that time” could understand the appeal of your beloved dining room table?

Let’s start with the basics, its good solid wood. While there may be more graphically rewarding experiences on the market today the fresh spit shine allowed it to remain enjoyable. It’s hard to recall but the resolution of these games a few years ago were NOTHING like today, the heavy dose of pixilation could have driven me slightly mad(er). There are moments where shadows have been added, lighting has been changed slightly or colours made more ‘realistic’ but nothing too excessive. The sound was made a little crisper and in some places were completely re-recording based on the original score. The entire thing just seems a bit tweaked BUT the gameplay felt extremely familiar, annoying bits and all which suited me perfectly. I preferred the core game being left untouched, I love this table after all! It was just a sudden shock to be reminded that the games of old are very different to the titles being released today, even the indie types trying to emulate this style. The phrase “catching lightening in a bottle” is thrown about for moments like this, but I do wonder if we’re not dealing instead with an overdose of nostalgia and fancy lightbulb. Either way my basic senses were content with the remastering.

The real “meat” and bones of the game is in the story and comedy in equal measure. I’ll dodge details of the plot spoilers are terrible phantom in the gaming world. What I’ve told you in the opening paragraph is enough to place some sort of frame into your mind and I think you’ll just need to play it and find out. As for the comedy, I would like to present the following quotes as evidence of pure awesomeness.

Manny: Did you kill much when you were alive?
Meche: Very little.
Manny: Never killed anybody.
Meche: I have to confess... I never killed anybody.
Manny: Not even a teensy bit of killing?

Manny: Don't you ever worry that your job is getting to you, Membrillo?
Membrillo: Well, foresnic Botany is a trying job, Manny, but have you ever spent much time here with a florist? In life, they became florists because they love flowers, but here, a flower is a symbol of pain, of death within death. Their conflicting feelings build and build, and they become quite mad.
Manny: Thanks for the tip, I guess I'll send Balloon Bouquets from now on.

There are so many beautiful quotes, some more affiliated towards physical comedy such as the rotating demon spawn mechanic/chauffer on a giant tree made of qausi-concrete which is used to make buildings… At this point I want to remind you the game is a little bit “out there”. We’re talking about the same company which invented Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle. If I need to explain what these things are then you need more than this article to educate you in the ways of LucasArts. I mean if you WANT me to write about it I will but… I’m going off topic.

So, is there anything to hate about Grim Fandango? Well yes actually… Some of the puzzles have a sense of logic only found within the clinically insane. You are still required to use a metal detector approach to click the right thing at the right time on the right screen bordering on ex machina level of nonsense. Problem is these things are appropriate for this genre/time of creation so I cannot get too upset about it, it’s just a gentle reminder than rose coloured glasses are more common than we realise.

Would a modern gamer enjoy this game? I like to think so, it’s not as action packed or visually immersive as games these days but there are plenty of projects which are story based and this is often enough to act as a spine to a fully functional concept. Sometimes the journey is more enjoyable that the car you ride in, more so if Manny sells it to me for a good price…

Images from Steam

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