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    Grim Fandango Remastered: Bonefied classic

    For a Game that’s regarded as a cult classic, Grim Fandango has suffered an unusually ethereal existence. Unavailable to be purchased new and difficult to get running on modern PCs, the game has been inaccessible for anyone not willing to fiddle with fan-made mods or cracked versions for years. In that sense, the best thing about the remastered version of the game is not that it’s got updated visuals, or an optional director’s commentary, but simply that it gives everyone a way to play it. Upon its return, however, you have to wonder whether Grim Fandango’s reputation has been unduly enhanced by its absence. Without the mists of time clouding our vision, does Grim Fandango shine with the brilliance that we’ve all accepted it possesses? The short answer is yes, though in reality, things are a little more complex and less binary than that.

    One of the major strengths of Grim Fandango when it first released was its art design and that still shines through, even with the updated visuals turned off. The mythology and aesthetics of the Mexican Day Of The Dead festival which provides inspiration for the game’s set-up are combined with an Art Deco visual style that reflects the distinctly noir tone of the adventure and the world itself. That striking, stylish combination still feels original all these years later. In combination with a soundtrack that mirrors Grim’s Mexicana-noir hybrid nature, equal parts mariachi and jazz, the game fosters a real sense of time and place that makes it easy to buy into the world and its characters.

    Of course, that’s also helped by the story itself.  Our hero, Manny, is a Grim Reaper; in this world, that means he is a travel agent, able to sell the newly deceased travel packages to move onto the next world. Circumstances see Manny having to take off on a dangerous journey, set against the backdrop of corruption and double-crossing you’d expect from a noir-inspired fiction. It can occasionally test the limits of believability the idea that Manny falls in love after one short conversation discussing travel packages is transparently ridiculous but any issues we might have with the story are minor. With its well-drawn characters and excellent pacing, Grim Fandango tells a story that we were more than happy to experience for a second time.
    It’s worth mentioning that Grim’s story takes place over the period of four years, something that really makes it stand out. Moving from one place to another as you skip forward to different periods during Manny’s journey benefits the game in so many ways. By the end, there’s a real sense that you’ve been on an epic adventure and seen the world and its people change. That aforementioned sense of place that Grim has is also aided by the fact that you get to visit different parts of the world and interact with its inhabitants in different ways, depending on Manny’s varying positions of power.

    Speaking of interaction, the bread and butter of Grim Fandango is in solving item-based puzzles in the classic adventure game format established by the company that originally developed the game, LucasArts. It’s arguably in this aspect that Grim shows its age the most. There are some rather nonsensical puzzles which require leaps of logic to solve and others that feel needlessly finicky by modern standards. It’s by no means as bad as some other adventure games in that aspect, and the majority of the puzzles are well designed, but there are enough of the more arbitrary ones for it to be noticeable.

    If there’s something that really dampens this remaster, though, it’s the bugs. On multiple occasions we saw characters flicker in and out of existence and, in one instance, we lost over an hour of progress due to getting stuck in an elevator which we couldn’t leave. That kind of shoddiness is a disappointment in a game that is positioned as being a definitive version. Should that be enough to put you off? No. Grim Fandango has aged remarkably well and it is a wonderful adventure game whether you’ve played it before or not.

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