Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Grim Fandango: Remastered (PS4) Review
Grim Fandango Remastered! I know there was a lot of fervor and excitement when it was unveiled at E3 last year, and it's finally here in the newest gaming generation. I will say that I have not played the original, so all of my impressions will be with fresh eyes... for better or worse.
You start off as Manny, who is a grim reaper. It's an old-school point and click adventure game... where you don't really point or click. Well, you do kind of click. Anyway, you move around, talk to people, take items and solve puzzles to make your way through the story. Moving is very fluid, provided you have it on the non-tank controls. Even though there's a trophy for playing the whole game with tank controls, I'd recommend skipping them. Yes, it is the way it originally was, but like Resident Evil, it's much better without having to fight awkward controls.
I like the look of the game. It's very film noir-looking and crisp, thanks to the remastering. Well, except for the video clips from the original. Since those were pre-rendered, they can't be hit with the magic remastering brush. It's obvious they are from 1998, but I can't really hold that against the game, it's just startling when it happens.
The story and the writing are good. I mean, you get to play as a guy who is the grim reaper for a day job! That's pretty neat. Some of the lines are really clever, and there is enough serious with the silly to make it seem more natural. The characters are all distinct, even if some of them are tropes. The story quickly went ways I didn't think it would, and I like that it skips forward in time, so we get a better sense of how things change. It just feels more realistic... well, as much as it can playing as a dead guy working off his debt by being a grim reaper.
However, the game is not flawless. I'm sure fans from the original release will take issue with that, but it's true. Since it's a point and click game, you have an inventory of stuff that you can use at various times to solve the puzzles. The idea is sound: Manny keeps the items in his coat, and pulls each one out to use it. However, this makes the inventory rather cumbersome, since you can only see one item at a time and have to scroll through each one to get to the one you want. They also don't have descriptions, but pressing a button will have Manny talk about it, which helps if you aren't sure what something is. Thankfully they routinely dump unnecessary items, so you aren't burdened with a massive collection by the end. Still, the whole system is just a neat idea that isn't intuitive.
The puzzles themselves are inconsistent, but that is par for the course in point and click adventure and puzzle games. Some solutions are readily apparent, and some require lots of poking around, trying different things. Items you can take or things you can interact with are not highlighted in any way, so you will be doing a lot of poking. That part is fine, since otherwise those types of games would be much quicker to complete. Though unfortunately, sometimes you understand what you have to do, but the way to do it is not clear. Yes, you can look them up (and I even did once or twice), but that's not an excuse for the sometimes oddball ways you solve a particular dilemma. It will also cut down the playtime considerably if you use it often. This game definitely won't hold your hand or help you at all to progress. It's all up to your grey matter (and the internet).
Grim Fandango is a charming game. After playing it, I see why people speak fondly of it, and were excited for the remaster. It does show its age more than a few times with the jagged video clips and awkward solutions to puzzles. The game is fun, but I'm not sure the remaster will create new fans. For fans of the original, it's likely a must-buy.