Gamebytes and Bots
Gamebytes and Bots
Grim Fandango screenshot
Grim Fandango screenshot
Grim Fandango screenshot

DEVELOPER: Double Fine Productions
GENRE: Adventure
MODES: Single-player
STEAM RATING: Very Positive


DEVELOPER: Double Fine Productions
GENRE: Adventure
MODES: Single-player
STEAM RATING: Very Positive

REVIEW: Played Jan 2017
REVIEW: Played Jan 2017

If you've been around gaming for awhile, Grim Fandango is one of those old classics that you've likely heard referred to as "one of the greatest games ever". It received universal acclaim at the time, but was considered a commercial failure that likely contributed to Lucas Arts quitting the adventure game development business. It's ironical that Grim Fandango was an attempt to stimulate a genre that was in a severe downturn, but instead led to its further decline.

You play as Manny Calavera who works as one of the grim reaper salesmen in the Department of Death, which determines the length of processing time a soul must endure based their good or bad deeds in life.The game uniquely renders characters as “calaca” figures, which is a Mexican Spanish name for skeleton, and was highly lauded for its art direction. The story is compelling with a theme built around the Land of the Dead, where souls go to be processed through to their final destination. Chapters are divided into yearly periods that span over five years.

Call of Juarez Gunslinger screenshot

Like any salesman, Manny is in competition for the best souls to process as this will lead to earning a faster ticket out of there for his own soul. Unfortunately, another salesman always beats him to the punch and Manny is left with only the "bad" souls, which means it will take much longer to work off his own debts. Manny has his suspicions that something shady is going on and when he finds a soul, Mercedes "Meche" Colomar, that should go straight to the four minute express no.9 and eternal rest, something goes wrong and she is sent on the years long bad souls path instead. Feeling incredibly guilty, he looks for ways to go after her.

Although already dead, souls can be permanently killed through being “sprouted”, a process of being sprayed by seeds which will grow into blooms and break apart the body. When Manny is incarcerated by his DOD boss for his mistake with Mercedes, he is approached by Salvador Limones, the leader of the revolutionary Lost Souls Alliance and persuaded to work for them as a spy in exchange for arranging his escape. Salvador is convinced the DOD is corrupt and there is a conspiracy to steal no.9 tickets from deserving souls.

The Land of the Dead is populated by these souls in various states of travel and by demons. There are also elementals who have been specifically created to specialize in various maintenance jobs. Manny's driver, Glottis, was created to be a vehicle mechanic, but with hidden desires to be a driver instead, he retools a car to fit his huge form and accompanies Manny throughout the journey.

In 2015, Grim Fandango was re-released in remastered form, thus introducing the game to a whole new crop of players. Although it too was universally praised by critics and enjoys a very positive rating on Steam, there is some dissension in the ranks regarding the old-school puzzles. Reasons why some puzzles are so hard are due to several factors, which become more obvious in year 2. Given three goals you need to accomplish, which require multiple other problems to solve first, you now have an open level with several locations to explore. You can move around this level, talk to people, and examine things in any order. However, because you can do this, you may have a conversation that does not seem to hold much importance until later. Because there is no goal reminder, no note taking system, nor any hint system to tell you what the next step should be, it means relying on remembering things which seem quite arbitrary at the time. So, you have to explore all areas and dialogues, most of which you will have to remember later. Another example is needing an item in Act 4 that was mentioned in passing in Act 2, but first you need to reason that the item will do a specific thing, which you might not know. This means having a good memory and doing a lot of back and forthing over the entire level in typical traditional adventure game style.

Unfortunately, due to the stated reasons, the methods of solving the puzzles become extremely obtuse, to the point where people quit playing because so many solutions require consulting a walkthrough. They are just not intuitive, nor is there any hints in the gameplay to suggest what you should be doing. So, it's not a case of pure reasoning ability on the player's part, it's a case of the puzzles being totally ambiguous due to receiving important clues in an untimely manner.

The remaster features updated graphics, a new soundtrack, and better controls. You can also switch back and forth to the original version using backspace.

By the end of it, I can honestly say I enjoyed Grim Fandango for the story, the characters, and the unique environment, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't need to consult a walkthrough. I did. That detracts from the enjoyment for sure. However, although Grim Fandango is in many ways interesting, due to its age, it still suffers from the old traditional adventure game formula, which is traversing the same ground over and over and brain-twisting puzzles. The genre has evolved over time, though, and has made somewhat of a comeback with new approaches. It also has some hard-core fans – people who love these types of challenges.

Game Issues Experienced

A rare occurance these days - no issues

Development Note

Although Grim Fandango received universal acclaim at the time of release in 1998, it was considered a commercial failure that likely contributed to Lucas Arts quitting the adventure game development business. It's ironical that Grim Fandango was an attempt to stimulate a genre that was in a severe downturn, but instead led to its further decline.

This was a period in which the Adventure game genre was in severe decline and Lucas Arts ended up cancelling development of sequels to some of their other projects. Some people who were dismissed from the studio went on to form Telltale Games and Tim Schafer, Grim Fandango's project leader, left to form Double Fine Productions.

Lucasfilm Games was founded by George Lucas in 1982 and later renamed LucasArts. They were purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2012, which proceeded to halt all internal development and lay-off most of the staff. It remained open, however, in order to retain its function as a licensor. It then proceeded to license some of its properties to outside developers.

Double Fine was able to acquire the rights to Grim Fandango with financial assistance from Sony on went on to develop the Remastered version, which was released in 2015. Prior to that, Double Fine's first completed project was Psychonauts, which received high praise, but did not do so well commercially. However, it has since gained a cult following and received several awards leading to the development of the successfully crowd-funded Psychonauts 2.

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Other games in series:   None
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Developer(s): Double Fine Productions
  • Publisher(s): Double Fine Productions
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PS4, Other
  • Release: Jan 2015
  • Mode(s): Single-player
  • Media: Download, Optical Disc
  • DLC Available: Soundtrack
  • OS: Windows Vista or later,
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz, AMD Athlon X2 2.8 GHz, or higher
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Hard Drive: 6GB free space
  • Video: ATI Radeon HD 4650, NVIDIA GeForce GT 220, Intel HD 4000 Graphics, or equivalent
  • Sound: Windows compatible
  • Shader Model:
  • Input for PC: Keyboard & Mouse, Controller
  • DRM: Steam or Drm-free
NOTE: Minimum requirements are those officially published at the time of the game's release.
Official Site - Grim Fandango
Achievements: Steam Community
Cheats: Gamespot
Patches: Steam Auto Update, or Gog Update
Mods: None
To indicate what kind of performance you may get, compare your specs to the system this game was played on. You can also try  Can You Run It
  • Version:  Steam Download
  • OS:  Windows 7 SP1
  • CPU:  Intel Core i5-3570K 3.40GHz
  • Ram:  8GB
  • Disk Drive:  DVD/CD
  • Video:  ATI Radeon HD 7870 2GB
  • Shader Model:  5
  • DirectX:  11
  • Resolution:  1650 x 1050
  • Input:  Keyboard & Mouse
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