Grim Fandango is Resurrected

Classic 1998 Day of the Dead comedy adventure game is reborn for the digital age. Grim Fandango Remastered is now out on iOS and Android, following its Steam release earlier this year.

Occasionally in a state of reminiscence I look up a few of my favourite old games from back in the Amiga / early PC days of my teenage years. While some classics have been rereleased for the modern era, others remain a rose-tinted memory.

One title however – one of my greatest memories – has stood elusive above the rest: Grim Fandango. It’s a game that I remember for so many reasons, not least because of it’s sheer uniqueness.

At the time its producer, LucasArts, was already a master of the graphic adventure game with Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max and various Monkey Island titles to its name. Then in 1998 it released Grim Fandango, the first real 3D adventure game experience set against this wondrous film noir backdrop.

You played as Manny Calavera, a travel agent for the Department of Death, attempting to save new soul Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, as he travels through the Land of the Dead solving various puzzles along the way. It was always the gameplay that appealed to me; a rare perfect mix of style and substance, juxtaposed with the then typical tongue-in-cheek irreverent humour that LucasArts had become famed for.

One of my most striking memories of the game was just how incredibly difficult it was, with some of the puzzles quite abstract in their logic. Of course, back then, you couldn’t just Google ‘Grim Fandango tips and cheats’, you either had to buy the walkthrough book or just work it out for yourself through hours of trial and error – although the reward for doing so was incredible satisfaction.

Unfortunately, despite rave reviews for Grim Fandango, in the early 2000s puzzle adventure games died out, largely in favour of fast-moving graphic-heavy titles, and the onslaught of the major consoles for gaming rather than PCs.

Since then, unless you’ve kept a Windows 98 PC running, there hasn’t been an easy way to relive the glory of Grim Fandango. For the tech-minded though, one set of fans went above and beyond, creating the excellent ResidualVM – its very existence a sign of how passionate some people were about the game. Although great, a full-blown modern rerelease was what most fans really wanted.

Following Disney’s acquisition of LucasArts in 2012 however, the air began to change. And indeed after many years of silence, at the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo Sony announced that along with Grim Fandango’s original director Tim Schafer, it had acquired the rights to the game and would release an updated, but largely unchanged version of the game for modern systems.

The path to Grim Fandango Remastered was far from easy though, with several of the game’s original files either missing or in archaic formats. Thanks to the amazing community support though, and through much digging, Schafer eventually managed to find all the components he needed.

Fans are also in for an extra treat as the Remastered edition brings with it a couple of other bonuses in addition to the modernised graphics and newly recorded orchestration already promised. First up is a Director’s commentary, that can be accessed via the options screen; it’s completely non-intrusive to the gameplay and storyline, but brings a fantastic insight into how Grim Fandango came back to life.

One of the biggest flaws of the game has been fixed too – the tank control system (where the character, not the camera, is used as the point of reference) has been replaced by the now more standard point-and-click method. This was one of many things that Schfaer reached out to the incredible Grim Fandango community for – namely Tobias Pfaff who had created a similar modification patch for the original.

As for me, I’ve been saving Grim Fandango Remastered until I’ve got enough time to fully immerse myself in it. Unlike modern games, there’s no tutorial or gentle learning curve, you truly need to concentrate on the puzzles and might even need a notepad to keep track of where you are in the complex world of the Dead.

It’s fair to say though, the teenager in me can’t wait to play it. And of course, a full review will follow when I do.