Warning: Written in 2004.
"Hello. I am Manuel Calavera. You can call me Manny".
Ok, think back. This might sound a little weird to some, but there was a time when LucasArts didn't make nothing but Star Wars games. Granted, these Star Wars games are good, most recently with the incredible Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR) and Rogue Squadron 3, but my favorite LucasArts (LA) games have always been the non Star Wars games. Hell, even with KOTOR, my favorite LA game of last year was Armed & Dangerous, but that's not the point. The point I'm trying to make is that LA has forgotten their roots. Adventure games were what got LucasArts to the industry powerhouse they are now. Unfortunately, the interest in the genre in question has fallen, and so has the amount of developers who are willing to make them, and for good reason. Adventure games always have above average production values. In lay mans terms, that means they cost more money then the average game. You want proof? Look at what happened to Sam & Max 2 and Full Throttle: Hell on wheels. LucasArts knew they weren't gonna sell well. Sure they would sell to fans and receive a cult status, but they wouldn't have made their money back. As much as I hate to admit it, and has much as I hate it, it was a smart business decision. Lets face it: LucasArts would make more money making Rogue Squadron 8: Another Hoth Mission then Adventure games that won't sell well. How do we fix the problem? We buy, play, and enjoy adventure games. So that's what I did, and today, I review one of my favorites: Grim Fandango.
An epic tale of crime & corruption in the land of the dead.
Frankly, I couldn't have put it better myself. The game takes place in the 9th layer of the underworld from ancient Aztec lore. You play as Manny Calavera. A travel agent who helps other dead souls to their final destination. You see, in this version of the afterlife, everyone gets the opportunity to go to heaven, and how good or bad you were dictates how you get there. The best skeletons (Every human character in the game is a skeleton) get a ticket on the #9 train which takes them straight to the gates of heaven in about 4 minutes. The worst people get a walking stick and a good luck on their 4 YEAR journey. Manny took a government job so he could work off his debt and get a #9 ticket when he retires. Lately though, he's been having a hard time getting good cases, and has been delt some real scum human beings, which have not done much to work off his debt. One day, things finally go his way and he gets a real high caliber case by the name of Meche. She was a great person, even did a bunch of volunteer work. A shoe-in for a #9 ticket. Unfortunately, her order gets screwed up and she's out on her behind for one long journey. Manny's jerk for a boss find out about this and Manny is out to find her, and that pretty much sets up Grim Fandango. What carries this game, like most adventure games, are the interesting characters and witty dialogue. My favorite character is defiantly Glottis. Now Glottis is a oversized elemental Demon (Trust me, he don't look like your average demon) whose soul purpose in like is to work on and drive cars. When he works on cars, he likes to trick the [blip] out of them. Wait until you see what he does to this giant boat. He puts more Exuast pipes on that thing then there are at a motorcycle rally. He also takes Manny's car and modifies the suspension on it to the point where it can jump 4 feet in the air. Then comes one on the most memorable lines in gaming history (I won't spoil it for you. Manny also makes a great unwilling hero. The story is flawless. Great story, setting, and characters make it unforgettable. 10 Out Of 10.
"You're looking swell tonight Mr. Calavera"
OK, this game was made in 1997, so by today's standards. it isn't groundbreaking, but still OK. So, to fairly review the graphics, you have to put your mind back in 1997. So think back: The Chicago Bulls are the NBA champs, Seinfeld is still going strong, Hootie And The Blowfish is your favorite band, you have no idea what the hell a Starbucks is, and Grim Fandango is the best looking game to date. The graphics are absolutely stunning. The graphics are like Resident Evil's, only a lot better. You have rendered character's in pre rendered background's. Lets start with the character designs. Each character is expressive and well detailed, and they do something that not very many games did in that time: Their lips move when they talk. The characters are a bit blocky, but that's to be expected from the times. Now to the real star of thee show: The backgrounds. I'll tell you what, when a seven year old game has pre rendered backgrounds that still hold up by today's standards, then it's something to behold. The main thing about these backgrounds is that they actually suck you into the world of Grim Fandango and set the mood perfectly. Each setting is different and just as jaw dropping as the next. Overall, these graphics for the most part still hold up today, and that is one feat that not many seven year old games can say. 10 Out Of 10.
"With these, we'll soar like eagles.... on pogo sticks!".
Since this is a lucasarts game, one of the big things is that you can't kill anybody, and you can't die. So if you play nothing but Armed & Dangerous, this game ain't for you. Grim Fandango is the same kind of grab this, use it with that adventure genre gameplay that we've been playing for years, but they did a lot of revolutionary things to the system. First off, it was the first adventure game to successfully make the transition to full 3D. For a first time attempt, I can't believe how wonderful it turned out. It was also the first adventure game to have you yourself move the characters. Usually, you would use your mouse to point somewhere for your character to walk to, but not anymore. The game also had a new way to collect items. Instead of clicking on something, you ad to position Manny to the point where he would look at something, and you could pick it up. Trust me, it may sound a little iffy on paper, but it works real well in the game. One thing I should point out is the controls. If you've played Resident Evil before, you know what to expect. It's not too hard, it's just a little clunky. One more great thing about the gameplay is that it's quite long. It took me a full 40 hours to beat this game. Even if you rush through it, I can't see anyone beating in under 30 hours their first time through (unless you used a guide, you cheating *******). In the end, even though it is the same kind of gameplay, the new additions and a long play time made it seem fresh and unique. 9.5 Out Of 10
"VROOM! VROOM! BRBRBRBRBRBR WHEEEEEEE!"
I'm just gonna be frank: This is the best voice work I have ever heard in a video game ever. Every character is perfect, and there are no exceptions. If I was deaf, and could not hear the voices, but was then later cured and played through it again, the voices would be exactly as I imagined them. The guy who played Manny deserved some kind of a reward, and I hope he got one because he MADE that character. Not only is the voices perfect, but the music is also perfect. Every some fits every situation perfectly. If you're in a nightclub, 1920's bebop jazz is playing. If you're at a festival, mariachi music is playing. The sound is truly credit to LucasArts wonderful sound design. Bravo. 10 Out Of 10
"Make me a balloon of Robert Frost"
This is Fairly difficult for an established Adventure gamer, but if you're new to the genre, I wouldn't recommend this one. It's a tuffy. 8 Out Of 10
"There's not much to do here in the land of the dead".
Ok, this is where a lot of adventure games suffer. Once you play through one, there's never any real insentive to do it again. The same rule applies to Grim Fandango, but you'll probably wanna do it again just because it's such a great game. 7 Out Of 10
What can I say that hasn't already been said. Grim Fandango is one of, if not the best adventure game ever made. I give Grim Fandango my highest reccomandation. If you do need one more reason to buy this, how about the fact that it's cheap? I payed $15.00 for it and you could probably find it for $7.00. If you like adventure games, this is a no brainer. If you don't, this one might change your mind. 10 Out Of 10
+Best voice acting ever
-Not for adventure newbies
-...sorry, that's all I can think of.
Bottom Line: Buy 2 copies and put one of them on a plaque
We should be able to use images...