Ode To Manny

by

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While my simple CPU upgrade has turned into an entire system overhaul (as so often seems the case), I’m continuing to look back at the games I used to play before the wonders of multiple cores blessed my home life. As ever, when I turn my attention to games past, my gaze settles on the most used CD case in my collection – LucasArts’ Grim Fandango.

I’m not lying about it being the most used CD I own – while there are other games I play more often, all of them are on Steam or a similar digital distribution system. The only physical disc that comes close is STALKER, but due to the far longer period that I have owned Grim Fandango for, it still wins outright.

Grim Fandango, I am sorry to say, is the only classic LucasArts adventure game I own to date. I’ve never played Monkey Island, nor Day of the Tentacle, but would jump at the chance to get my hands on either of them given the opportunity. While all these great adventure games were being played by PC gamers, I was in the heyday of my FPS gaming times (Well, with the later LucasArts games, anyway. The earlier ones were happening around the time of my birth.), with twitch shooters like Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament. It wasn’t until years later that I rediscovered my love for adventure games which was first kindled by Hugo’s House of Horrors (a game which deserves a retrospective all of its own), by chancing upon a copy of Grim Fandango at my local video game store.

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Hugo's House of Horrors

It was something of a watershed moment in my gaming career, that day in the dusty old games shop. Much like the time when I went out to buy Duke Nukem 3D, but instead returned with Final Fantasy VII, I don’t think my experiences with games would be quite the same without Grim Fandango. I even doubt that I would be writing about games on this website today without it, as it opened my eyes to exactly what a game could be. Not through its gameplay or the complexity of its puzzles, but through the presentation and humour it created consistently throughout.

I’m notoriously bad at completing games in general, and even more so with Adventure games, but Grim Fandango kept me stuck to my PC for weeks as I slowly unravelled each puzzle leading up to the final moments, never once reaching for any kind of outside help. It wasn’t that the game was easy, but rather that I instinctively felt that if I used a walkthrough, it would have the same effect as reading a spoiler for a story you were personally invested in. After each puzzle, I felt like I deserved to move on to the next area and enjoy what was waiting or me there, and I just don’t think that feeling would have been there if I used a guide of some sort. It seems odd, but the reward of being allowed to continue in Grim Fandango was more than enough for me to continue through to the end, while other games which offer unlockables and alternate endings would fall by the wayside, unfinished.

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Grim Fandango is also directly responsible or my love of all things Schafer, and by extension the only reason I’m currently holding onto my Xbox 360 (due to the bizarre decision not to bring Brutal Legend to PC). Psychonauts, the first game by Schafer’s own development company Double Fine is what I would consider to be the first real modern Adventure game, in that it keeps the aspects of Adventure games while also incorporating the new technology and gameplay of modern games. However, Grim Fandango still remains my favourite. In no other game I can think of did I make such a connection with the main character, and actually care enough to make sure I saw their journey through to the end.

Were there news of Grim Fandango getting a sequel, or a remake which is now the case for the Monkey Island games, I’m not sure what I would think. First of all, I honestly don’t think the game needs updating, and it needs a sequel less. The game is the very essence of a single-game epic, and in some ways I’m glad it was made when it was. If it were created today, any moderate success would almost obligate a sequel to be made and I can’t think of a game less suited to a follow up. In my eyes, Grim Fandango is as close to perfect for its genre as I’ve seen a game get.

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