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Grim Fandango Print E-mail
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Written by Daniel Westerstal   
Sunday, 06 April 2008

Lucas Arts takes you into the world of the dead in the classic adventure game Grim Fandango from 1998. How does this classic play ten years later? Read our review to find out.


Most of Grim Fandango is written by legendary game-designer Tim Schafer, who also was part of the Monkey Island games and co-wrote Day of the Tentacle. In Full Throttle he was the project leader and designed much of the game.

In Grim Fandango Schafer was inspired by Aztec myths about the afterlife and the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos in which paper-mache skeleton figures are used for decoration. The game takes place in the Land of the Dead where souls are trying to get to the Ninth Underworld. Souls can walk, which takes about four years and many don not make it, or they can get on the number nine train that takes about four minutes.  In order to get on the train the soul needs to be righteous, the selection is done by travel agents.

The main-character is one of them, Manual Calavera (also called Manny). After a while a woman named Mercedes comes a long,  the travel department has instructed her to take the four year long walk while Manny things otherwise. After a while Manny finds out that the system has been rigged so that a criminal boss in the underworld can sell the tickets at a huge overprice.

Grim Fandango features some great graphics. Lucas Arts used a 2D-background (similar to previous adventure games from the company) and then pasted 3D-characters on the background. The result is that the original Lucas Arts adventure game style is still there but with a more modernized twist. Even ten years after the release of the game they still look great.

The sound-effects is another centerpiece of attention, Lucas Arts put down some real effort into making the voices correspond with the atmosphere in the game. The language spoken is a mixture between English and Spanish and seems very authentic.

While the story, graphics and sound-effects are the strong parts of the game the puzzle-solving is the weak. Most of the puzzles are based on that you are able to find just the right inventory item and apply it to something. The problem is that it is not always logical which items to use when and where, this adds a lot of frustration when playing.

Another flaw in Grim Fandango is the controls, they are not very inutive and easy to get a grasp of. The controls for the keyboard seem to have no logic or pattern, to examine items you press E or S, to pick up an item you press P or A and so on. It is also possible to use the numpad and the enter button.

When Grim Fandango was released it got a lot of praise from leading PC-gaming publications, however only 95 000 copies were sold in North America the first five years. Some analysts argue that Grim Fandango was a commercial failure. After the game was released Lucas Arts moved out of the adventure game market for PCs and focused on making Star Wars-sequels.

Despite the commercial side of Grim Fandango it is still one of the great masterpieces of PC-gaming. The game has so many great elements, and it really deserves a place in any game collection.


Related: Monkey Island 1, Monkey Island 2, Sam&Max Hit the Road
Developer: Lucas Arts
Website for Game:
Publisher: Lucas Arts
O/S: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista
Cost of Full Game: N/A
Year of Release: 1998

Pentium 133 MHz, 16 MB RAM
Tested on:
Intel Core2Duo 1,86 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Windows Vista


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