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Grim Fandango

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LucasArts
1998
Genre:
Adventure
Theme:
Humour / Mystery / Myths and Mythology /
Police & Gangsters
Language:
English, Deutsch, Castellano, Français
Licence:
Commercial
System:
PC (Windows)
Views:
10188

Rating [?]

Herr M.:
5/6
Mr Creosote:
5/6
okgooddays:
6/6
Overall:
5.3/6
Popular Vote:
6/6
Please log in to rate this game!

Screenshots

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Review(s) Please log in to review this game!

Local Reviews

Mr Creosote, Herr M. (2013-05-25) [hide]

Avatar Avatar [Herr M.] For a long time I thought of Grim Fandango as the ‘LucasArts game with the skeletons’, whose appeal was a total mystery to me. Maybe it was because back then, when the game was released, I had been somewhat over-saturated (like many others) by countless adventure games. Also they started copying each other more and more and most of the time provided some awfully boring ideas. Still a game, in which you slip into the role of a bony man, seemed just too silly. In the meantime adventure games are returning again and LucasArts finally closed its gates. So after fifteen years I decided to fill a gap in my knowledge.

[Mr Creosote] For me it's exactly the opposite: This was the first LucasArts adventure game after the Full Throttle disaster, which I bought and played right when it was new. However I haven’t again since 1998, so some brushing up was needed.

[Herr M.] So two very distinct perspectives. It will be interesting to see how much the opinions differ. But I believe there is one thing on which we agree on: It was quite a challenge to get this game up and running after all those years.

[Mr Creosote] Yes… unfortunately this game belongs to the generation of Windows 95 games, which generally have the weakest technical support nowadays. And since it's the first Non-Scumm adventure from LucasArts, it's obvious that ScummVM won’t help. Fortunately Herr M. found something else.

[Herr M.] ResidualVM is the magic word: a game interpreter, that starting to become the ScummVM of the post-Scumm LucasArts-adventures. It's still in the early stages of development, but it actually worked quite well on my system, with a minimum of errors. It didn't all that well in Mr Creosote's case, but I think you were still able to finish it?

[Mr Creosote] I had troubles with some graphical glitches. But yes, thanks to some friendly help from the support forums, I could get through the whole game at least. So nothing keeps us from taking a look at the game’s content straight away…

Welcome to the land of the dead!

[Herr M.] As challenging as it was to finally take a look at the game itself, I have to admit: My first impressions was extremely positive and I was torn between two feelings: ‘Why didn't I play this a long time ago?’ and ‘How nice to dive right into one of those wonderfully zany LucasArts stories once more!’ In any case I was amazed by the strange game world I had discovered and was thoroughly immersed in it right from the opening scene.

[Mr Creosote] In which we see the protagonist, one Manny Calavera, at work. The story is set in the land of the dead (apparently based on south / central American mythology) and it is Manny's job to organise journeys for the freshly arrived souls through this world to… where should he actually guide them?

[Herr M.] Actually this question isn't all that easy to answer, since it's one of the crucial questions of the game. A ‘Ninth Underworld’ is frequently mentioned, which appears to be the destination of all of the dead. Depending on how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a person you were back in life, you can either reach it comfortably by express train or have to prepare for a very long journey.

[Mr Creosote] Well, it seems like we are facing deeply religious themes. You could probably compare it to the catholic notion of a purgatory, where the souls have to be cleansed from their sins for a while, before they can finally ascend into heaven.

But in this case everything seems just to be organised in a somewhat… earthly manner. Manny and his coworkers are travel agents of the worst kind, who are mainly after the fat bonus for selling their travelling packages. Particularly 'good' souls are the appropriately favoured customers.

[Herr M.] Well there parallels to the one or the other religion for sure, but just as you say: everything is very mundane, sometimes even unusually lively for a realm of the dead. Actually almost no one seems to be all that sad to have ended up in this place. Everyone finds his way somehow and some of them even really start to blossom. Well I have to admit that especially the last part is somewhat ambiguous in this game…

I think it’s rather interesting, that those who seem to have been the biggest crooks back in life are now in charge.

[Mr Creosote] Well I wouldn't say that the biggest crooks are in charge. The characters you meet at first, to which Manny also belongs to, are just characterised in a very human way: They have their share of weaknesses and hence care mainly about themselves at times. During the game it might at first appear to be the way you put it, but near the end there is a rather extreme scene in which fate puts things ‘right’ again. But the villains' big conspiracy in the land of the dead does take the game's centre stage for sure.

