Manny Calavera and his four year adventure in the Eighth Underworld has been remastered and made available to more gamers than ever before. People who have played the original game many, many moons ago will tell you now to stop whatever you’re playing and get this game; I am one of them. I played this game to death on the PC many years ago, I still have it actually, so I was quite happy to relive that old love affair on my PS4.
For those who think it’s a reboot, stop right there, it’s a remastered version of the original. Improvements have been made, but it’s not a complete overhaul, so if you’re expecting flashy graphics, you won’t find it here. However, that shouldn’t deter you from playing this phenomenal game.
Never heard of Grim Fandango before? Well, let me clue you in. You play Manny Calavera, a Grim Reaper and undead travel agent. You see, in this world, the Eighth Underworld, sinners need to work to pay off the crimes and sins they committed in the land of the living. To pay off his debts, Manny works as a travel agent for the dearly departed by offering them travel packages on how to travel through the Land of the Dead, until they reach Heaven. Depending on how good you were in life, your travel arrangements will be different. The true of heart, you know the kind, all get a Golden Ticket on the Number Nine Train, a short train trip to Heaven. However, many of Manny’s clients are undeserving of Golden Tickets, which annoys Manny to no end. In a bid to change his luck, he steals another Reaper’s client, a Miss Meche Colomar.
From this point on the story picks up and gets really interesting. He finds out that despite Meche being the perfect candidate for the Number Nine, his records say otherwise. Meche runs off before Manny can clear everything up, so he sets out to save her and, later, solve the mystery behind her missing Golden Ticket.
The game is, for the most part, all about the story, characters and humour. Everything blends so well together. Although it’s not as pretty as games you’ll see today, the animated nature of the game helps win some favour. The voice acting is still as top-notch as I remember and just as amusing. There are some dark parts to the game, I won’t spoil what they are, so it’s not all fun and games in the land of the dead.
In terms of how to play, it’s very much in line with point and click adventures. One of the biggest changes from the original is the change in controls. It’s much easier to move around now, though there is an option to play the game with “tank controls” – I do not recommend it (unless you want the trophy for it). In order to proceed, you’ll need to figure out some of the toughest and most nonsensical puzzles I’ve ever seen. There’s no hand-holding in this game either, no map to help you navigate and no hints to guide you. The only thing that does help you is when Manny moves his head. If he does, then you’ll probably need to do something with it. To give you an example, in the second year, you need to use a turkey baster to suck up some dish water which is used to poison a sailor in order to collect his dog tags (which you didn’t know about) to fake his death, so that you can gain access to a ship. This is just one of many, many puzzles. It’s mad, but it’s loads of fun trying to figure where and how you’re going to use certain odd items.
Visually, all the characters in the game have received a nice update. Their models are smoother and crisper, it’s especially noticeable when you switch from the remastered version to the original. The lighting has improved significantly and really does add some new flavour to the game. In terms of visuals, not much else has changed. Bonus items have been added, like the gallery, trophies and my personal favourite, commentary from the developers.
The commentary is optional and it needs to be activated, so there’s no fear of hearing people chit chat whilst you try and solve a puzzle. For me, the commentary was very special. Having played this game numerous times, it was nice to get some insider knowledge, like why Lupe (one of my favourite characters in the game) created an elaborate item storage system, or why Domino’s boxing shirt has sweat on it despite him not having his skin in order to sweat.
As much as I love the game, there are some gripes which makes me shake my head. There are numerous bugs, which would be forgivable, except, I remember one of them being in the PC version of the game. There could be more, but I remember just this one because it made me laugh hysterically many years ago. It’s in the first year, where Glottis needs to climb a tree, but instead of climbing the tree, his character model stays in place. You can still hear him climb the tree, but I guess his body just forgot to move. Other oddities include characters disappearing, backgrounds disappearing and some stilted movements in certain sections of the game. They aren’t frequent, but if you’re going to remaster a game, at least try and clean it up a little.
Though not perfect, Grim Fandango’s return to the world should be welcomed with open arms. It’s truly one of the best adventure games ever released. Its gripping story, humour (both dark and light), memorable characters, stellar voice acting and timeless feel makes this game a must have in any PS4 or PS Vita game library. And with its cross-buy and cross-save functionality, you’re getting a pretty sweet deal. If you missed the chance to play it years ago, now’s your chance.
P.S. If you ever get stuck, feel free to ask.