Grim Fandango is an adventure game released by LucasArts in 1998. It was one of the last adventure games made by the company, and is generally said to mark the endpoint of "the golden era of adventure games" in the nineties. Using the keyboard, the player controls a Grim Reaper-like character throughout the " Land of the Dead," following a story with heavy tie-ins to Mexican folklore, older adventure games, and Film Noir cinema such as the 1942 classic Casablanca. Grim Fandango was the first adventure game to sport 3D-modeled characters, although in a pre-rendered 2D world.
Grim Fandango moves away from the point-and-click interface of the SCUMM engine that most earlier LucasArts adventure games used, and instead makes use of the GrimE engine that lets the player directly control the movement of the 3D-characters using the keyboard. As Manny walks around, his head will turn and his view will fix on certain key objects. The player may look at, pick up or interact with the object Manny is looking at using the keyboard (though only the interact key is actually necessary to finish the game). This system was appreciated for its cinematic qualities, but criticized for being inaccessible compared to the simple overview that is provided by a traditional point-and-click interface. Even though the control scheme and game-engine was new to the genre, the gameplay itself still revolved around the classic inventory-based puzzles that finds the player collecting and combining objects in the scenery in order to advance the storyline.
Grim Fandango's setting combines elements of Aztec and Mexican folklore concerning the afterlife with a heavy dose of film noir drawn from films like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. The game takes place primarily in the Land of the Dead, where the souls of the recently deceased make their way to their final reward in the Ninth Underworld. The souls in the Land of the Dead take the form of skeletal Mexican Calaca figures which are used during the Day of the Dead festival; the festival also takes place within the Land of the Dead, during which time many souls visit loved ones back in the Land of the Living. Also present are Demons, summoned for specific and usually mundane tasks such as various kinds of maintenance. Many of the characters are Mexican and the dialogue is littered with Spanish words.
Travel agents working for the Department of Death act as Grim Reapers, fetching souls from the Land of the Living and setting them on their journey through the Land of the Dead. Those who have sinned must attempt a 4 year journey on foot, often delayed by terrible danger or the simple mundanity of getting stuck in a dead end job along the route. Those who have lived good lives may have a greater choice of travel options, the finest being the "Double N" Number Nine train which is not only luxurious but brings the journey time down from 4 years to a mere 4 minutes. Souls may not make it all the way to the Ninth Underworld and may suffer a kind of "final death" along the way, particularly by being sprouted, which involves being shot by a dart that causes vines and flowers to overcome the soul's bony figure.
From noir film, the game takes a 1930's ambiance, most of the male characters being sharply suited, and an abundance of art deco architecture and design. Many of the characters in the game can be seen smoking heavily in keeping with the genre, but in order to allay criticism the manual reminds players that the characters are already dead.
As a travel agent for the Department of Death it is Manuel "Manny" Calavera's job to usher the souls of the newly departed from the Land of the Living to the Land of the Dead. In the city of El Marrow, the souls are judged and then sent off on the journey towards the Ninth Underworld, the soul's final destination. While the sinners will have to make the four-year journey on foot (or, like Manny, stay in El Marrow working of their debt to "the powers that be") the more virtuous souls gets different degrees of travel-help, culminating in the "Number Nine," a luxurious express train safely traversing the trials of the Land of the Dead in only four minutes.
After sending the virtuous Mercedes "Meche" Colomar to a journey on foot, despite having lived the life of a saint, Manny starts to suspect that corruption has started to crawl deep into the Land of the Dead. Manny and his mechanic/sidekick, Glottis, set off on a quest to find Meche and set things right in the Land of the Dead. Their journey will take them to various locales in the Eighth Underworld: from the Edge of the World to slightly beyond.
The games takes place over 4 years, with each chapter happening on the day of the dead during each year. The end of each chapter typically ends up with Manny finding himself in a bad situation (cleaning floors, scrubbing decks etc). After a "One Year Later" message, you return to Manny after having a successful year (running a casino, captain of a ship etc). This shows that Manny is a charismatic and manipulative character.
While critically acclaimed, Grim Fandango was not a commercial success but did spawn a large fan base due to its witty dialogue and bizarre setting. It won several awards after its release in 1998 including IGN's "Best Adventure Game of the Year," GameSpot's "Best of E3 1998," "PC Game of the Year," "Best PC Graphics for Artistic Design" and "Best PC Game Music."
The project leader, Tim Schafer, left LucasArts shortly after the release of the game to start a new game company named Double Fine productions. He had previously worked with LucasArts on titles such as Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island and Full Throttle.
Following the buyout of Lucasfilm and Lucasarts, the rights to Grim Fandango are now owned by Disney.
- When you are in the Calavera Cafe, if you go to the stairway and walk into it backwards, you will slide down.
- When talking to Velasco by the SS Limbo you see a face on the moon.
- If you pull out your scythe in the room Meche's in on the Edge, and try to walk out the door, your scythe will go through the wall.
- If you type "blam" during gameplay, Manny's body will explode, comes back together and he will say "ouch!"
Grim Fandango had an original soundtrack composed and produced by Peter McConnell at LucasArts and combines orchestral score, South American folk music, jazz, swing, and big band music. The soundtrack was released as a CD at the LucasArts store but is no longer available and sells for around $100 on eBay. You can download an MP3 version of the soundtrack on the Grim Fandango fansite.
01 - Casino Calavera
02 - Swanky Maximino
03 - Smooth Hector
04 - Mr. Frustration Man
05 - Hector Steps Out
06 - Hi-Tone Fandango
07 - She Sailed Away
08 - High Roller
09 - Domino's in Charge
10 - Trouble with Carla
11 - Blue Casket Bop
12 - Manny's Office
13 - Rubacava
14 - Blue Hector
15 - This Elevator is Slow
16 - Domino
17 - Don Copal
18 - Neon Ledge
19 - Nuevo Marrow
20 - Gambling Glottis
21 - Raoul Appears
22 - Scrimshaw
23 - Talking Limbo
24 - Coaxing Meche
25 - Lost Souls' Alliance
26 - Los Angelitos
27 - The Enlightened Florist
28 - Temple Gate
29 - Ninth Heaven
30 - Compañeros
31 - Manny & Meche
32 - Bone Wagon
The actor who provided the voice of Glottis, Alan Blumenfeld, also appeared as the voice of The Milkman in another Tim Shafer game, Psychonauts.