Grim Fandango Remastered (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 09.02.2015

Review for Grim Fandango Remastered on PlayStation 4

The critically acclaimed bomb that is Grim Fandango was the title that convinced developers back in 1998 that adventure games were no longer hip. Despite this, it became a cult favourite, with Tim Schafer's game winning over people with its unique setting and witty character dialogue. This was an ambitious game back in 1998 with its 3D character models, head-tracking, vast pre-rendered backgrounds and in-depth puzzles all taking place in the underworld. Even by today's standards, the whole concept is still pretty out there and original. In 2015, Grim Fandango Remastered is released on the PlayStation 4 and it is like seeing it rise up from the dead. Has this adventure been truly remastered, or are its bones too brittle? Cubed3 ventures into the ninth underworld.

There is a game that came out in the '90s where players used tank-controls and explored environments made up of prerendered backgrounds and had to solve puzzles, all the while being surrounded by dead people. This game also got a remaster on the PlayStation 4 in 2015, which provided an alternative control scheme to the original tank set-up. The striking similarities to some of the core concepts in Resident Evil that are in Grim Fandango Remastered are pretty uncanny. Both games have an emphasis on an adventure-style inventory system and exploring, as well as solving obscure puzzles to find key items. The real distinguishing core elements that separate the two is the fact Resident Evil has a combat system in it and Grim Fandango Remastered has an emphasis on character interaction and talking. These are points that are rarely ever mentioned when Grim Fandango is discussed. The fact is that this non-survival-horror adventure game actually has many design choices that were revolutionised by games like Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark. Anyone who is familiar with those games would have a decent understanding how Grim Fandango Remastered is played, but with that 'Tim Schafer flourish' that fans of Monkey Island titles have come to expect.

Screenshot for Grim Fandango Remastered on PlayStation 4

Like many adventure games from the 1990s, Grim Fandango Remastered involves players figuring out the logic behind its situations in order to push the story forward. The role of Manny Calavera, a punch clock grim reaper who is also a kind of travel agent, is assumed throughout. Controlling Manny is simple enough, with basic movement and running and, of course, there is classic adventure game verbs of 'look, pick up and talk,' which are all now mapped to the face buttons. One design choice that makes Grim Fandango Remastered work quite well is that Manny's head will track points of interest so players don't have to frantically mash buttons to pixel hunt. As mentioned before, Grim Fandango Remastered has an alternate control scheme, but for those who wish to play the game as it was intended, or simply wish to maintain a straight walking path when passing camera angles, the original tank control scheme is present. There are some issues, however, when controlling Manny: sometimes he may get stuck or some issue with the game's coding will mess with the guidance of movement, making him go in the wrong direction. Other times his scripted animations will just be way too long, with no means of interrupting them, resulting in simply needing to wait until he is done. This is especially frustrating when certain doors or elevators are positioned in a particular way that makes it easy to access them accidentally, thus leading to a tediously long animation cycle, only to have to go through it again when trying to get back to the original place. It is also worth mentioning that these animations are painfully slow.

Screenshot for Grim Fandango Remastered on PlayStation 4

During Manny's four year stint in the underworld, one thing that becomes very distracting in Grim Fandango Remastered is just how buggy and riddled with glitches this game is. There are so many bugs in this game that it is offensive. Many of these are game breaking and can make it impossible to continue or will cause a glitch that can break animations permanently. Some glitches seen have caused Manny to be stuck in a constant moonwalk animation. Another was a poorly programmed lift door that could close on Manny and make it impossible to leave. A few other glitches involve wheel barrels, the inventory screen, and even the simple act of getting into a car can cause a game-breaking bug that will render things unplayable. Was this even play-tested? Then there are some design choices that just seem like a step backwards, such as the inventory. In past adventure games, like the Monkey Island series, any inventory item could quickly and efficiently be chosen from a menu. In Grim Fandango Remastered, though, players have to cycle through every acquired item, one by one. This is so tedious and tiring that it is mind boggling as to why Double Fine left this in and did not create an alternative for those who don't like to waste time. Why not? Tim Schafer had an alternate control scheme for those who hate tank-controls, but when it comes to the tiring inventory, it has remained intact.

Screenshot for Grim Fandango Remastered on PlayStation 4

The "Remastering" of Grim Fandango Remastered is a huge misnomer and is very misleading. Almost nothing has been done to Grim Fandango's graphics. The prerendered backgrounds are low quality and static, with nothing redrawn. Compared to the Resident Evil HD Remaster, which had backgrounds redrawn and made sharp to display in 1080p, the team at Double Fine has done nothing to Grim Fandango Remastered's locations. Cut-scenes are pixellated and compressed, running at a very choppy frame-rate, for instance. It all comes across very lazy and mostly disingenuous when this title has the word "remastered" in it. The only things touched up are some of the character models, which have a different shader setting now, and a new lighting system that gives the game soft real-time shadow effects. The models are still very low poly and have a lot of clipping and flickering polygons. It all becomes very obvious when players toggle the remaster mode to classic mode. Sadly, even the aspect ratio options are deplorable with only the 4:3 and a stretched-to-fit option, which is horrible and destroys the proportions. Why wasn't there a pan and scanning option made like in the Resident Evil HD Remaster? The lack of effort Double Fine has put into Grim Fandango Remastered makes this hard to recommend unless players really want to try Grim Fandango, and considering how few alternatives there are, it is understandable such a purchase was made.

One of the most touted features actually has nothing to even do with the core game - commentaries from the team. Largely anecdotal and not terribly interesting, it does show that Tim Schafer had a very artistic team with him, one that truly gave life to the story he wanted to tell. There is a sense that without his team, this game would have been very different, and it suggests that Tim Schafer's influence is largely overstated. Other features, like concept art and cut-scene viewers, are present, but sadly there is no chapter select available post-game.

Screenshot for Grim Fandango Remastered on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Grim Fandango Remastered's story is like no other. It's a vivid epic filled with creative ideas and challenging puzzles that leave an impression. There is a good game in here, but it is just covered by poor design choices, slow animations and a huge amount of bugs and glitches that can break the game. Never mind that the lack of effort in the remastering can make this seem like a very lazy effort from Double Fine. Especially since some of the recent remasters of games on PlayStation 4 can look beautiful, it must be pretty embarrassing for Tim Schafer to release this in its current state. This is a game that is not easily forgotten - its originality and creativeness is unheard of in modern games. Grim Fandango Remastered deserved better than this.


Double Fine


Double Fine





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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