Grim Fandango Remastered Review + Video Review

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Title: Grim Fandango Remastered
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 3.0 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

When you think about Adventure games, what comes to mind?  If you think about today’s adventure games, a lot of different franchises can come to mind.  Old franchises like The Legend of Zelda and even Telltales games like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.  There are a lot of games that could be classified as adventure games, but also as other things, like visual novels or action games.

Back years ago, though, there was a different class of adventure games.  It wasn’t just run through areas, see story event, fight boss, repeat process like some adventure games are now.  Those older adventure games had more to it than that.  They had puzzles.  Longer areas.  Some of them even had more frustrating control schemes than we have today.

Back on the PC, Lucas Arts made one such adventure game that has recently made a come-back in the gaming world.  Think back on the title Grim Fandango.  It was an adventure/puzzle game that became very popular over the years.  Thanks to more recent developers, the old Lucas Arts game is now available on the go.  Here is my official review of Grim Fandango Remaster!

Story

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The story of Grim Fandango revolves in a land between life and death known as the Land of the Dead.  The plot is around the character Manna Calavera, a travel agent for souls on their way from the world of the living to the ninth underworld, where the afterlife is located.  It is his job to get souls of those who died and give them travel packages based on how good or bad of a person they were in their life.  The better person you are, the better service you are awarded.

Not long after the game begins, a lot of politics happen and he finds himself not only in danger of losing his job but also discovering a hidden level of corruption in the entire system of his agency.  With a large elemental demon at his side as his driver, he sets out to right wrongs and unfold the entirety of the plot behind the corruption in the Land of the Dead.

Story in Grim Fandango is its greatest asset.  The story, itself, is well written and fully-voiced as well.  As the game passes, you will see Manny go through 4 years of change and by the end of the game, you will see a lot of background history as well as development throughout Manny as well as all of the different characters and locations you explore during the game.

Gameplay

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Grim Fandango Remaster, just like the original game, is an adventure game with puzzle elements thrown into the mix.  As you play through the game, you will be exploring areas and talking to NPCs.  While doing this, you will also be collecting items and using the items you have in order to progress through scenarios and get to the next story section

Playing through the game will just be a matter of going through the story.  While there are various chapters that you go through in the game, it will feel like an ongoing, complete journey from start to finish.  As the plot section talked about, the game’s story is the Number 1 feature of the game that you need to enjoy to enjoy the rest of the game.  Even going around to collect items from other characters will involve having story-based discussions with them.

How you progress is by talking to everyone and going everywhere so you can learn the characters and then go back and figure out what you need by what they say in dialogue.  Then, you find a path you need to go to be able to get what you need to access other areas and get the story finished to the end.  Since each year starts in completely different locations, you will be doing this in a variety of ways, from the office of the agency to the port town of Rubacava to more.

The big aspect you’ll need to know is that you’ll need to explore anything and everything you come across, as well as talking to NPCs over and over to make sure you’ve chosen every possible dialogue choice so you know where to go.  Maybe you missed that one option with that NPC by the port that triggers the event with the NPC in the casino and you never realized it.  Then you have to go back and find out who it was and choose the right option to keep going forward.

That’s the puzzle aspect.  You need specific items to do specific things.  That makes the game a thinking game, but also makes the game challenging.  Maybe you need to pick up a deck of cards in your offing and punch a hole in the cards before you can get something from the basement.  Are you told you need to do that?  Nope.  You have to figure all of that out on your own.  Some of these can be very tricky and if you’re not using a guide, the game can be very difficult to play through.

As hard as the game can be at first, though, it gets easier as you play through the game.  While the puzzles don’t necessarily become easier, you will have a better knowledge and feel for how the game progresses.  By Year 3, it became much easier to figure things out than they were in Years 1 and 2.  The game is challenging, until you get used to the system, where it starts to become more natural.

All in all, Grim Fandango Remastered has the same amount of content as it originally did.  While there is a commentary you can listen to during a replay, the game should take you about 12-15 hours to beat, depending on how hard the system is for you.  If you’re not using a guide, it’s likely to be more like 15-18 hours.

Controls

One thing you should know is that there are touch controls for Grim Fandango Remaster.  However, they’re not required.  You can use the buttons to play the game or use the touch screen.  The touch controls are basically showing on-screen buttons and tapping areas on the screen to move to those areas.  It’s a pretty simple design.

Button controls are a little different.  Players of the original game know that it had “tank controls” implemented.  This is where you cannot go sideways or any direction except straight and backwards without stopping, turning, and then pushing forward again.  If you’ve ever played the PS1 Resident Evil games, you will know what tank controls are like.  Remaster does have these controls as an option, but they are not enabled by default and the controls are set up normally like any other adventure game where you will go based on the position of the Analog.

Moving Manny around on the map is done with the Left Analog Stick and the D-Pad to walk and you can run by moving and holding down the R trigger.  The L trigger can turn the Commentary on and off, but the rest of the game is handled by the face buttons.  Other than this, you can also tap the Select button to change the visuals from the original renders to the remastered renders.

As far as the face buttons are concerned, things are pretty simple.  The X button is used to use an equipped item or talk with an NPC you’re in front of.  The Triangle button is used to open your inventory, Circle to put items away or skip scenes, and the Square button is used to examine the items (make Manny tell you what it is).  All in all, it’s a pretty simple control scheme.  You’ll just need to get used to it.

Presentation

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The presentation of the game hasn’t vastly changed since the original release.  The original Grim Fandango used pre-rendered backgrounds (much like Resident Evil 1 and 2) and so does Remastered.  They look just as flawless as they did back then.  The big improvement is the character renders.  In the original game, there were a lot of jagged edges on the character models.  The remaster does still have some of these but most of them have been smoothed out.  The nice thing is that you can switch between the old and new renders, so you can see just how much they’ve changed.

The biggest things to say about the presentation are slowdown and crashing/freezing.  When the game first came out, there were some issues with the game crashing.  The problems were never consistent, though.  Some people had save crashing and everyone else didn’t.  But the consensus is that most have encountered crashes of some sort.  I experienced a crash in the transition between Year 1 and 2 but rebooted and went through without issue until another crash in Year 4.

Lag is also something to consider.  This is especially noticeable in Rubacava in Year 2.  There are many areas where the frames will slow down considerably.  It’s nothing game-breaking but it’s very noticeable.  Strangely enough, sometimes switching to the other viewing mode (Original and Remastered) can help this a lot.  Some of these areas play better in Remaster mode and some play better in Original mode.

Summary

Grim Fandango Remaster is: Decent
Grim Fandango comes to the handheld world in a pretty decent way, also offering PlayStation TV support for those wanting it on their big screen.  On the downside, there is some lag in some areas and has random crashing and freezing issues, depending on circumstance.  Outside of this is a challenging and unique adventure game that gamers, new and old, can enjoy with a little patience for the learning curve.    

7/10

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