Grim Fandango Remastered Review: Los Muertos Resucitan

Double Fine has brought Grim Fandango back from the dead. This time, Manny and the gang have a few tricks up their sleeves for the Grim Fandango Remastered.

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Ask any fan of old-school adventure games who their favorite development studio is, and you’ll hear many say LucasArts. LucasArts was known for delivering top-notch adventure games back in the day that required its players to put a lot of thought to complete puzzles, all the while entertaining with wit and humor that keeps fans playing their games over and over again. One of the best games from the days when LucasArts was considered one of the kings of adventure games was Grim Fandango, which is why Tim Schafer and Double Fine decided it would be one of the first titles it would give the remastered treatment.

Grim Fandango Remastered brings the classic point-and-click adventure to the modern day as Double Fine has improved much of the game’s graphics, improved lighting, and remastered audio, among other special features. With the inclusion of director’s commentary, this appears to be the ultimate package for fans of the original game--but just like the film noir style from which Grim Fandango takes its inspiration, not everything is as it seems.

Walk Through the Valley

Grim Fandango Remastered features the classic story many of us recall from the original Grim Fandango that was released back in 1998. You play as Manny Calavera who is a travel agent for the Department of Death in El Marrow, although we learn he’s a reluctant employee as he’s forced into his job in order to work off a debt. Manny becomes frustrated with the clients he’s been assigned, so he takes matters into his own hands and decides to steal one from his boss, Don Copal. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned, forcing Manny to flee from El Marrow and on a grand adventure to right a wrong he may or may not have been responsible for.

One of the first things I was impressed with was just how much work was put into the details of each character in Grim Fandango Remastered. All character models have received a new, high-resolution coat so they don’t look as jagged as their original models look. Grim Fandango includes the ability to change from the remastered version of the game to its original, which should offer players a peek at what the game really looked like back in 1998.

Unfortunately, not everything in this remastered version was touched with the high-resolution stick. Both environments and cut scenes don’t appear to have received as much love as characters have as they look largely untouched, which makes the rest of the game look rather unimpressive. This causes the improved character models to stick out to an unnatural degree. Early on, for example, there’s a cut scene that shows Manny traveling in a vehicle at night that looks extremely pixelated.

Grim Fandango Remastered can also be quite buggy at times as I experienced some that were varied from simple graphical glitches to more vicious bugs that would force me to restart the game. Early on in the game, Manny is able to pick up a loaf of bread, but there was one time where the bread was completely invisible. When I went into my inventory, the bread was still invisible, making it difficult to find. Other times Manny would get stuck in within the geometry that would cause him to stutter and be unable to proceed. I had to restart my game a few times in order to attempt to progress through this particular bug.

Content is King

Graphical issues aside, what makes Grim Fandango such a great game that many continue to come back for more is the game itself. The story, cast of characters, and classic LucasArts-style humor. You get all of that with the remastered version as you’ll be partaking in one of the most memorable adventure games ever to be created.

What makes the experience so much worthwhile is the director’s commentary that can be accessed during most of the game. As you control Manny, a marker will pop up in the top-left portion of the screen indicating there’s a director’s commentary available for either a particular scene or something specific Manny is paying attention to. The commentary includes not only Tim Schafer, but also some key members of the development team that can offer a wide variety of behind-the-scenes information that fans are really going to enjoy. I spent a lot of my time reviewing Grim Fandango Remastered listening to the majority of commentary that I came across and it allowed me to appreciate the game, as well as the work that went into it, even more so.

Play it again, Sam

Grim Fandango is a game that should be experienced, plain and simple. The combination of story, presentation, and atmosphere come together in perfect harmony to offer arguably one of the best point-and-click adventure games ever created. With that said, I was a bit disappointed to see the Grim Fandango not get the full remastered treatment I feel it should have received. I’ve seen other LucasArts titles like The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge show more impressive remastering. After seeing what’s possible with those particular games, you could see why I’d be a little heartbroken at the rough edges and bugs.

I enjoyed playing through Grim Fandango once again. The game in itself is still amazing as ever, which made me all the more disappointed that it didn't get as much loving care as it should have.

Senior Editor

Pros

  • Characters look great
  • Original story is kept intact
  • Director's commentary adds to the experience

Cons

  • Graphics could have used more love
  • Hi-res characters look out of place
  • Expect a bug or two

From The Chatty

  • reply
    January 27, 2015 12:00 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Grim Fandango Remastered Review: Los Muertos Resucitan

    • reply
      January 27, 2015 12:19 AM

      7/10? Fired!

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      January 27, 2015 12:22 AM

      I'm actually finally considering playing this game, it's got a good rep but I just couldn't play the original, but not with those controls

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      January 27, 2015 12:33 AM

      I'm gonna play it again just for the commentary, but the lack of widescreen is disappointing.

      Anybody knows how does it play with controller?

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        January 27, 2015 12:37 AM

        Your damn fucking straight it does, it's been fixed! I think the mouse works "properly" now too.

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        January 27, 2015 12:55 AM

        It has widescreen support in that it can run in your native resolution with sidebars, but the backgrounds were all pre-rendered - there's not really any other alternative except recreating them all which seems unreasonable. You're allowed to force the game out of its native aspect ratio but it obviously looks like crap that way.

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          January 27, 2015 7:27 AM

          Unreasonable? Is it a remaster or not?

