I didn't get to play many adventure games growing up. My gaming habits were relegated to consoles until the early 2000's. So I missed that nostalgia boat by a few nautical miles. However, I'm always curious about them, and I always take a swing when a classic of the genre gets re-released. I was interested in Grim Fandango from the first time I saw it. I always thought that game looked cool, and my exposure to other Time Schafer games only fed my curiosity. Now, these old adventure games carry with them a certain cache that is hard to avoid. In that respect, my expectations are always a bit inflated, but I—admittedly— lack the nostalgic fire to keep that ballon aloft.
My experience when I play these games is a bit rote; not necessarily the games themselves, although, that is true in some regards as well. When taking a critical eye to one, I always try to consider the context. A lot of these games were made for people with a large quantity of adventure gaming under their belts. Granting them a skill set that could alleviate some of the frustrations that are, ostensibly, attached to core elements of the genre. That may not be a fair assertion, but knowing that the frustration will happen better prepares me for playing this style of game. I always go in without a walkthrough. My hopes set high in the presumption that I will be able to suss out the internal logic that is inherent within the game. My hopes usually crash somewhere around GameFAQs island, where I feed on explicit directions or, more preferably, a series of hints for whatever situation I am in.
While Grim Fandango certainly does not serve as some outlier to this rule, it doesn't fully subscribe to it either. Being a later game in the genre, it forgoes a chunk of the tedium by being more context sensitive and discarding that old grid of verbs that would sit, smugly, on the bottom of your screen. It does still fall into that old trap of just rubbing every item you pick up against all the things that are nailed down, or don't fit in your pockets. Brute-forcing the logic like this always feels cheap to me. Sometimes this is a failing of the game, other times the onus falls on myself. For the most part, in Grim Fandango, I can say that issue falls at my feet. Although, there is some real "How could I have known that?" solutions. There are usually good hints tucked away in plain sight within the dialog between characters, or in the mild contemplations of Manny when you have him look at things.
The game still looks good and, in all honesty, the remastered upgrades seem fairly subdued, at least, in regards to the graphics. The static backgrounds are largely untouched, while the character models and interactive objects are more refined. There are some issues with the new versions of the graphics, in particular, when solving a puzzle on your way to Rubacava. The remastered version of an object is easily lost in the pre-rendered background, but switching back to the original graphics makes it easy to locate again. There is a small amount of these issues, but it's an odd oversight nonetheless. I also ran into a handful of game breaking bugs where my character would become unresponsive, forcing me to reload a save to continue.
There is also quite a few issues with getting your character into that perfect spot to interact with something. I had a considerable amount of issues where, when having the right solution, I was sent astray by missing the tiny interactive element necessary to proceed; for instance, a lock on an open door. If you aren't facing just the right way, in just the right place, all you get is a comment about the door itself, not the lock you need to tamper with. Hunting for these hot spots isn't completely destructive, but it gets aggravating.
It may seem like I'm really down on adventure games. I'm not. I find immense enjoyment in the stories, characters, and in the case of Grim Fandango, the wit and humor. While I may not be filled with uproarious laughter, I do find myself consistently chuckling at most of the puns. (What can I say, I'm a sucker for just about any kind of pun, good or bad.) The voice acting is surprisingly well done for the time it was released. The audio quality on the voices isn't amazing, but that's a given for the age of this game. I didn't run into any cringe-worthy deliveries for a line of dialog, and nearly all of it is well written. This resulted in me exhausting all dialog options for every character I encountered.
I don't necessarily want to talk too much about the story or puzzles; when it comes to adventure games that is the game, but I can recommend it. The story is set in various locations within The Land of the Dead where you start as a travel agent for the recently deceased, but things fall apart quickly.
If your willing to put up with the rough edges, both in terms of appearance and mechanics, this is a great adventure game. Likable characters, imaginative locations and an enjoyable story. It does have some head scratchers for puzzles, but I don't know if I could call it an adventure game with out those.