Thursday, November 15

Review: Grim Fandango [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Considering that the adventure genre was practically dead, or close to it, I find it remarkable how well it has been doing on the Switch and how increasingly well-represented it is. We’ve had a number of successful newcomers come along that have done a great job of cribbing the style and humor classic LucasArts games made popular but now it’s exciting to see the potential for those staples of the genre coming to the console themselves. The well-regarded Grim Fandango is as good a title to start with for that effort as any, telling the somewhat unusual story of Manny Calavera, a travel agent for the Department of Death.

It turns out that finding souls who are worthy of a luxurious trip to the afterlife is a trickier business than you’d expect and Manny just can’t seem to catch a break. Determined to do better he finally manages to find a winner but in order to see things through he’s going to have to take an arduous four year journey to see it through. Along the way you can expect a healthy dose of witty dialogue, some great set pieces and music, and more than a few puzzles that are likely to have you hitting your favorite walkthrough site.

While the game’s reputation overall is well-deserved, there’s no getting around the fact that modern gamers, or people who’ve simply forgotten how classic adventures threw you into the deep end, are going to find the road to get through it bumpy in more than one place. Item puzzles can be aggravatingly unclear or even nonsensical at times, and even just getting started with the game you’re given next to no guidance whatsoever on what you’re trying to do or how even simple controls work. Throw in the classic fixed camera style and you’re likely to lose your bearings periodically as you shift from room to room and the shifts don’t always make a whole lot of sense intuitively.

Much like a very different classic released on Switch, Another World, though it can be pretty easy to see and appreciate what made the title so revered that isn’t to say some aspects of it have aged well. The interactions and humor certainly have a certain timeless quality to them but mechanically there’s no question it’s all a bit clunky now. If you’re a classic adventure fan looking to reminisce or a true Adventure genre lover who wants to take some time to appreciate a cornerstone title in the genre Grim Fandango Remastered is well worth a look but for just about everyone else it may be too aggravatingly dated to be worthwhile.

Score: 7.5

  • Signature LucasArts dialogue and humor
  • A cast of colorful and often weird characters
  • Great aesthetics that have aged reasonably well blended with some terrific music

  • True to the genre some of its puzzles are simply confoundingly obtuse
  • No in-game help whatsoever
  • May not be a great fit for anyone who doesn’t have nostalgia for the title or that’s a major genre fan