Earlier this year, during the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, Double Fine has announced a remake of a beloved classic adventure game featuring a cast of skeletons in a comically noir afterlife. While the initial tease did not reveal much, the recent Sony event at New York Comic-Con finally showcased the new Grim Fandango and the big overhauls coming. The old title will be remade with improved graphics, music and controls, but sticking to its original charm. Needless to say, the fans will have a lot to look forward to.
Grim Fandango was a classic adventure game released by Lucas Arts on the PC in 1998 and spearheaded by Tim Schafer. The biggest draw of the title was its unusual setting of a comical, yet film noir-esque afterlife. The players assumed the role of Manny, a travel agent of sorts, working for Department of Death that helps recently deceased move on to their final destination. Given the noir style of the game, inspired by movies such as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, there was a lot of mystery, romantic elements and obligatory back-stabbing. The game took place in the Land of The Dead modeled after a number of post-industrial locations, such as the opening bustling city. It was occupied by Aztec-inspired calaca skeletons as well as various demons performing mundane tasks such as car repair. The whole premise, story and overall design was very unique and well fleshed out, earned a high 9.4 out of 10 score at IGN and other critical acclaim.
The Grim Fandango Remastered returns with some big overhauls, as IGN and Polygon both report. The opening clings on to the same comical dialogue and world exposition. After all, writing and setting were the game’s strongest points, and those elements always age well. However, while the graphical style remains the same, the quality has gone up several notches. Polygon’s Michael McWhertor comments on plenty of subtle lighting tweaks, such as a warm green glow of monitors or sunlight coming through the windows and bouncing on the characters, something that was not possible with the technology back in 1998. Those craving the original experience, however, will have an option to switch to the old graphics with a tap of the button, similar to the recent Monkey Island remake.
On top of the visuals, the controls have been reworked as well. The original Grim Fandango did away with the point-and-click style of most adventure games, giving the players a direct control over Manny using the keyboard keys. This movement scheme had its fair share of issues, however, resulting in a fan-made mod to fix them. Double Fine is apparently working with the original modder to replicate the improved controls for the new title. As with the graphics, purists will also have an option to switch back to the old style.
The music is being remade, performed by the Melbourne Symphony. The 1998 Grim Fandango already had a number of memorable tracks that will undoubtedly sound amazing with a full orchestral treatment. Lastly, developer commentaries are being added into the game. Notes scattered through the world will include first-person accounts from Tim Schafer, Peter McConnell, Peter Chan and number of other team members. IGN in particular found them both insightful and hilarious.
While the returning Grim Fandango sports some big overhauls, all seem like fitting face-lifts that keep the original formula intact. The first bits of gameplay showcased at the New York event definitely paint a very optimistic picture for the new remastering. Fans of the adventure can expect it to arrive sometime in 2015, albeit no exact date has been set yet.
By Jakub Kasztalski