Following on with my classic Double Fine Productions playthroughs I decided to finally play a game I was always fascinated by as a youngster, Grim Fandango. Originally released by LucasArts on Microsoft Windows in 1998 I remember picking up a copy but being unable to ever get it to run on my parents computer so I never got to experience it in its original glory. But years later Double Fine, having bought the license from Disney when LucasArts closed, have released a remastered version of the game. Originally released in 2015 on PS4, Windows and Mobile this remaster finally landed onto the Xbox One in October 2020. With it being in Xbox Game Pass I decided it was time to finally jump into this classic and see what I missed out on as a youngster.
The game takes place in the land of the dead, where recently passed souls are trying to get to the land of eternal rest via a four year “Journey of the Soul”. Imagine Pixars Coco if you swapped out the dancing and singing with more underworld and mobsters. You play as Manny, a travel agent who basically is a Grim Reaper who helps people from the land of the living to the dead. You stumble upon a mob organised rigging system in his company which leads to an exciting murder and mystery storyline (which I won't spoil here).
Compared to Full Throttle the voice cast isn't full of big names, however by casting Latino actors to play a large amount of roles really brings a sense of character and personality to them. Tony Plana as Manny in particular is a highlight. The cast also includes some interesting names like Tom Kane (Yoda in everything non movie), Barbara Goodson (Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers) and Katie Leigh (My Little Pony and Muppet Babies).
The game itself is split into 4 years, with each of them being mainly set in a variety of different locations. Each one of these locations has a great art style from casinos to spooky woods and even under the ocean. They are all full of interesting characters to interact with and I found myself speaking to everyone just to enjoy their dialogue. Grim Fandango is a much longer game than the other remastered adventure games clocking in around 10-15 hours depending how much exploring and interacting with characters you decide to partake in. Now the length definitely makes this feel like a much bigger and better game but there are points where the pacing just stops and some sections can feel like a real drag.
The remaster itself includes improved character graphics, controls, directors commentary and an orchestrated score. While the directors commentary is nice along with the beautiful new scoring, the actual improved graphics are by far the worst of the 3 HD remasters Double Fine have released. Switching between the two modes only upscales the character models themselves and doesn't change the backgrounds, so while it's nice to see the characters in a clearer aspect they unfortunately end up standing out and look a bit jarring against the backdrops.
One other thing that really spoilt the experience for me was playing the game with the tank controls. These can be turned of for a new control scheme but if you want to 100% the games achievements you have to play the full game from start to finish with the tank controls. It isn't fun, it plays awfully and it really detracts from the game itself. The amount of time I spent simply trying to walk in the correct direction or in a straight line was more than I care to think about. I suggest playing with the non tank controls first to enjoy the game and then play through again with the tank controls for the achievement (if you have time/enjoyed it enough for a second playthrough), but even then the game shows itself for what it is, an old game still limited by the technology and gameplay of its period. One other thing of note I found annoying when playing is the fact that none of the items you interact with stand out from the backgrounds. There is no sparkle, no real notification that they can be touched which leads to a lot of unnecessary back and forth and random clicking to find the right thing.
In short, Grim Fandango Remastered has in my opinion, the best world, the best story and characters of all the Double Fine Remasters but its held back by the control/gameplay issues and lacking updated graphics. It's definitely worth the playthrough but expect it to be a much, much longer slog than the likes of Day of the Tentacle.
Total Score: 6/10
- Would be higher if there wasn't a demand to play with terrible controls to get a completion.
Grim Fandango is available now on Xbox Gamepass and Xbox Gamepass for PC or on the Xbox Store for £9.99.