PS4 Free Game of the Week: Grim Fandango [Review]

PS4 or Xbox One? It’s the marketing war you could argue is still going on to this day. Since blindly going back to black, I’ve been rummaging through the unique, exclusive content Sony has to offer.

Turns out, I’ve made the right choice, as I discovered PlayStation slashed the prices of two games a week. TWO! That’s 200% more than I was expecting to find, living in this commercialised society where every game is in halves and DLCs are sold separately.

This week’s game was the visually remastered cult classic Grim Fandango. Growing up with the likes of Broken Sword and Escape from Monkey Island, I thought I had seen all there was to envision when it came to free roam mystery games. How naive I was, as Grim Fandango packs a pleasantly surprising amount of wit and challenge, as well as an enticing story line for you to devote countless hours.

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The story revolves around Manny Calavera – just a Mexican soul, trying to live out the remainder of his days as a travel agent selling transportation packages through purgatory and to the underworld.

In this bustling industry, it really pays to get the high profile deceased an equally high profile transportation package. We quickly learn that Manny hasn’t been having the most successful sales, and that the best mode of transport he’s been able to sell lately has been a lone walking stick.

The story picks up pace as Manny, the has-been veteran, finds competition from colleague, Domino, and instantly smells something fishy (despite not having a nose) at the sudden rise of his rival’s success.

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What really stood out about this game was the its unfiltered charismatic dialogue. The rise of the solve-it-yourself adventure genre during the ’90s relied heavily on its witty exchange in conversation between your protagonists and other NPCs (non-playing characters), and Grim Fandango is no exception.

I feel there’s a need to express the depth of story line this game offers.  In the 90’s Point and click mysteries were all the rage, with the likes of Broken Sword and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld being the foundations of games with an actual screenplay. Hundreds upon thousands of adults and children alike were captivated by thought provoking scenarios, and visual backdrops, no different to those they would find from a good book or movie. These games were the foundation of structured games we love today, including The Last of Us and The Witcher III.  Grim Fandango, I believe, is up there with the forefathers of adventure gaming.

12485881_10153840656760320_7983654761698413740_oWhat I specifically enjoyed about this game was the unpredictability as to what was lurking around the corner. Within the first three hours of playing, I was transported through the streets of the underworld, saw traditional Mexican day of the dead parades, and some weird two-dimensional café that looked like one of Pablo Picasso’s lucid nightmares.

 

Since this game was produced by none other than Lucas Arts, you’d expect a vibrant mix of eclectic characters with a taste of good comedy. Once again, they hold up in doing just that. You can’t help but appreciate the use of satirical comedy within the platform of the underworld. Interacting with a unique cast of undesirables, it’s worth indulging for the comedic genius that has been embedded throughout this game.

 

 

 

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A final recommendation is the soundtrack, which has been rerecorded by The Melbourne Symphony specifically for this remastered version of the cult classic. It’s a jazzy, Latin-infused delight that I require you take a listen to on YouTube immediately.

The places where I found myself wanting more, was the free roam navigation. Innovating the traditional point and clicks, the game really lends itself to the thrill of finding clues in the most obscure locations, each of which can spark a reaction with most NPCs.

But that being said, a lot of the objects to be collected within this game aren’t identifiable. A combination of the lighting and the fact that key pick-ups aren’t highlighted. I found I spent a lot of time, walking from A to B to C and back to A again looking for the piece of the puzzle that would take me to the next stage.

Frustrating? Yes. Am I nitpicking? Possibly. Would I recommend this deal to all my friends? Definitely.

7.2/10

 

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