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Grim Fandango

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Lucas Arts
Developer: EA Games
Media: CD/2
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

In a day where three-dimensional, first person gaming platforms are prevalent, Grim Fandango stands as a true testament to the origins of Graphical Adventure/RPG games. The spatial backgrounds and foregrounds create a nice mix between flat screen graphics and the currently predominant FMVs. As you move perspectively backward or forward, your size grows or shrinks proportionately. Your character is made to walk in any unblocked direction, being modeled as a three-dimensional character. The artwork helps to display the Mexican folklore themes in the game, with each scene and character emblematic of the ancient Aztec 'Day of the Dead' celebration. And even though most of the characters in the story are skeletons in a suit, it's still easy to distinguish the good and the bad, by means of the mid 40's style caricatures shaping the players.

The audio in Grim Fandango, however, is what really immerses you into believing the game. The voice acting gives an accurate account to what you would imagine each character sounds like, fresh with quality accents. With a variety of selections ranging from classical Mexican to contemporary jazz, the score really sets the mood of each scene, and it serves as a link from the gamer to the unimaginable world of the Land of the Dead.


Set to the thrilling pace of a crime drama, this puts an interesting twist on this gaming genre as you take the exciting role of 'the Grim Reaper'. Well, not exactly. Manny Calavera, your character in Grim Fandango, is a dead-beat (no pun intended) travel agent for the Department of Death. Every time he gets a client, they never qualify for much bigger 'life rewards' than wandering the underworld with a walking stick. Your story begins as Manny's newest client is strangely given the lowest possible option. Dumbfounded, Manny sets Mercedes Colomar (Meche) on her feet toward her final resting place. Eventually Manny figures out he has been duped for quite some time, and sets out on a four year search for Meche. The game moves mostly in a linear fashion, separated into four chapters each occurring one year apart. I was rarely disappointed with the degree of complexity the story presents. Making use of allusions to classic films such as 'Casablanca', and 'Glengarry Glen Ross', the parodying is tasteful and creates more atmosphere than slaphappy humor. However, comic relief is not led astray. Manny's sidekick Glottis, an oversized monster, tags along on most of Manny's trip giving you just the right amount of relief to the tension surrounding the array of mysterious puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, Grim successfully integrates each puzzle into its storyline. I never once looked up from the game asking how a certain piece related to the big picture. Successful completion often seemed to go on without notice as the story kept going throughout.

My only qualm with this game was between each scene as I was required to move back and forth from one CD to the other. I felt that it was pulling me away from the lavishness of storytelling, and forcing me to realize I was still in the real world. To some however, this might be a good thing. After all, I did go to the bathroom in the middle of playing and shrieked when I saw skin covering my skeleton.


The main point of this game is to follow the story path solving numerous puzzles along the way. Clues involving each puzzle are abundant throughout each segment of the game, and each puzzle is generally midrange in finding the solution. The seasoned Adventure Game player will probably find some of the puzzles were obvious, while others still had fun and witty solutions.

Game Mechanics:

Making use of the keyboard for all actions and commands, the interface is more reminiscent of older games in the genre. At first, getting used to the controls, which include about 8 keys for specific actions, is a little awkward, but after the first half-hour of game play you'll wonder why you even own a mouse at all. When Manny sees something important to the game his head will turn in the direction of interest. This keeps the game moving and helps to alleviate finding clues by clicking monstrously around the screen.

You also have the option to save your game at any point. Take advantage of this. You never know when some unforeseen problem may occur, and you'll have to travel back too find a clue that should've been taken earlier. For the most part, however, the game will run smoothly and dozen of hours will pull you further into a complex and beautifully crafted story that is both artistically and conceptually stunning.

-==Boy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Kyle Prestenback

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 95/98 DirectX-compatible, Pentium 133, 32MB ram, 4X CD-ROM, 2MB PCI Graphics card, compatible 16-bit sound card, DirectX: Microsoft DirectX 6.0 (available on the Grim Fandango CD and must be installed to play the game). Optional 3D graphics support requires a 4MB PCI or AGP 3D accelerator.

Test System:

HPN5150 running Windows ME, 64MB RAM, 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro, 4MB PCI, DirectX 8, 10X DVD-ROM

Nintendo GameCube Vexx Windows Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

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