Review: Grim Fandango Remastered (PlayStation Vita)

Grim Fandango Remastered: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 3,668 views 4 likes 8 comments
Reviewed by Austin Trujillo, posted Feb 9, 2015
Feb 9, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): January 27, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): January 27, 2015
  • Release Date (JP): January 27, 2015
  • Publisher: Double Fine Productions
  • Developer: Double Fine Productions
  • Genres: Graphic Adventure
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: Computer, PlayStation 4
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
I had never played Grim Fandango before, but had heard the legends behind it. Supposedly one of the greatest adventure games of all time! With a title like that, I had to give it a shot, and what better way to do it than in fully remastered glory?!
Austin Trujillo

The Grim Reaper is a menacing and terrifying figure that we associate with taking us to the afterlife after we pass away. However I never would have imagined he would also be trying to convince me to upgrade to the highest package deal for a getaway to the pearly gates.

Grim Fandango follows the adventures of Manny Calavera, a sly mouthed, fast talking, luxurious to the bone travel agent of the Ninth Underworld.

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But don’t think the object of the game is to sell travel packages to some folks you reaped in the living world. Corruption and mystery surround the department of death, and it’s up to your brilliant detective skills to find out what the shake-down is.

The first thing I want to mention before I go any further, is how much I love these characters. It was absolutely amazing to me that a game made in 1998 could have so much personification and emotion put into the characters; they were funny, they were 100% their own, and they were fantastically written. At times I felt like I was just watching a funny Mexican noir flick. It was awesome.

 

Gameplay

Grim Fandango was originally a tank controlled/point-and-click adventure game. And rest assured, both of those modes are still intact if you would like to play that way (the point and click option applies more to the VITA version, due to the touch screen.) There is even a Gold Trophy associated with playing the whole game with Tank Controls!

However, the remaster also adds a much smoother and simpler control stick option for play, one which works very well. Granted, sometimes the camera will hinder your walk direction a bit when changing screens, but it’s not that big of a deal.

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The Game is mostly puzzle oriented, requiring you to find various items or clever workarounds to advance through areas or progress the story. The puzzles are surprisingly difficult, and I found myself having to do a little google peek every now and again to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do. It was quite jarring that the game had no tutorial or hint system to help you out along the way.

 

Art and Extras

Conversations are the best way to get a general idea of how to advance, and are also the game’s strongest point of favor. Dialogue between the characters is fantastic, charming, and just plain fun. I’ve never encountered a game where I HAVEN'T wanted to skip through all the dialogue to keep the game moving. I was really impressed with how smooth everything sounded. For a game from the same decade as Resident Evil, known for some of the most atrocious game voice acting of its time, Grim Fandango is on a whole other level. While it may seem like minor detail, it’s this level of smooth dialogue coupled with adventurous gameplay that kept me absorbed in the ninth underworld.

And what better offset to dialogue than some gorgeous remastered music? The entire soundtrack was redone and retuned, and I couldn’t be happier playing the game with headphones on. The noir jazz trumpets and snazzy little licks of bass made the game soundtrack lover in me gush.

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The art direction helps the game’s aesthetic a lot, but I was slightly put off by Double Fine’s choice to keep the original background models of the 1998 version. The characters look great, but the dated backgrounds kind of throw off the atmosphere, especially considering this is supposed to be a remaster.

That being said, the new lighting system does help some of the visuals. Light filtering through shutters, dynamic shadows, and other light effects do a decent job of adding some ambience to everything.

Now besides me gushing forever about the game's dialogue, I have to say another one of my favorite inclusions in this remaster is the director’s commentary. I’m a big sucker for commentary, and the making of movies and games, and playing the game with commentary was surprisingly fun and insightful. Once again, having never played the game, it was fascinating to learn every little aspect that went into the making of Grim Fandango. You may not want to play with it on during a first play through as you might miss something important or spoil a puzzle, but I highly recommend checking it out if you want some insight into the game, as it is a wonderful extra.

Other extras included are the ability to toggle between remastered graphics and original graphics, widescreen and original screen aspect ratios, as well as bordered original screen mode as pictured above, the ability to toggle commentary and commentary volume, concept art gallery, and a dialogue transcript.

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I do have to point out that I had some problems with the initial beginning of the game. While there are some slight frame dips, there were also issues I encountered with game crashing, or complete freezing bugs. I even encountered a bug where the game froze during the skeleton beaver segment of the game; that was apparently a bug in the original version as well that made the whole game freeze! Too bad we couldn’t remaster THAT out.

 

Verdict
Pros
+ Remastered extras
+ Fantastic characters
+ Amazing story
+ Developer Commentary
Cons
- Freezing bugs and game crashes
- Lack of fully remastered backgrounds
- Offputting difficulty
9 Presentation
Grim Fandango was a blast, even after all these years, it still presents itself as a testament to adventure games everywhere, and truly holds its title as one of the greatest adventure games of all time.
8 Gameplay
Gameplay, while difficult, is fun, immersive, and overall a mysteriously entertaining delight.
8 Lasting Appeal
For such a dialogue heavy game, I normally wouldn't find myself wanting to go back and do it again to see all of the same things happen again. And yet, right after I finished the game, I started up the beginning again and turned on the commentary to find myself wanting to play the whole game over again. Grim Fandango is a game I could play once a year and never get sick of it.
8.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Having never played the game before, I was surprised at how much fun Grim Fandango was. Over-hype doesn't begin to describe my mindset when I booted the game up for the first time, but as soon as I started playing, an hour later all I had on my mind was how great this game is. The remaster did a great job of bringing Grim Fandango to a new generation. It holds up well, and I couldn't recommend it more.
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