[Herr M.] Alright, ‘biggest crooks’ might be a tad bit exaggerated, but still: Many people do have (almost always proverbial) skeletons in their closet and are slightly unlikeable. Though I have to admit in a very human way. At least their motives are all too human.

[Mr Creosote] Things begin to kick off when the lovely Meche winds up in Manny's office. In life she was a true saint, so she should easily qualify for a ticket on the Number Nine Express train. Manny is already rubbing his hands, but things turn out to be differently than expected: According to his computer, Meche only qualified for a walking stick and must cover her four year journey on foot. This is the beginning of Manny gradually getting to the bottom of the conspiracy.

[Herr M.] Gradually seems to be quite fitting! Truth be told, I was a little bit surprised how slowly this came to pass. Right at the beginning you find a lot of clues, the story is shaping up quite nicely and then something happens, something I certainly didn't expect: Suddenly it says: 'One year later'!

Episodes from the underworld

[Mr Creosote] The game is divided into four episodes/years, which surely has something to do with said mythologies, in other words with the long and difficult journey of the deceased's souls.

[Herr M.] This episodic style (currently very popular among adventure games, especially to those from the LucasArts 'successors' Telltale Games) entails some advantage and disadvantage. On the one hand it offers a lot of variety: You visit many exotic locations, chat with various figures and experience a series of unexpected triumphs and throwbacks. On the other hand the plot is very choppy: You were just settling in, but in an instant it seems like you are turning up in a totally different story. The most drastic gap occurs between the second and the third year. Sometimes it's also kind of surprising how many things stay the same within four years. Granted, it is a land of the dead, so maybe everything tends to slow down a bit.

[Mr Creosote] Well, there are quite a lot of changes, especially when comparing the second to the fourth year, both of which take place in the same town. But here is my first major point of criticism: The quality of the episodes is very inconsistent!

For example: The second year shines with an outstandingly well designed plot and interesting characters. You return to the same town in year four and in the meantime a rival from year two apparently has gained a lot of influence. At least there were some hints in year two that it might come this way: Manny depicts this rivalry between his cafe/nightclub and the bulky cat race track as a fight like ‘David versus Goliath’.

It seems like in year four, said rival must have gained control over the whole town's activity. But you never learn what happened quite exactly; the remains of the city are simply deserted. The small number of familiar faces Manny meets there do nothing to clear things up. And Manny himself doesn't inquire on this matter, either. So the fourth year appears to be rather lazily done.

[Herr M.] Actually that's what I meant with ‘things staying the same’: You are at exactly the same location, there are only fewer characters standing around. It's never explained what really happened, which is a real pity, considering the fact that you grew kind of fond of this casino city. And now it’s just standing empty. Probably it was the police chief that has closed down all establishments? It’s hinted at this too, but there is nothing specific. So yes this looks like a simple copy. The second time you are there just pick up some plot devices.

Granted, you do revisit some places, that actually do change a lot. This makes the example above all the more painful.

[Mr Creosote] Overall I think that the episode structure doesn't always agree with the overall plot. If you want to construct your story this way, you always have to tell it on two levels: You have to advance the plot of the current episode, while not losing sight of the overall story arc. Sadly the latter occurs a couple of times.

[Herr M.] On their own, the individual episodes are well done for sure. Some of them simply a little bit more, others just a little bit less. Generally speaking, the main story line does work quite well too. Only when trying to bring them together, you get a somewhat uneven whole. It doesn't fit as seamless as it probably could have with a little extra coordination.

In my opinion though, the story works really well despite said flaws. Some things stay a mystery (like the main villain's motives or why Manny cares so much for Meche) but there is a steady development. And while you will be laughing in the beginning, it does get somewhat thoughtful near the end.

[Mr Creosote] I have been giving this a lot of thought too and came to the conclusion that it's actually the second year that doesn't really fit in. On its own, it is the best episode by far, but it does absolutely nothing to advance the global plot. In turn, the latter is set up in the first year (act 1), stands still for a whole year, reaches its climax in the third year (act 2, Manny's capture) while act 3 is spread over the rest of years three and four. So you can still glimpse the structure of a classical drama, but with some chaotic splits and an interlude which seems very forced, from a storytelling point of view.

[Herr M.] I also think that the second episode is simply the best in so many ways. Sadly I have to concur on another thing too: With the exception of some small details, which could as well be introduced in the latter parts, it contributes almost nothing to the main story arc.

