This will be the swansong of Lucasarts adventure games and sadly the one that would make a fitting tombstone for the genre. I was a fan of Lucasarts adventure games since Monkey Island II debuted with AdLib sound on my SoundBlaster soundcard and 256 colors on my VGA monitor (and I remember making the brash statement "Where are they gonna go from there? It's real!").
And then came Full Throttle which became my favorite game for a long time and then game designer Tim Schaffer gave us this, Grim Fandango, a beautifully scripted game with breathtaking art and the most memorable characters to date. This one is up there with Planescape Torment as my favorite game.
What really makes it or breaks it for me is always the story and Grim Fandango plays the noir genre like a trumpet in the hands of Miles Davis. A mish mash of Casablanca, the Maltese Falcon, Chinatown and a host of other movies, Schaffer sets his adventure in the Land of the Dead. Almost every character remains emblazoned into my mind to this day, whether it is our jack-of-all-trades, bony protagonist; Manny or Schaffer's love for hotrods personified; Glottis, down to the supporting cast of mini-demons who work on the afterlife's cablecars or Salvadore Limones, the revolutionary with a penchant for dead carrier pigeons. To this day I catch myself thinking of catchphrases spouted by these characters and give it a wee chuckle knowing very few people in the world would know what I'm talking about. You can tell that Schaffer enjoys his job as every character has reams of script lines they can go through. This game isn't for those who like to finish games, but rather for those who enjoy them. Take it slow and just speak to everyone and use everything on everything.
Graphically I would contend that this game hasn't suffered the passage of time one bit. The Lucasarts team wisely spun the basic 3D graphics of the foreground characters into a particular style that gives this game it's age-defying factor. Every environment is painstakingly designed with art deco motifs for the urban sprawl to the creeping art nouveau for the decadent underworld of casinos and crime where the dead spend the last days of their lives. The music is suitably schnazzy and creates a beautiful ambience in the background that keeps the graphics sizzling at a cool but temperate pace.
You will follow Manny as he quests to redeem himself in the Land of the Dead. Schaffer manages to keep the laughs coming and then pull the blinds down to create dark spots where you get sucked into the poignancy of the scenes. I would say that Schaffer's games always have great endings and Fandango reigns supreme. As in the flaming carrierplane with severed wings chase and cliffhanger at the end of Full Throttle, Fandango's ending is majestic, sad and beautiful.
So, before we all shuffle off this mortal coil to an afterlife that will probably be a lot less stylish and a lot more boring, give this one a spin. Do it now because Manny says : You can't hide from the Grim Reaper. Especially when he's got a gun.
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