Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
Grim Fandango should be on your list of games to buy. Every adventure fan will be in for a delight. You are in the land of the dead and your job is to be travel agent to those who have just past away. As you continue through your dead life, you start to realize that you never get a rich dead person, only the scum of the living. Your ticket out of this dreadful life is to sell a certain number of high-end tickets to the resting zone.
You play Manuel Calavera, a first rate travel agent getting third rate clients for the Department of Death. To move on to the 9th Underworld, Manny must sell a certain number of Premium travel packages to the recently deceased. These packages are for those deserving of a simple and quick trip to the land of eternal rest. The trip to the 9th Underworld is normally a 4 year journey, but for those who deserve a Premium package receive a ticket on the Number Nine (a train which will take it's passengers to the 9th Underworld in 4 minutes). For some reason or another, all of Manny's clients seem to be good for nothing low-life's. That is until Miss Mercedes Colomar or preferably called Meche, comes into his life so to speak. A virtual saint, Meche is somehow denied a ticket on the Number Nine. With her in her life, Manny faces the wrath of his boss Don Copal. Manny didn't exactly get Meche as his client through legitimate means and all of a sudden Manny's after-life comes into peril. Escaping certain death through an intriguing method called sprouting (you have to see it to fully understand it), Manny joins the Lost Souls Alliance and escapes on a four year journey to find Meche. Through this journey Manny faces spider-bats, flaming beavers, a giant squid, and giant kitty litter.
You control Manny either through keyboard or joystick. There is no mouse support and no icons to click. When Manny walks close to something he can interact with, his head turns and he looks at the object(though it is hard to see if he is looking at something if he is far from the camera). When he's noticing something in this fashion, you can have him describe it, use it, or try to pick it up. His inventory is kept inside his coat and you can have him pull out the objects that he is carrying one at a time. The interface works well, with only a few minor annoyances. In a few instances there are two or more objects near each other, which you can interact with and it's easy to overlook one of them. You can also force Manny to change what he's noticing, but you have to think to do that. An optional text line, which would print out what Manny was noticing, would be a welcome addition.
Some people described this game as Riven with a skeleton. So I assumed that the puzzles would be impossible. Actually the puzzles are not that difficult. It just takes some common sense. It's all a matter of finding the correct items to make something work in order to do move on. The best part about all of this is that the puzzles make up the story. You pick up certain bits of information within the puzzles that are crucial to the story. No puzzle stands out or is thrown in merely to be an obstacle. They all have their significance. Perhaps the most ingenious aspect of this game is found within Manny. When Manny is walking and passes an object of interest or importance, he turns his head to look at it! No more searching for that misplaced pixel or polygon. If it's important, Manny will do a doubletake to let you know that it's important. Why no one thought of this before is beyond me, but we must thank Tim Schafer and his team for thinking of it, and hope that others will do the same. Okay, so not everything about this game is perfect. Using either the keyboard or the gamepad, I did find the controls somewhat quirky. There are times when I had trouble making Manny walk a certain direction or making him turn.
The game takes up only 30MB in your hard drive, which means everything is kept on the CD-ROM. The constant accessing of the CD-ROM will definitely get on one's nerves. Unlike the smooth transitions between backgrounds in Resident Evil or Final Fantasy 7, sometimes switching between rooms became rather jarring because of the wait. Personally I would have liked it if I was given the option of installing most of the information to my drive rather then wait for it to load from the CD.
Grim Fandango is the first LucasArts adventure game to include fully 3D rendered characters and backgrounds. Like many more recent titles, the in-game graphics transition is perfectly blended into the cut-scenes. This consistent use of graphics in both the cut scenes and gameplay keeps the Land of the Dead very cohesive. Direct3D is supported and produces slightly smoother textures and improves game performance. It should be noted that hardware 3D acceleration is unnecessary--the software rendered version of game already looks fantastic. Of course, Grim Fandango only looks that much better running in 3D accelerated mode.
Grim Fandango's music is awesome. There are many different styles of music that is mixed together to create a beautiful, ambiguous soundtrack fitting to the locales and settings of the game. The voice acting in Grim Fandango is top-notch. Tony Plana plays Manuel Calavera, with an appropriately Cuban accent. The mystery dame, Mercedes Colomar, is played by Maria Canals, and also bears a slight hint of a Cuban accent. Patrick Dollaghan, who gives the effect of a brooding, menacing villain, plays the voice of Domino. Glottis sounds like a drunken, hyperactive, and always jolly party animal, and is played by Alan Blumenfeld. This cast worked together perfectly and helped polish the game.
This is a wonderful game! Grim Fandango brings spectacular graphics, sound, and gameplay to your computer. With a plot worthy of a movie script, you will certainly be entertained for hours on end.