Episode Noir

[Mr Creosote] There are various references to the film noir (starting with Meches first appearance) before, but they take a really central place in the second year. In this episode, Manny and his buddy, the naive good-natured demon Glottis, have settled down in the city of Rubacava. Manny runs a club there, whose resemblance to Rick's Cafe Americain from Casablanca certainly isn’t accidental. Like Humphrey Bogart, Manny states that he never drinks with his guests. Also he frequently points out that his concerns about Meche are of a purely professional nature, while his actions just tend to prove otherwise. One of the regulars in his cafe is a Peter-Lorre-wannabe and Glottis constantly tinkles the ivories. I found this very heart-warming!

[Herr M.] I am sorry to say, that I am not that well versed in this genre, yet there were some parallels to Casablanca even I noticed. Like a slightly evil 'Captain Renault', Manny's/Bogart's suit, said Cafe and that almost every person is a smoker.

Fitting to the genre there is a lot of local intrigue too: A dangerous romance, all too nosy people, the police chief, the striking workers, etc.

[Mr Creosote] The striking workers and the apparent problems with the power of the unions, as well as their corruption, are aiming at On the Waterfront. Also a highly acclaimed film, though personally I don't like it all that much. And as much as I liked the homages to Casablanca, considering the South American elements, I think Gilda would have been even more appropriate: Said film is practically the 'South American Casablanca' and also features a character who receives some bribe money at manipulated roulette tables.

[Herr M.] Whether they are taken from films or are original ideas: there is quite a lot of strands in this chapter. I guess they easily could have made a game of their own.

[Mr Creosote] Most certainly there is happening very very much in the second episode, and I wholeheartedly agree, that there would have been enough material for a standalone game. Which in turn would probably have helped the other episodes of this game, by removing this foreign body – as great as it works on its own.

The end of the story

[Herr M.] Let's attend to those remaining episodes: With the exception of one very crazy character I consider the third one to be rather weak. The story regains a lot of momentum in the fourth and leads to a (in my opinion) very satisfying finale, with an ending I am yet undecided on how much I liked it.

[Mr Creosote] The third episode's gameplay actually consists of only a couple of errands, while the story just has to pick up pace again. This leaves much to be desired, but in a way it features the typical conflict between the narrative's pace, which is set by the plot, and the rhythm determined by the gameplay.

[Herr M.] On the whole, the game does handle this quite well: The gaming breaks, that is the puzzles, fit quite nicely to the plot, yes even result from it. They follow the narration in an exemplary manner, without slowing it down too much. That's also why they are a bit too easy sometimes. Still their logic and how they merge with the story arc is commendable.

[Mr Creosote] Well that's not quite the same. Imagine the puzzles (no matter how organically they originate from the plot) were a lot harder and more complex: the story immediately would have been forced to take some major breaks. Compared to those, our complaints about some slow progress in year two would have seemed rather petty…

[Herr M.] You have got a point there. There are more than enough adventure games that grind their plot to a halt with their abundance of unsolvable puzzles.

[Mr Creosote] Balancing all these things (puzzles and similar distractions) is a tricky walk on the tightrope for sure. The game seems to be aimed rather at beginners, it doesn't offer quite enough for adventure game veterans.

As far as balance between story and game progress is concerened, things actually do get better again in year four. If only there wasn't said confusion about what happened to Rubacava during Manny's absence. The city simply doesn't look alive anymore!

[Herr M.] Well at most it does look like the developers ran out of time or ideas. Or maybe they were afraid that the story would slow down too much, if they didn't focus on the absolutely necessary stuff.

The story almost comes 'alive' again towards the end and the main story arc is definitely closed. But because of the gaps a lot of interesting details remain a mystery.

Speaking of mysteries: In my opinion the game's actual puzzles are (not only in the empty city in part four) pretty mediocre. Some of them are quite ingenious and at times you can use items without any relevance to the plot (can't give an adventure game enough credit for that). But often you have one vital problem: Far too few items in far too small rooms. Plus you can't combine items in your inventory and almost never have to talk to anyone in order to solve a puzzle (even if you have to, it's far too obvious). For the most part this makes the game a little bit too easy. Some of the riddles are quite complex and challenging, yet they can be solved rather quickly for this lack of combinations. Said lack might have its roots in the developers finally having the decency to tell a story of a journey that abandons the idea of giving you a whole truckload of junk, which might come in handy some day.

[Mr Creosote] Regarding this ‘truckload of junk’ I would like to add something: I wasn't overly excited about that. It is fair to say, as hinted above, that the world is designed to be rather empty. Its main focus lies on persons and objects you effectively need to finish the game.

