Platform: PC | Genre: Adventure
Publisher: LucasArts | Developer: LucasArts | Released: 1998
Graphical adventure games, the kind that let you explore a (usually) nonviolent world and advance the game's story by solving puzzles and interacting with other characters, have been around for years. And for many years, they have also been pretty weird. They started out as graphics-free text-based games like Zork, and then started to include primitive graphics that let us explore bizarre locales like maniacal mansions and let us take on kings' quests.
Then in 1998, the weirdest game of all came out. It was an adventure game based entirely on "calaveras," the papier-mâché dolls that are traditionally used in the Mexican culture to signify "Dia de los Muertos," a yearly holiday that takes place just after Halloween. And stranger still, this game featured "calaveras" as highly complex characters embroiled in a conspiracy that could have come right out of a classic film-noir movie.
In the game, it seems that the protagonist, one Manny Calavera, is down on his luck. A travel agent for the Department of the Dead, he's tasked with picking up the spirits of the recently deceased and selling them travel plans to their final resting place. If the deceased had led a pristinely moral life, they would be able to buy a golden ticket on the Number 9, a luxury train that would whisk them off to their final resting place, and Manny himself could work off his debts to buy his own ticket. The trouble is, he keeps getting stuck with duds--the souls of morally corrupt people whose travel plans usually consist of a trip on the "Excelsior line"--a line of walking sticks, that is. Yet his rival down the hall, Domino Hurley, always seems to get all the good souls. When Manny finally meets the soul of the deceased nun Mercedes "Meche" Colomar, who led an exemplary life, he finds that Meche's file shows that she doesn't qualify for a golden ticket, and he suspects foul play. With the help of the department mechanic Glottis, a bulky elemental spirit of the underworld with a useful penchant for fixing cars and a not-so-useful gambling problem, he sets out to make things right.
Over the course of his journey, Manny meets some of the most memorable characters ever to appear in a game on any platform. They're cowardly, obnoxious, conniving, or vacuous--but they're all cleverly designed, if not hilariously funny. Better still, Manny meets these characters against a colorful and beautiful backdrop that consists of equal parts art deco design and colorful papier-mâché-style art, to the music of an eclectic soundtrack that includes traditional, straight-ahead jazz and mariachi tunes, among others. Grim Fandango's setting, characters, and design were and continue to be completely unique, not only because they were so unusual, but also because these elements all worked together surprisingly well. Ask just about anyone who has played Grim Fandango, and he or she will agree that it's one of the greatest games of all time.
|The year was 1999. I had just invested in my very own PC, and I was itching for a game that would put my brand-new rig, equipped with a state-of-the-art Voodoo2 card, to the test. A good friend of mine who did QA testing on the game gave me a copy as a gift, and I don't think I've been the same since. Every facet of the game shone with style, polish, and wit. By the time I beat the game, I didn't want it to end, and somehow I knew that I'd never experience anything quite like it ever again.|
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