Let's get this out of the way before we proceed any further: Grim Fandango is without a doubt one of the best adventure games ever made, and in many respects the pinnacle of the golden age of adventures. Or should we say the first golden age, as we've been treated to a number of great adventures in recent years, from Telltale Games various episodic offerings, the many titles from German genre specialists Daedalic Entertainment, and games like Machinarium and Life is Strange, as well as Double Fine's Broken Age and The Cave.
Double Fine takes us to the subject at hand - the remastered edition of Grim Fandango. Powerful forces in the shape of Sony and Disney (new owners of all the old Lucasfilm Games and Lucasarts properties) made it possible for Double Fine and Tim Schafer (who wrote and directed the original) to gain the rights for Grim Fandango. And after many years without a version of the game playable on modern computers (the back of my old copy states it's compatible with Win 95/98), this remastering is most welcome. With an added bonus of a console debut (PS4 and PS Vita).
Manny Calavera is trying his best to work off his debt (presumably after having lived a rotten life) and earn his ticket to the ninth underworld. He works at the Department of Death where he sells travel packages to the recently deceased. He just never seems to land any good clients (that would earn him a commission and help work off his debt) - instead he's stuck selling walking canes instead of first class tickets on the express train. At least that is how the story begins, but as you might expect you're in for a crazy ride with Manny, his scythe, and an eclectic cast. And if you haven't payed the game previously you're in for many hours of enjoyment as you try and figure out the sometimes-less-than-obvious solutions to the puzzles Manny is facing. They're not the most farfetched solutions we've seen in the genre, but some puzzles will certainly take a few minutes to figure out.
The plot, the puzzle design, the characters, and the wonderfully designed Mexican themed afterlife, along with the sublime soundtrack, certainly holds up well enough after all these years. It's a genre that doesn't age as badly as many others and while newcomers will likely want to avoid the "tank" controls at all costs (you really need to have played this sort of game back in the day to appreciate them, and even then most will likely opt for the modernised version).
As we look at scoring this masterpiece we also need to consider the quality of the remastering. Now you shouldn't confuse this with a remake. The game is still essentially the same, with the exception of some improved texture quality, the option of playing it in 16:9 ratio (4:3 still exists as an option) and with modernised controls (though the old remain for those who prefer "tank" controls). So while the design of the game has stood the test of time, this relatively early example of a 3D adventure isn't exactly a looker from a technical perspective, especially on your big flatscreen in the livingroom. Naturally it appears prettier on the PS Vita.
A nice touch (and unheard of 17 years ago) are the trophies. Most of them are hidden and triggered by actions or dialogue options that are often off the beaten path. This way you're encouraged to explore the hilarious conversations that are a major part of the package here.
Let's celebrate the fact that one of the best adventures of all time is once again playable on PC, and that it's now available on PS4 and PS Vita as well. At 12 quid it's decent value (even if I picked up my copy of "The Entertainment Pack" from Lucasarts that also includes The Dig, Full Throttle and Sam & Max for a fiver just over a decade ago) and it's certainly a game you need to play if you've enjoyed the recent rebirth of the genre. If you've already played it you likely don't need any convincing... All aboard the number nine express train!