Of course the puzzle solving benefits from this. But I think at the same time it seriously harms the world's credibility. None of the episodes gave me the impression of an actually working city.

[Herr M.] Mostly because it's quite different in this respect too: Everything is set in a larger area. There are lots of characters with whom you can talk about all manner of things. You can actually do some irrelevant actions. And the inventory is starting to brim. You pursue several, clear objectives, which you can proceed at the same time. So there is a certain kind of freedom, that begs for exploration.

[Mr Creosote] Funnily enough, the second episode reminded me in turn of Chekov's gun: While running along one of the longer walkways, you will be mocked by a giant zeppelin, hovering above the city, waiting to set off… and then you simply walk out of town without ever setting foot on it! However this appears to be the only red hering throughout the game. As a matter of fact, I would have wished for a lesser focus on puzzle solving.

[Herr M.] Funny: I was absolutely convinced that the finale would take place on this zeppelin. Especially since Manny specifically mentions he is hoping that the fuel is non-flammable this time.

But as far as I can tell there are some other herings too: Like the land of the living (incredibly creative idea, never brought up again), or Chepito, one of my favourite characters, turning up again in chapter four (almost thought this would become important somehow). Still by and large I have to agree with you: The focus always stays on the plot and its advancement.

The living dead

[Mr Creosote] Speaking of Chepito: How did you like the characters overall?

[Herr M.] With very few exceptions (like the main villain or the somewhat bland Meche) I think they ranged from fitting to brilliant. Many of them are very one-dimensional and shallow, but it's only a game after all. I definitely liked said Chepito, his fear of boats and how joyfully out of tune he sung ‘This little light of mine…’. And I can't imagine how you could not grow fond of Glottis. And there is one more character, that I actually liked right from the start, whose sudden turn… took me by surprise.

[Mr Creosote] Interesting… Glottis and Chepito in particular struck me as rather annoying. For my liking it was too obvious that both of them were just meant to provide some cheap laughs.

[Herr M.] Glottis didn't seem that cheap to me: It's just that he is really passionate and truely dedicated to the cause. Besides: He is an excellent fit to the role of a racing demon.

[Mr Creosote] Apart from that I thought the characters were quite fitting to the genre. Though I can't accept your comment about this being 'only' a game, since I am setting the same standards for every narrative medium. I agree with you that some of the characters were bland. The various villains are all rather similar, and even more so the women, who actually only serve as faceless decoration – or did you notice any significant differences between Eva, Carla etc.?

[Herr M.] Regarding the women: I think they are really versatile, except for Meche. We get bored Eva, desperate Carla, cool Olivia and hyperactive Lupe. In my opinion they differ quite a lot from each other. Only Meche is a bit too plain and boring, though this suits the purpose of her role (for the most part).

[Mr Creosote] Whereas in my view two characters make for some great tragedy: Firstly the photographer, Lola, whose final scene shows the emotional power of silence rather than talk. And also Salvador, leader of the underground movement, who seems like a joke for a long time, but near the end, when his ticket starts moving towards him, his character gains some unexpected depth. Unlike the 'intellectual revolutionaries' sitting idly in the nightclub (Hello, People's Front of Judea!), he altruistically gives his ‘life’ for a greater cause which is very real.

[Herr M.] How odd. Just this Salvador seemed rather tiring to me, even near the end. But I see this as a sign of sucessfull charaterization: You care for almost all of the characters and none of them is as featureless, as to make everyone react the same way to them.

Still there is one more character we omitted so far: Manny himself. How did you like the protagonist?

[Mr Creosote] I think he is one of the best protagonists of the genre! A Humphrey-Bogart-wannabe, extremely cynical but still likeable, for his positive, unselfish side, which he tries so hard to hide from the rest of the word? Yet even more likeable, for being just a small-time loser? Count me in!

[Herr M.] I liked a lot that he was a relatively serious character. Well, he does have quite a sense of humor, but with certain (dry) standards. Neither is he a true fanatic, nor does he show no interest at all. And there is one thing I really liked about him: He is incredibly stubborn. He does almost anything to reach his goals. That makes him a perfect adventure game avatar. I liked his Spanglish too, for it was something different.

[Mr Creosote] Don't forget his extremely dry one-liners: I was convinced it was going to be fun to play this character, as soon as Meche asked: ‘Is there any ring on my finger!?’ to which he replied: ‘There's no flesh on it either!’

