Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:   Double Fine Production

Released:  January 2015

PC Requirements:   see review below

Additional screenshots



by gremlin


What is it?

Every year on GameBoomers, there's a list of game recommendations garnered from user's votes, and every year from 2000 to 2009, Tim Schafer and LucasArts' Grim Fandango featured in the top ten games; more than once finishing as high as number 3! In 2010, a 'hall of fame' was created of the games that polled the best across that first ten years of polling, and so Grim Fandango became ineligible for further Lists. This means there's no specific data on whether it has continued to be as popular, but I'm pretty sure it is still considered to be 'up there' with the best.

Grim Fandango has also long been a popular request on's forums for a game people wanted to see revived to work on modern PCs. So, is it any wonder that Sony's announcement that Grim Fandango was to be re-mastered by Tim Schafer's current studio, Double Fine Productions, received considerable attention from the adventure gaming community as a whole.

Now that Grim Fandango Remastered is here, what do we make of it?

Here we go again?

The first question to examine is what do they mean by 'remastered'?

Well, with a remastered CD of music, the engineer goes back to the original tapes of the recording sessions and makes a new master from which subsequent CDs are pressed. This process allows for repairs to be made to the sound, including things like digital noise reduction, or re-balancing the tracks within the music. However, the essential music is still there - the same recordings, indeed.

With a game, the same sort of process requires the developers to take the original source material, and build a new product fit for modern PCs. This is what Double Fine Productions have done: they've taken as much of the original models, background graphics, voice recordings, sound effects, game mechanics and puzzles as possible and put them altogether in a new engine with some new ingredients. That was an awful lot of material, much of it recovered by 'digital archaeologists' from obsolete backup tapes and even the personal archives of former LucasArts employees. The updates they've been able to make include adding modern lighting to how the characters in the game are rendered on screen, they've added point and click controls (whilst leaving the original controls as an option), they've added a commentary track (just like a movie DVD), and recorded a full orchestral score to replace some of the sound-track that hasn't survived the recovery process in good condition.

Can you drive a tank?

I'm not going to attempt to review Grim Fandango as I might have done when it was originally released in 1998; it was a game of its time, and a great one at that. To do so would just be an excuse to wax lyrically down memory lane, and for that, you might as well read a 1998 review. I have to review the game in a modern, 2015, context.

The really good news is that, in that context, Grim Fandango Remastered does a really good job as a point and click adventure game. Yes the graphics are a little dated, but a lot less than you might expect! They were pre-rendered to a pretty high quality in the original game anyway, it was just that 1998 PCs didn't quite have the grunt to show that off. As for Manuel Calavera (the principle protagonist) and his co-stars, well they have had a modern lick of paint, and the addition of advanced lighting techniques available with our 2015 graphics cards (or even 2008, in the case of my Radeon HD 4670!). The differences are visible in the remastered version when you switch to the old rendering mode - it's just a click of the back-space key away, unless you re-mapped the key of course.

Manny Calavera is a travel agent in the Land of the Dead; it's his job to help the recently deceased to cross the Land in the manner most suited to how well they lived their lives. The most worthy get a ticket on 'the Number Nine', a train that crosses the Land in just four minutes, whereas the scum of the Earth end up having to walk, and the journey will take some four years. However, there's something rotten in the travel business, and the wrong people are getting the tickets, and the good are consigned to old Shank's Pony! Manny ends up tangled up in one particular case, when one Mercedes Colomar ends up on the long road, despite a life of charity work and good deeds that should have made her a shoo-in for the Number Nine. And Manny spends the rest of the game trying to sort out the world, and put it to rights.

There is an underground revolutionary army, a terrible forest, populated by fire beavers (don't ask!), a run-down American diner-cum-casino, cat racing, beat-poets, lawyers, unionised labour, corrupt policemen, a femme fatale, a demon of a driver, hearses, hot rods, skeletal messenger pigeons, the edge of the World, and an Aztec gate-keeper at the gates of the next World... wherever that may be. All in the style of a 1950's film noir, like the Maltese Falcon, or a Dick Tracy movie, crossed with the Central American culture of the Day of the Dead. Quite an eclectic mix, with a sound-track to match.

Has the gloss worn off?

There are some problems with Grim Fandango Remastered, and that's a tremendous shame. There are spots in the game where it would repeatedly hang, or crash to the desktop. Here, the parallel nature of most of the game was a particular boon, the crashes never meant I couldn't avoid the crash (having re-launched the game), I could always tackle a different puzzle, and come back and try again later. From reading around the forums, it seems the crashes aren't very predictable, but they are reproducible once you find one. Irritating and frustrating, but not a show stopper in a story as good as this one.


Grim Fandango Remastered is still a wonderful story. It's chock full of culture, character, colour and class. You would expect a game from 1998 to look dated on a modern PC, but the enduring quality of Grim Fandango shines through the remastering process. The puzzles are still challenging; the a-ha moments undimmed by time.

Obviously, I really wanted to be able to grade this as an AAA+++ game, but I can't. It is a terrific story, and it still belongs in the GameBoomers Hall of Fame, but I think they needed to spend a bit more time in QA to really nail it.

Grade: A-

What do you need to play it?

Minimum Requirements

OS: Windows Vista or later, OS X Mavericks (10.9.x) or later, or Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, fully updated

Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo 2.4 GHz, AMD Athlon™ X2 2.8 GHz, or higher

Memory: 4 GB RAM

Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4650 / NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 / Intel HD 4000 Graphics, or equivalent

Hard drive: 6000 MB available space

Soundcard: Windows Compatible Card

Windows additional notes: GPU that supports OpenGL 3.3 or higher

Grim Fandango Remastered is also available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.

(I used a home-built 64-bit Windows 8.1 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with on-mother-board, built-in sound card)


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