Grim Fandango

Nostalgic Game Review

Welcome to a new episode of the Nostalgic Game Review, where each month I muse over an old game I played long ago. Other than indulging my own nostalgia, this column also hopefully shed some light on game design and reflect on how gaming technologies have evolved.

Without further ado…

Grim Fandango (1998 PC Game)

What is it?

It’s a game published by LucasArts (way before its acquisition by Disney in 2012) and accurately described on its cover: “An epic tale of crime and corruption in the Land of the Dead” and “An amazing 3D adventure by Tim Schafer, creator of Full Throttle and Day of The Tentacle” (both were super popular, well known at the time, adventure games). Tim Schafer later went on and established Double Fine Productions and continues to create amazing titles such as Psychonauts, The Cave (I don’t care what the reviews said, I played this on mobile and it was A-mazing!), and Broken Age.

The player plays the role of ‘Manny’ Calavera, a travel agent who’s working off his ‘debts’ in the ‘Land of the Dead,’ pulled into an amazing 4-year journey full of plot-twists, conspiracy, friendship, romance, class battle and revolution! :D. The whole story is laced with Mexican folklore, arts, music and humorous dialogs, turning this game into a piece of art.

Grim Fandango Windows Starting location. Our hero Manny Calavera is posing for the camera in his office
“I am Manny, and this is the office of my ‘dead end’ job”!
Grim Fandango Windows The game is full of secret relationships, affairs, double-crossing, and so on. You've just witnessed a rather... intimate scene
Manny has many faces in this game, including this shiny tuxedo 🙂

In the original version, the player controls Manny with directional keys, which was later changed into ‘point and click’ in the Remastered release. In retrospect, I think point and click makes more sense for this type of game (think Monkey Island and Broken Sword series…etc)

Grim Fandango Windows One of the game's many complex, mechanical puzzles. Your best friend, the orange demon Glottis, is as helpful as ever. Note his animation in this shot
Manny’s amazing demon friend, Glottis.
Grim Fandango Windows Mariachi Of The Dead
Plenty of beautiful arts and music from Mexican’s folklore/culture. Some mariachi, amigos?
Grim Fandango Windows The game is full of journeys, and the amount of different location themes is very high. Here we go through an atmospheric forest
The story is filled with interesting and very different locations and themes.
Grim Fandango Screenshot
Again, the game is filled with beautifully rendered sceneries in mysterious locations.
Grim Fandango Windows The SS Lambada, a ship you'll eventually be able to commandeer
Oh, and you get to commandeer a ship in this game~
Grim Fandango Screenshot
Meche, The romantic interest of Manny, who’s too skinny IMHO ;D

What’s in it?

A manual and two discs, all covered with beautiful art.

Grim Fandango Windows Manual Front Cover
Grim Fandango Windows Media Disc 1
Grim Fandango Windows Media Disc 2

My Impression

I was seriously ‘charmed’ by the Mexican style arts and mythos in this game. I’m sure I did not get 100% of all the subtle references in its humor and visual cues, but I absolutely love the whole experience. It impresses me as a game created out of love, and it influenced me to be curious about the history and stories behind those folklores. In another word, it could be considered an educational game! 🙂

More recently, watching Coco and Encanto with my kids definitely reminds me a lot of this game, and makes me want to go back to re-play it again.

The Remastered version is available on GoG.com here

And without playing the game, you can also find plenty of videos on Youtube to catch a glimpse of this game’s beauty, here is one:

That’s it for this episode of Nostalgic Game Review! Thank you for visiting! I appreciate any comments/feedback or if there’s a game you would like me to cover 🙂

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