Monday, June 26, 2017

Grim Fandango Remastered (Vita)

Grim Fandango Remastered is an adventure game originally released for the PC in 1998.  While it was a critical hit, sales weren't as stellar.  Now, the game has been remastered for the PC, PS4 and PlayStation Vita 17 years later.  The remastering includes increased resolution and improved visuals and effects such as lighting.  However, the game retains the original's 4:3 aspect ratio which is weird at first.  There is an option though to stretch it to full widescreen and it doesn't look too bad like that.  Despite the improvements, character models can still look blocky or fuzzy in certain scenes.

Grim Fandango's gameplay is slow paced and requires patience.  You control the character Manny and can select one of two different control schemes.  The first is the "camera interactive mode" where movement is relative to the camera which is much more intuitive.  The second is the "tank mode", which is the control scheme used in the original where you turn by pressing left/right and then up to walk forward.  The majority of the gameplay sees Manny running around talking to characters to obtain hints and items.  These are then used to solve various puzzles to advance the story.  The puzzles are extremely obscure and abstract.

The trial and error element of the gameplay can be frustrating and aggravating, even when you arrive at the solution, you wonder how the player was supposed to figure that out.  It is best to use a walkthrough if you don't want to sit there stuck in puzzle after puzzle.  As the game uses pre-rendered artwork as the background, it has a fixed camera.  During sections with zoomed out scenery, it makes it really hard to see where your character is as they are very small.  Furthermore, detailed backgrounds also make it hard to make out items that you can pick up which is crucial in continuing through the game.

There were multiple times where the item you interact with blended well into the background.  It doesn't help that you need to position Manny just right in order to even interact with it in the first place, otherwise you'll just get Manny saying that there's nothing there when there is.  Unless you already know where the exits are, it is hard to tell where the places you can go are.  For example, in one section, there were stairs to the left of a lift but it is very hard to make out as it blended with the background and so you may just wander around the area for hours as you try to find the exit.

The aesthetics are the highlight of the game, with characters being calaca-like.  The story is set in the Land of the Dead, otherwise called the Eighth Underworld.  Manny is a travel-sales agent who sell packages to the newly dead as they journey to the Ninth Underworld, the Land of the Eternal Rest.  However, Manny discovers the system is rigged and accidentally sends Meche to walk to the Ninth Underworld instead.

Feeling guilty, Manny sets out to find Meche and save her.  Of course, Manny ends up involving himself into much bigger things.  The story is split into four acts, the first is setting up the game and discovering the rigged system.  The second act is a night in a city as he tries to get on board a ship.  The third is finding Meche and the final act is defeating the antagonist.  The events that occur seem a bit random at times but in the end, Grim Fandango tells an absorbing story with a good solid ending.  The frequent humor works really well every time.

There are a few bonuses including a developer commentary and also the option to switch between the remastered graphics and the original graphics at any time.  Overall, Grim Fandango Remastered is an excellent adventure game.  It tells a fun story and has excellent humor.  While the gameplay is a bit dated and the puzzles obscure, you can still enjoy the story if you use a walkthrough which only takes around ten hours to finish.  Otherwise, you can take it slow and figure out the puzzles with your own ability, gaining a massive sense of accomplishment in the process.


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