I must say that this review is put together in a hurry and focusing mainly on the remaster and less on the game itself. I haven’t played the original game, however, and also didn’t care to try to play this version with the original controls or graphics, so I can’t make a direct comparison, but some improvements, mainly when it comes to the controls, are so obvious and important that I don’t even want to think about needing to play the game without them.
Starting from there, the fact that point and click controls were introduced in this version made the game playable as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know how somebody initially thought it was a good idea to make the player need to slowly move Manny all around, try to figure out what he was looking at and hope to avoid missing anything, but at least they came to their senses for this version. Or they partially came to their senses, but more about that later.
The other immediately noticeable improvement has to do with the graphics. For those who want to compare, switching between the original look and the enhanced one can be done at any point, with the press of a button, but graphics aren’t such an important aspect for me and, as one of the bits of commentary also mentions, the game’s art style actually suits those early 3D graphics in a way that very little else does. And the sound is another aspect that was handled well to begin with, the music being perhaps best described simply as being truly fitting, and the voice acting actually being great; no complaints from me about either. In addition, and in fact more importantly, the dialogues, characters and overall story are quite good. Wouldn’t say great, this is no Planescape: Torment or Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, for example, but Grim Fandango may well be one of the better games from these points of view as well, all of these aspects put together also meaning that it may well be one of the better ones when judged on its artistic merits in general.
Unfortunately, I can’t maintain this good opinion when it comes to the gameplay, even in this edition. I already said that, from my point of view, the original game was nearly unplayable, but they could have improved it further in this version by adding a proper inventory, and maybe also a way to highlight what you can interact with, though the point and click controls admittedly make this only an optional helpful feature. A journal would have definitely been useful, however, the dialogue transcript being a poor substitute, its role being at most to add a slow and tedious way to partially compensate for the fact that you can’t repeat dialogues in case you forgot something, or missed it in the first place.
On that topic of knowing what to do, there may be fewer examples of Moon logic than adventure games tended to be infamous for, possibly also in part just because there is no proper inventory system, and there are some parts of the game where there isn’t that much you can do, so a bit of trial and error should be enough even if the puzzle makes little sense or you forgot what you should be doing and obviously don’t have a journal to use to remember. At other times, however, the solution makes no sense and simply trying everything may not be a realistic option, year two probably being the most confusing overall, considering the number of locations, characters and items you may end up carrying at once, and the fact that it seems some context is missing early on, and possibly later as well, if you don’t quite do or find some things in the intended order. Still, while I did need to read the full solution for one year two puzzle as well, when Manny needs to get strip searched, the one that struck me as the worst, simply impossible to either figure out or stumble upon the correct solution on your own, was in year one, to find the key for the way to Rubacava, the fact that the commentary recognizes it as a problem being little comfort.
Since I got to the commentary, it was quite messy, difficult to follow at times. They should have taken some care to speak better, and maybe more to the player than to each other, and at times even over each other or more or less to themselves. The fact that the text is often a bit faster than the speech only makes it worse, and you can’t hurry it along either, just reading the text faster and skipping to the next line when you’re done, that function not working on the commentary. In addition, there are quite a number of commentaries with tiny trigger areas, easy to miss if you don’t make sure to step in pretty much every possible spot, and at least one place, when you get to the Florist in year four, where just playing the game normally is likely to lead to completely missing some commentary, as well as some of Manny’s comments about what he sees, since you can’t get back there. Otherwise, I personally liked that the commentary at times provided hints, but can see how many would dislike that as well, so there should have perhaps been a way to enable and disable such spoilers.
It struck me as odd when I spotted some wrong names in the transcript of a few of the first year two commentaries, and then there was the time when the commentary icon briefly appeared at the end of the car ride to the final area, when I doubt that pressing the commentary key would have worked during a cutscene even if I’d have managed to react in time. But those are tiny issues and I just mentioned them to connect the part about the commentary to this one about bugs, the important ones having to do with running to some things you can interact with or even to some area exits, which can sometimes require reloading or even forcing the game to close, and perhaps even more notably with manipulating the crane’s chain in year three, the game hanging multiple times until it finally allowed me to get past that puzzle and freezing the display as it did so, so it’s a good thing I knew how to “blindly” force it to close. As for other smaller problems, there are a number of objects that don’t have point and click controls, though they all seem to be objects Manny will only comment on, not any that can actually be interacted with, and also a few cases where such controls seem to have been added where they shouldn’t have been, clicking one such object causing Manny to move to another, though this again doesn’t interfere with any puzzles.
Overall, when it comes to the artistic aspects, the story, characters, dialogues, acting, music and art style, Grim Fandango was a good game to begin with, and this version retains those aspects and also adds graphical improvements, which can be toggled on and off at any time with the press of a button. However, I don’t even want to think about having to play the game with the original controls, so I’ll once again stress that, from my point of view, the point and click controls added in this version simply make it playable. There are other improvements which should have been made and weren’t, and a handful of bugs that weren’t fixed or were even added in this version, but changing the controls means it can be played as it is, and those positive aspects can be enjoyed. That’s not to say that it can’t still be frustrating at times because of puzzles that make too little sense or, in a few cases, are pretty much impossible without a guide, but probably less so than most adventure games.