¡Viva la Revolución!
Remastered video games tend to be viewed negatively, since they steal time away from developers who could be working on something original and they're mainly seen as a quick and easy cash grab. Even Grim Frandango Remastered, Double Fine's self-love letter to the original LucasArts adventure game released in 1998, can't escape these criticisms. But at the same time, it shows that reviving an underrated classic is the noblest pursuit of remastering games in the first place.
The mere existence of Grim Fandango Remastered is a godsend due to the rarity of the original game, which is not readily available in any digital format on any platform. Finding a genuine copy outside of eBay is far easier said than done. So giving the current generation of gamers access to this treasure for only $14.99 pretty much deserves an ovation by default. If I could send Double Fine a bottle of Marillo de Oro, I would.
Both technically and aesthetically, Grim Fandango Remastered remains faithful to its inspiration. In fact, it's surprising how well the game stands the test of time, with its imaginative world based on Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that honors the dead with marigolds, sugar skulls, and cardboard skeletons. Both the humorous, pun-tastic dialogue and the vibrant voice-acting bristle with personality. The journey of protagonist Manny Calavera doesn't disappoint either, beginning with his attempt to sell enough premium train tickets to the dead so that he can pass onto the next stage of the afterlife, and eventually becoming a multi-year journey for redemption when he unintentionally leaves an innocent woman to face the dangers of the world.
True to the game's name, the character models for the entire cast have been enhanced with better textures, animations, and shadowing, a fact easily seen by flipping between the original and remastered versions at the press of a button in the game. Peter McConnell's jazzy soundtrack which combines big band and bebop influences have been bolstered by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. However, the environments and the objects within the scene have been left untreated for the most part, leaving them blurry and choppy by comparison. It creates an awkward contrast, particularly if you select a higher resolution and/or widescreen dimensions.
For better or worse, the twisty solutions to the numerous puzzles in the original game have been left alone as well. Their relatively high difficulty, requiring you to gather a strange assortment of objects and think outside of the box, would likely be seen as nigh-impossible by today's casual fans of the adventure genre. Most puzzles will merely ask you to be attentive and fiddle around with trial and error for several minutes, though on rare occasions, the solution is so obscure, so well hidden in the environment that it's difficult to know what Manny can or can't interact with. Without a walkthrough, you can expect to spend hours meandering from screen to screen before triggering the right object, at the right time, with the right item. It's needlessly frustrating and downright nostalgic.
Grim Fandango Remastered doesn't have the most impressive graphical overhaul, but it carries the idiosyncratic spirit of the classic and acts in part as a director's cut, providing an optional commentary track by Tim Schafer and his LucasArts compatriots on the original team. It retains that spark of ingenuity, that offbeat quirkiness which keeps its design unconventionally timeless. Grim Fandango Remastered is a welcome chance to play a visionary game that everyone, in the name of creativity, should rightfully experience at least once.