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Grim Fandango Remastered review: A legendary adventure brought back to life

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 30, 2015
Okay, you've heard of this "Grim Fandango" game for years and everyone seems pretty excited it's been re-released, but what the hell is it? Any relation to the WWE wrestler? How about the excellent-but-also-underrated/canceled cartoon Frisky Dingo?

Now with that out of the way, let me talk about the "remastered" part of Grim Fandango Remastered.

Graphics

This is Grim Fandango Remastered, meaning it's basically a prettied-up version of Grim Fandango. Don't go into this expecting as extensive a remake as, say, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.

Instead we get Grim Fandango but smoothed out a bit for modern high-resolution monitors — smoother edges on 3D objects, for instance. At times it's stunningly gorgeous — there's almost a claymation feel to certain scenes.

Other times, a bad model or awkward shading reminds you that yeah, this is a game from 1998. Your pal Glottis is the worst of the lot, with some weird bulgy arm muscles that tend to clip through each other. The 2D backgrounds also could use work. Most, if not all, have clearly just been resized to fit the higher resolutions, resulting in grainy and blurry backdrops that look entirely out of place compared to the smooth character models.

As for accommodating modern monitors, you can play the game in 4:3 (native), 4:3 with some vaguely Aztec or Art Deco-inspired borders on the left and right, or in 16:9 stretched. I played in the latter because I hate borders, but the obvious drawback is that "skeletal" Manny Calavera looks pretty fat, like he's the skeleton of a retired football player.

Controls

The graphics overhaul on Grim Fandango is spiffy, but honestly people who played the original will probably be most excited about the new controls. Like Resident Evil (and some other early 3D games), Grim Fandango was all about tank controls. It's a control scheme that kind of makes sense because you're dealing with constantly-changing camera angles, so camera-relative controls are a bit awkward.

But that didn't really explain why you couldn't just play Grim Fandango the way everyone expected, i.e. as a point-and-click adventure game.

Now you can! The whole game is controllable with the mouse and keyboard, without mods. Or you can play with just the keyboard. Or you can bust out the gamepad and play with either tank or camera-relative controls. There are so many options!

Unfortunately, none of them are perfect. The mouse is great because it highlights interactive objects in the environment. However, the biggest problem with the mouse is boredom. A lot of these areas were clearly designed with the idea that you were directly controlling Manny. Watching him run across six empty screens in a row is pretty damned tedious.

Keyboard controls are pretty mediocre, but they'll suffice if you don't have a gamepad or if you just love tank controls.

My trusty 360 controller was a decent experience, but the game won't highlight interactive objects — instead you'll have to pay attention to which way Manny is looking. Also, some of the camera angles are designed with mouse/keyboard precision in mind, and you can trigger doors by just walking into them (which is a huge pain if you're trying to, for instance, exit an elevator and accidentally trigger it again).

 

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