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            January 27, 2015 7:49 AM

            exactly. this should have been done

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            January 27, 2015 8:44 AM

            Yes to both and unreasonable is a kind description.

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            January 27, 2015 9:12 AM

            If they don't have the source files, you're talking about recreating the entire original game from scratch, sans voice acting. That turns this into a much longer/larger project.

            Are you willing to spend 40-60 for a Grim Fandango rerelease, or is $15 pretty much the ceiling? Because $15 gets you new character models/textures, better controls, commentary and re-recorded music.

            I suspect a full priced remake of a 20 year old adventure game that didn't sell remarkably well to begin with would not find a lot of buyers.

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              January 27, 2015 11:28 AM

              They did have the model sources, why would they not have the environment sources? They changed the entire lighting, after all.

      • reply
        January 27, 2015 9:13 AM

        it probably plays a lot better than keyboard way back. you're running around in a 3D space so a controller should be better

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      January 27, 2015 1:16 AM

      Awesome. Wish every re-release had a commentary mode.

      Every major new game, even. I love that stuff.

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        January 27, 2015 1:24 AM

        I feel like the only other games with a good commentary mode are Valve games. Portal and Left 4 Dead getting developer commentary is still a kick-ass feature that not enough devs have used. The only other game I can think of off the top of my head that had good dev commentary is Gone Home.

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          January 27, 2015 1:38 AM

          Yeah, Valve started it with Lost Coast and Episode 1 of HL2 IIRC, and has kept it up with all their first person releases since then. Gone Home's definitely added value to that package. I know the DXHR Director's Cut had commentary but I still haven't tried it yet. I did buy that version even though I had the original just for the commentary, though. The Monkey Island special editions had some now that I remember.

          There's not much else that I know of. Gunpoint? According to the internet. And\ the collector's edition re-release of Journey? Feel like all the Uncharted games and especially Last of Us should have some real hardcore commentary on all aspects of development from the devs and actors and directors and so on. And any adventure game, really hope the upcoming Day of the Tentacle has it too.

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          January 27, 2015 7:37 AM

          Monkey Island 2 had good commentary in its rerelease.

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        January 27, 2015 6:31 AM

        I love commentary modes too, I wish more games would take notice. Not just remakes but new games as well, it really adds a lot of replay value.

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          January 27, 2015 6:33 AM

          It really does. It can double the play time!

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      January 27, 2015 1:18 AM

      finally I can play this. Then the only classic LA adventure I never played is Full Throttle.

      Also I hope they consider re-releasing The Dig after DOTT. Still listening to the soundtrack occasionally.

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        January 27, 2015 3:48 AM

        The Dig soundtrack is mind blowing.

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        January 27, 2015 11:05 AM

        Full Throttle was great. Just having that rock soundtrack and early use of 3D Studio put it over the top. It was the first game I really understood how Lucas designed the game and story with the concept of not being able to fail. You could get stuck, but not the endless death-loop like Sierra games.

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      January 27, 2015 3:55 AM

      How were the controls? Still just as bad as the terrible tank controls?

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        January 27, 2015 6:17 AM

        Nope. They added point & click to the PC version which I much preferred over the traditional tank controls.

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      January 27, 2015 4:28 AM

      "Grim Fandango Remastered brings the classic point-and-click adventure to the modern day"
      It wasn't point and click.

      • reply
        January 27, 2015 4:40 AM

        I think it is now though. Or, it can be.

        I never got to play it, so I'm excited.

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          January 27, 2015 4:46 AM

          yes they did add it now, but the original was tank controls.

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        January 27, 2015 4:49 AM

        It was "turn and hit space".

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      January 27, 2015 5:05 AM

      No Xbox One release!!? Ugh.

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      January 27, 2015 6:01 AM

      Love this game! Looking forward to the commentary.

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        January 27, 2015 7:23 AM

        The commentary is really great. Hearing behind-the-scenes info on the game's production was really neat. I'll be playing through the game again so I can hear every bit of information.

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      January 27, 2015 7:51 AM

      What a completely disappointing "remaster". Instead of this you could just play the old game on PC in an emulator. Really nothing new to see.

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        January 27, 2015 9:12 AM

        Well, nothing noteworthy outside of the director's commentary.

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      January 27, 2015 10:11 AM

      In your comparison video, the new content has a skewed aspect ratio. Was that a setting you played with 'on' or is that forced at all times?

      • reply
        January 27, 2015 10:23 AM

        I saw a review elsewhere that mentioned you can play in its original aspect ratio, or a stretched (and ugly) one that'll fit modern widescreen monitors/TVs.

      • reply
        January 27, 2015 10:55 AM

        There are two modes that run the game at the proper aspect ratio with side bars.

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        January 27, 2015 4:02 PM

        Steven Wong recorded gameplay video for this review. I personally played the game with the side bars because the stretched look was god awful.

    • reply
      January 27, 2015 11:08 AM

      The review this site was rebuilt for...

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      January 28, 2015 1:22 PM

      I bought it cause I love the original and the music is some of the best I've heard in a game. But DAMN this game looks the fucking same.

      • reply
        January 29, 2015 6:42 AM

        Yeah after playing this thing lat night, Id be hard pressed to see much differences between the original and the remastered version. Double Fine fucked this up. Just look at the remastered Homeworld you can clearly see the differences and that's on a YouTube vid. I don't understand what the thinking was here. Even the UI still feels clunky. What exactly was the remastering process? I can barely see the lighting effects also, for a noir type genre they should be more pronounced.