[Herr M.] Typically for LucasArts they almost fill a book of quotes: ‘My scythe… I like to keep it next to where my heart used to be.’

Life after SCUMM

[Herr M.] Yet how they present the game world is rather untypically: they broke a lot of new grounds by changing the engine. Most notably by switching to ‘3D’ and dropping the traditional SCUMM verb list.

[Mr Creosote] LucasArts had been experimenting with new controls and graphic styles for a couple of years (since Sam & Max Hit the Road). But at its core they simply were minor variations of the SCUMM system. For Grim Fandango they (maybe desperately) designed the game mechanics completely from scratch.

And yet he moves…

[Herr M.] While previously the controls were almost exclusively based on the mouse, Grim Fandango makes do completely without it. The cursor keys make Manny walk around, and he looks at, uses and takes objects by pressing a couple of other (letter) keys. The only thing remaining the same is the F1 key, which brings up the menu.

[Mr Creosote] Somehow this reminds me of Shadow of the Comet: Both the way you run around or trigger your actions with certain keys and how you 'target' objects in the scenery. In each of them you need a line of sight to the object you want. With the difference, that the older game clearly plots this line of sight, while in this game you have to rely on Manny's somewhat subtle head movements and his slightly changing viewing direction. You easily miss a lot of things this way.

[Herr M.] That's not all: It's quite difficult to target one particular object in places with higher item density, because you can't tell which object Manny is currently looking at. Occasionally it would have been nice to know what a certain object is, for the descriptions aren't always that helpful. A simple text line, like you already find it in Escape from Monkey Island, to tell you what you are looking at, would have helped big time.

[Mr Creosote] Yet another difference to Comet is that the cursor keys don't refer to the absolute onscreen directions ('left' --> move left along the screen) but relative to your character. So 'Up' means 'forward', 'left' simply 'turn left'. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this. In any case, it's annoying that Manny turns around so slowly. On the other hand, it's impossible to use absolute directions while the scenes have changing perspectives.

Anyhow, the game tries to lend a hand wherever possible. For example: If you run against a wall, Manny automatically takes a turn. Climbing the spiral staircase up to the zeppelin would have been a real torture without this feature. Then again, this feature accidentally makes you run into the absolutely wrong direction at times.

[Herr M.] Or, like me, you start to hate the lifts, because you keep re-entering them again and again. At the beginning the controls do feel rather unusual for an adventure. Yet I would say, that you get used to them real fast.

[Mr Creosote] I also had those problems with leaving lifts or generally speaking any kind of screen. It worsened by the fact, that similar 'doors' behave differently: Manny opens and enters some of them automatically, as soon as you get him close to them. Others have to be opened by the press of an additional key.

[Herr M.] Sadly a lot of verbs have been dropped once again. Actually they left only three of them, and one of them is 'look'.

[Mr Creosote] As far as 'verbs' go, they easily could have dropped the rest too. 'Use' is covering everything anyway. The controls obviously have been adjusted to console games: directional controls plus the usual three buttons on a game pad. Probably not by accident, since the console industry were just on a major rise.

[Herr M.] As powerful as the 'use' button might be: Often enough I still had to chew on the right use of some object's 'functions'. So it's still no brainless button smashing.

Occasionally you take control of a vehicles. At times this works great (forklfit), other times not (crane).

[Mr Creosote] I think the corresponding puzzles are a mixed blessing. Some of the ideas were rather good, but their execution was often a bit fiddly. Timing puzzles (the forklift is one of them) and repeatedly doing the same (following the shifting street sign while driving the 'Bone Wagon') enhances the feeling of getting closer to the console world. Naturally you could consider this as positive: In a way it's consistent with the other changes.

The same thing goes for the inventory management: You can't just pick an item from a list as usual. Manny has to browse through all of his items at painfully slow speed, picking one after the other from his pockets to show them to the player, until he can do anything with them. As above: It's really inefficient for veteran player, but it does fit the concept.

[Herr M.] Since your inventory rarely gets that crowded (as mentioned above), browsing through this list is never really that much of a hindrance. Even if it does drag on at times. It’s far worse that you can't combine items in the inventory. And whenever you have to activate an item, you have to first take it out of your pockets, turn away from any object and only then are you able to use it.

Generally speaking: The controls are working. Not especially well, but they serve their purpose. And you can handle them without reading a manual.

Traveling to new dimensions

[Mr Creosote] In my opinion the game's audiovisual appearance is less of a mixed blessing. Let's begin with the graphics. You may know by now, that I am absolutely no fan of the polygon experiments which were common in those days. Once again it shows that every tool works perfectly well in the right hands, though.

