By Guest Blogger, Johnathon Haney
Bachelor of Science, Media Arts & Animation Student
International Game Developers Association member
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division
Grim Fandango Remastered, PS4, Review
Contrary to popular myth, some works of art need time and distance to be appreciated properly. Movies are the most obvious example. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is now hailed as his greatest film, quite possibly by many of the same critics who lambasted it at the time of its release. It took the medium of television to transform the reputation of two box office bombs called The Wizard of Oz and It’s A Wonderful Life. So it is with one of the last great adventure games ever created by LucasArts, Grim Fandango.
While receiving initial critical acclaim and fondly remembered now by game enthusiasts, this game was, in fact, a financial disaster that helped to put an end to the adventure game era of the company. So it is quite surprising that the same game has now been re-released and updated.
The story itself is amusingly engaging. You are Manuel “Manny” Calavera, an afterlife travel agent working off his sins. His particular office specializes in making sure souls get to the Ninth Level of the Underworld, a place of eternal bliss. It’s a journey that usually takes five years but, with enough of the right karmic credit, you can get there a lot faster…and in style. For such souls, the Number 9 train is the ultimate prize.
Unfortunately for Manny, he’s on a serious losing streak. All he’s been getting are middling clients that leave him without any commissions toward his time served. So he decides to take matters into his own hands via a little corporate skullduggery. The fallout of that reckless decision starts him on his own journey to the Ninth Level—and to discovering the real reason he hasn’t been catching a break.
The story itself references everything from The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca to Glengarry Glen Ross and the beat movement. You may not know what’s going to happen next, but you know it’s going to be outrageous and a blast to watch!
The Setting, Characters, and Interface
The setting of Grim Fandango draws inspiration from Día De Los Muertos (which itself is highly influenced by Mayan and Aztec cosmology) and film noir. Most of the characters are skeletons with distinct personalities and fully dressed in modern clothing. They’re juxtaposed with grand architecture that recalls not only ancient Central American civilizations, but also a bit of Art Deco. The exceptions to the character designs include the occasional demon, such as Manny’s vehicle-obsessed sidekick Glottis, who proves to be both help and hindrance on the journey.
The interface is simply elegant—the ultimate expression of Lucasarts’ trademark SCUMM engine. True to the original, if Manny can interact with something in the environment, he looks at it (something that was carried over to Konami’s Silent Hill series a few short years later). He keeps his entire inventory inside his jacket pocket, which the player can look at any time they choose. Best of all, there is no such thing as a wrong dialogue choice, and picking any dialogue option can give you the fun you want.
While the basics of this game are solid, it’s the innovations that were added that make it spectacular. At the time of the game’s release, it’s high-end hardware requirements kept it from being playable and thus sellable. So it’s ironic that innovations in lighting and graphics (which oddly needed little reworking) were a huge part of the re-release, and are actually instead showcase the PS4’s ability to create wonderful environments. Along with the director’s commentary and a concept art gallery, these impressive environments are what make the game worthwhile.
It’s rare that anything in the arts gets a second chance to make a first impression. But Grim Fandango has more than earned that chance. Any serious gamer who loves adventure games owes it to themselves to give it a shot!
Want to know more about programs in the area of Media Arts? Explore what you can learn at The Art Institutes and find out what school was recently named among the Top 5 Undergrad Schools To Study Video Game Design by The Princeton Review!
The information and opinions expressed and/or any artwork displayed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of the individual faculty, student and/or staff and do not represent the opinions or ideas of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.
See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/204 for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.