Back in 1998, Grim Fandango captivated me. I was astounded by the interesting atmosphere, the brilliant story, and the extremely confusing gameplay. Back then, I wasn’t really sure what to make of adventure games – I didn’t understand them, but I sure as hell enjoyed them. The game looked and sounded amazing, and it wasn’t hard for me to build an obsession that lasts to this day. I’ve played Grim over and over, read through the Prima guide countless times, and watched any Let’s Play I could to vicariously re-experience the game I know and love, so naturally, I was floored when I heard Double Fine would be remastering Grim Fandango.
Playing through Grim Fandango Remastered allowed me to experience my childhood memories as if they were new, and it excites me tremendously to be able to say that it’s exactly what I would’ve wanted with this game.
What do you mean graphics? The game looked great back in 1998! Not much changed, did it?
The graphical modifications of Grim Fandango Remastered are the most apparent modifications, and the changes that were made are stunning in two senses. Firstly, none of the graphics were rethought. Nothing was redesigned, but textures were redrawn in higher resolution. Double Fine changed what were previously static backgrounds into living sections of the game, giving physical depth to props so that shadows hit them realistically. Shadow is an important feature of the Film Noir aesthetic, and Grim Remastered only uses that as an advantage. Additionally, use of techniques such as texture filtering allow for a more realistic perception of depth – textures lose their crispness when viewed at a distance.
That said, graphical improvements do, in some aspects, leave something to be desired. Graphics options are constricted heavily, forcing you to choose top-of-the-line, computer halting graphics when you want to use antialiasing and removing antialiasing altogether when the “advanced lighting” is turned off. Resolution scaling is set to a slider with no strict denotation of what resolution you’re going to use. Sometimes shadows bounce off of the background in weird ways, leaving a jaggy texture around the border of a prop.
Those minor gripes didn’t tear me out of enjoying the game, though. Grim Fandango Remastered was still immersive and fun, and many issues I noticed I had to look for. The only graphical issue I noticed which hurt my immersion was an animation error in some characters’ face textures. Certain sections of certain faces would be out of sync with each other, which threw me off and continues to annoy me as I watch characters speak.
Grim Fandango Remastered was intended to be played in 4:3, so an attractive border surrounds the left and right of the screen. This option can be disabled, and you can even stretch the aspect ratio of the game to 16:9. That setting is really ugly though, and I prefer to leave the borders in place. They’re not distracting, and they add a pretty frame to the game.
In terms of plot, puzzles, and general gameplay stuff, Grim Fandango Remastered is no different. That said, the way the player interacts with the game has changed substantially. Of course, the old tank controls are still there, and they are still my favorite so far, at least as far as the PC version of the game is concerned. Tank controls allow the player to move Manny relative to Manny himself – hitting left makes him rotate left, and hitting right makes him rotate right. Hitting forward makes many walk in the direction he’s facing.
The default control option has changed from the traditional tank controls, though, to a style which moves Manny relative to the camera. Pressing left makes him move to the left of your screen, and vice versa. Plugging a controller into your PC will allow you to use the analog sticks to move Manny around, making controls smoother than their keyboard counterparts. Additionally, for the fans of point-and-click games, a point-and-click interface is available and fades into the screen with a flick of the mouse.
The remaster brought tooltips to the forefront – assisting the player with actions such as scrolling through the inventory with hints regarding which keys to press. I didn’t like this at first, because the only text in the original game were subtitles. I warmed up to it quickly, though, because I found myself confusing hotkeys more often as time went on.
Grim Fandango Remastered boasts a newly re-recorded soundtrack performed live by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The soundtrack was phenomenal in the first place – I have had it on my iPod since iPods came out, and it never leaves my list of frequently played albums. Listening to the newly recorded soundtrack staggered me – I didn’t realize something I loved so much could be improved upon substantially. The original composer went over his old compositions and rethought them – revising and adding parts to lend even more emotion and power to each track. Each piece lends to the mashup of film noir and Mexican folklore that creates the universe of Grim Fandango. As unusual as this juxtaposition sounds, the themes work brilliantly and are only assisted by the music which helps seal the deal of this package. The music fits perfectly, sounds amazing, and it’s good enough that I listen to it outside of the context of the game.
Grim Fandango Remastered is available on GoG, Steam, Humble, PS4 and Vita on 1/27 for $14.99.