Cult classic video game ‘Grim Fandango’ gets a makeover



Grim Fandango Remastered

By Colin McInerney

“Grim Fandango Remastered” is the latest game in a long line of classic titles being re-released on current-generation hardware. The game has enough of a cult following to warrant its return, and with the original version being difficult to run on current hardware and marred by control issues, even the sparse updates make this the easiest way to play the game.

“Grim Fandango” was released in 1998 by LucasArts with the project being headed by Tim Schafer. His past works, like the all-time classic adventure game “Day of the Tentacle,”  have a track record of releasing incredibly funny and beautifully themed adventure games, and “Grim Fandango” was certainly no exception to this.

Initially, the game was met with universal acclaim and received 13 awards. The game still frequently tops numerous favorite game lists but retains cult status because of its commercial failure at the time of its release. It was the last adventure game LucasArts ever released, and afterwards, adventure games went into decline in the gaming industry as a whole.

Since 2012, adventure games have seen a resurgence, with much of that success attributed to Double Fine Productions, Schafer’s studio. Double Fine was the first studio to launch a wildly successful video game Kickstarter campaign, announcing “Double Fine Adventure,”  a title that publishers wouldn’t touch because they thought adventure games were dead. Millions in funding later, Double Fine released “Broken Age: Act 1,” which was a critical success and sold well enough that the company has enough funding to finish the remainder of the game.

Riding on that success, Double Fine was able to release “Grim Fandango Remastered,” much to the joy of its fans. Understanding the history of the game is important, though, because the game is most assuredly a product of its time. The game uses 3D models on pre-rendered backgrounds, and it is beautiful to see, but it deteriorates a bit with a new feature: the ability to switch between the original and remastered graphics. What becomes readily apparent is that the only real changes are the fidelity of the models and more realistic lighting.

That is not necessarily bad, either. Remasters can be hit or miss, and in some cases making no changes at all is the right decision. This rings true in the case of “Grim Fandango,” as adventure games essentially exist in their own bubble anyway. The big trope of the genre is nonsensical solutions to problems that require exploring the environment. Early on in “Grim Fandango,” players will have to get empty balloons from a sad clown, fill them with two substances and send them down a tube system to access a particular room. It makes sense in the context of the game, but it can be confusing and off-putting to new gamers and those generally unfamiliar with the genre.

“Grim Fandango Remastered” is a fantastic game to play for those who choose to take the dive anyway. The updated graphics are visually appealing, and the pre-rendered backgrounds are beautiful in their own right. Loaded with a cast of well-developed characters, art direction unparalleled by most modern games and writing that is both smart and funny, few games are as memorable as “Grim Fandango.” 

With the updated controls that make the game far easier to navigate, this is undoubtedly the way this game should be played. It is certainly the game for players who immerse themselves in a world unlike anything they have ever seen. New players may want to follow a guide in case they get stuck, but “Grim Fandango Remastered” is certainly worth probing around first.