Grim Fandango Remastered is the latest release by Tim Schafer working with his company Double Fine to update an over 15 year old Lucas Arts classic. While the original 90’s point and click adventure game was a critical but not a commercial success, Double Fine has included several updates to the remaster refining graphical textures, including a full orchestral soundtrack and bringing the game to the PS4 and Vita with a whole new range of control options.
So let’s start with the good. The story is as it ever was, one of the most intricate and touching in gaming history. Spanning over 4 years we follow the story of Manny Calvera, a bad guy gone good, who must sell the best travel packages to good souls in order to help them pass to the other side and redeem his own soul enough for his own ticket. The only problem is that it seems all the good souls are gone and when the saint-like Mercedes Colomar is refused safe passage, Manny will travel to the ends of the earth to figure out what’s up.
It’s rare that story-telling gets this deep in games and the beautiful way in which the story unfolds along with the strong, well-defined characters and believable relationships gives this title the power to bring you to shock and tears. The voice acting is timeless and aids to bring the underworld to life, and you truly feel for each and every character as the plot twists and turns unexpectedly.
The updated soundtrack was certainly a highlight of the release for me. The smooth Spanish Jazz and full orchestral sound made Grim Fandango Remastered stand out as a work of art. With the strong hispanic influence through the characters and story based on the traditional day of the dead, the music suits it perfectly, and the soundtrack could be listened to just as happily away from the context of the story. It helps enormously to give the player an all round experience.
The remaster, in my opinion, hasn’t done a lot to improve the graphics from the original, though things do look a lot smoother. Personally I enjoyed the sort of Final Fantasy VII nostalgia kickback I got from them and some of the cutscenes look particularly grand.
The game mechanics, however, are typical of the 90’s point and click adventure genre and could easily cause you to throw the PC out of the window in frustration at several points. Unlike Double Fine’s more recent releases, such as Broken Age or The Cave, Grim Fandango Remastered does very little in terms of dialogue or textual clues to point you in the right direction.
I, in some ways, refuse to call certain parts puzzles as they are so mindboggling I’m not sure how anyone would figure them out without brute force. Without spoiling too much, here are some things that aid you in solving “puzzles”: a held in burp, liquefied vomit, two foam filled phallus’ and my personal favourite someone’s arm you put in a grinder.
Of course not all puzzles are completely abstract and you receive a warm rush of accomplishment whenever you achieve one by yourself. That being said I would advise first timers like myself to not be ashamed of the online walkthrough for this one. It may just save you buying a new Vita.
So let’s talk about the Vita. Whatever you do, don’t buy it for the Vita until Double Fine come out with significant patches. The game has no autosave function and when playing the game with the remastered graphics in particular, it would often freeze meaning you had to turn the system off and lose all your data from the last save. If you feel you have to buy the Vita version for the updated console controls, which I would say are an absolute pleasure to use in combination with the touch screen in comparison to the PC version, I would advise you to save often (even though saving takes literally about 5 minutes to do) and turn off the updated graphics. While I don’t own a PS4 I’ve been told the cross save function also bugs the game out so I would avoid that too.
I was eventually forced to contact Double Fine’s support team but it was not for these freezing problems. After around 12 hours and with just around an hour until the ending, in the scene with the crocodile my game glitched and bugged out so hard on my Vita that I had to start from the beginning. There was no moving forward. The support team were polite and fast to help, but one look at Double Fine’s twitter feed will tell you I am not alone in game breaking bug land. They advised me to play through from the beginning again and in doing so I reached the same bug in exactly the same place just moments from the ending.
Despite this, when switching to the Mac version, everything just ran much more smoothly. I experienced no bugs and only very slight glitches in terms of graphics, though nothing really to complain about. Saving took a fraction of the time, and the much larger screen meant you could appreciate the game that much more and it made up for the lack of touch controls. I can’t recommend the PC version more highly.
In all, Grim Fandango Remastered is a must have title to add to anyone’s gaming collection, though if you still own the original this new version does not add all that much new to the mix. I highly recommend that even though the touch controls are great, you in no way attempt to play this on the Vita as it can only lead to heartbreak until significant patches have been released. By comparison the PC version runs well and the lack of bugs more than make up for the loss of controls.
Keys were obtained courtesy of the developer and Grim Fandango Remastered was played on both the Mac and PS Vita.
You can buy Grim Fandango Remastered on Steam.
An incredible game that stands up to the test of time, but a disappointing Vita port and quirky logic spoil what could be near perfection