Grim Fandango Remastered Review

By Peter Stojanov,
Grim Fandango was a title originally produced for PC by LucasArts and Tim Schafer back in 1998 and has now be redone by Double Fine Productions for the PlayStation 4 and Vita to bring a great story and atmosphere to the new age of consoles.

Grim Fandangao Remastered

Grim Fandango follows the story behind the skeletal Manuel "Manny" Calavera, a Department of Death (DOD) salesman. His luck slumps at every turn when another salesman, Domino Hurley, seems to be getting all of the "good cases". This leads him on a mission to uncover the mystery behind what is occurring at the DOD, and eventually heads into a series of unfortunate events that sees him leaving El Marrow city (where the DOD is located) and living the life of an agent for another cause.

Notable characters in this story include Glottis, Manny's clumsy and overexcited demon driver; Mercedes, a woman whom Manny is seeking after he accidentally sent her on the road; Salvador Limones, leader of a resistance called the Lost Souls Alliance (LSA); and Hector LeMans, the boss of a huge enterprise of criminal activities. The characters' and environments' designs are based on Mexican calaca figures that celebrate the Day of the Dead on which each of the levels is played -- each year on the Day of the Dead is when you, as Manny, make your next big move in solving whatever situation he is in.

Grim Fandangao Remastered

Manny is a fantastic character: witty, funny and sometimes smooth, his interactions with many of the characters throughout the different towns seems so genuine and humorous. The characters are quite diverse and easily distinguishable between one another; from dead souls to demons they each had their own human quality. The voice actors that were chosen for each role performed well and didn't hold back when it came to the emotional scenes, of which there were plenty for a game that seemed to focus strictly on dark comedy.

The story had its twists and turns and it was difficult to try and figure out what would happen next, which is something that isn't common in stories nowadays. The environments and soundtrack suited the atmosphere perfectly and gave it a James Bond-esque feel with mob-like hideouts, casinos, and even a poetry bar. You only wish that the music didn't change so drastically with every room that you walked into, as this could break the tension during a puzzle solving sequence.

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You navigate with Manny through each town while interacting with people, places and things in order to discover a new revelation or clue. As it is a mystery game, you need certain items in order to figure out an issue or to collect for later use in other areas. Your main item that you always carry around in your magically-deep coat pocket is your collapsible scythe, which Manny uses in various situations (and is not for what it appears to be used). For the duration of a level, you can bring out any item that you currently have in your coat and have Manny say fun facts about them or use them to interact with other objects, either by modifying the item or creating a solution for a situation.

The control scheme was improved by Double Fine Productions in order to make up for the tank-like controls of its 1998 version (although you can go back to it through the Options menu). The controls for the game weren't an issue so much as the camera angles when you enter a different part of an area. Some of these camera angles, adjusting your view to look at something of interest, are at points completely disorienting and frustrating as you go back and forth with Manny to try to get your bearings. You only wish that this was another aspect of the Remastered edition that could have been fixed. Another aspect that could have been added would be for the player to have to press the action button in order to interact with an elevator or door. This coupled with the nauseating camera angles creates one of the most frustrating factors about this game.

Grim Fandangao Remastered

A new feature in this Remastered edition of Grim Fandango was the developer commentary that's added to the game. When you switch this on from the Options menu you can hear the developers' input into certain levels, designs and story elements and the process that went into making them, all during your gameplay! It's actually quite a neat feature, something that should be put into more games nowadays for extra replay value.

The Remastered edition includes, of course, remastering of the graphics and lighting through each stage of the game. Through the click of a button, gamers will be able to see the difference between the 1998 and 2015 editions of Grim Fandango, which doesn't feel like much of a change. The texture on the characters has been smoothed out but the hard lines of their frame is still hard on the eyes, making them look blocky. The lighting is the best improvement as you can see the shadows of the shutters across Manny's face as well as the characters' shadows becoming more realistic -- stretched out instead of simply copying the character.

Grim Fandango Remastered

The trophies for this game mostly revolve around having complete conversations with NPCs. There are many different conversation options while talking to other people and, although time consuming, you need to go through all of these options to unlock the corresponding trophy. The different topics that you can discuss are actually quite interesting though, and shed more light on this strange afterlife world. One of the trophies that you'll most likely miss is playing the game entirely in the tank controls; this could be frustrating, since the little time that was played with the tank controls induced feelings of wanting to chuck the controller at the screen.

In summary, the story was thoroughly enjoyable as it was humorous, witty, dark, and had a great voice cast; certain plot points even came as a twist and you were thrown off from your previous assumptions. The controls were extremely frustrating while adjusting to camera angles and also when accidentally walking into an elevator just by nearing it. Going back and forth between the Original and Remastered versions is a neat trick but it only makes you realize that the graphics aren't greatly improved, with clean surfaces and better lighting there's only so much that can be done with it. Overall, Grim Fandango is a good mystery game with solid story, characters, environment and music.

The reviewer spent 8 hours playing as Manny during the Day of the Dead and gained 30 out of the 48 trophies. The reviewer feels like there's still many things they missed while venturing through the Eighth Underworld, so another playthrough will be in order. This copy was provided courtesy of the developer.