[Herr M.] It certainly was a wise decision not to trust the puny processing power of (those days) home computers, but to prerender the backgrounds and have skeleton models (which don't exactly need a high polygon count to look great). I guess not relying solely on the 3D gadget but showing some skill at image structure and atmosphere, wasn't quite unimportant to the high quality of the graphics too.

[Mr Creosote] That's it: Image structure and point of view (even if they are disadvantageous to the game sometimes) matter a great deal! And not only is it easy to tell the characters apart visually, they also have an interesting style. Actually they aren't proper skeletons – more like mystical incarnations of the souls in Playmobil style.

[Herr M.] Actually a successful transition from 2D comic style to a 3D shape. I think it's kind of fascinating how much individuality those 'Playmobil' figures have got, considering their rather simple shape. I certainly didn't expect it to be this way, which was one of the main reasons I ignored the game for such a long time. The cutscenes are great too, for their look fits seamlessly. It wasn't until the very end, that I realized that they weren't implemented in the regular engine.

[Mr Creosote] On top of that, I think it’s really pleasing how realistically the characters are moving around (with this kind of graphics your movements normally look like you were wrapped up in cotton). Their looks are also very seamless (no sloping, jutting or obviously glued on limbs). Seamless like the integration of the cutscenes.

I also liked the background music without exception. The songs both suit and back the atmosphere. And I think the voice performances are brilliant too (the German version features 'Alf' Tommi Piper in the lead role).

[Herr M.] Music is a matter of taste, and as far as Grim Fandango is concerned, I am sorry to say, that I think it was (with few exceptions) rather ordinary. I could not name a single song, that is stuck to my memory. There was a certain musical background, which was kind of fitting, but I didn't get carried away.

Regarding the voices: I have been playing the English version and in my opinion all of the roles were cast perfectly well. They simply matched the character, and the speakers certainly show some professionalism (so no cleaning staff rattling a couple of lines)

Small Things

[Mr Creosote] There is absolutely nothing to be said against the production values. I think this covers the main points. Still, there are some small changes that somewhat deviate from the usual norm. Some of them might be labeled as innovations, others rather as workarounds or failed experiments. There is one great scene that belongs to the former category, in which Manny tries to have a talk with Carla. On the surface, this looks like it's going to utilize the usual dialog tree, but in fact the scene is happening concurrently, i.e. Carla doesn't wait patiently until Manny decides to finally say something. She keeps talking, resulting in dynamic changes to Manny's choices. They adapt constantly even without player interaction.

[Herr M.] Definitely my favourite scene! Trough the changes this feels really authentic, and the offered interjections are truly priceless. In the end she only reacts to the one thing you want. I think the volume is nice too: They don't just drop some text snippets. Instead Carla is telling half a novel, while Manny has several dozens replies on hand.

Probably not as innovative, but still unusual is a scene at the nightclub, in which you create improvised poems. Some of them aren't that bad after all.

Obituary

[Mr Creosote] Those are rather small, quiet scenes, which happen almost incidentally, appear to be of relatively little relevance. Yet it's exactly those moments without a need for especially complex mechanics, that make this game so appealing to me.

There might be a lot of things to criticise about the over-all plot, we discussed them quite a lot. Also about dramatic composition and plot structure. About puzzles and controls anyway. But (execept for the last point) this is highly specific criticism!

[Herr M.] I also think though what we criticise this game for might dampen the overall impression, many of those things are a matter of opinion. Especially the controls or the level of difficulty. There are no truly major flaws.

And the overall impression is definitely a good one. Above all I liked the game's very individual feeling: The unusual scenes mentioned above, the unique blend of American cults of the dead with film noir and many original ideas, the plot's episode structure (as imperfect as it is)… all of this has a very particular charm.

[Mr Creosote] The story provides an interesting charm with its melancholy, yet ironically also with its high appreciation of life itself. Something very rare in narrative games, which makes you ignore one or another small quirk on various levels. My opinion is clear: A lonely highlight from a regrettably mediocre period of a company far beyond its peak.

[Herr M.] The one thing I like most about the story is that it's self-contained. It does have a conclusive ending. Maybe it's a slightly bumpy ride, but there is a progress right from the beginning up to the ending, which will give you a feeling of fulfilment. So yes, this does make it a perfect parable of LucasArts itself. A worthy conclusion to LucasArts adventure division, pulling out all the stops one last time.

okgooddays (2017-06-02) [hide]

Avatar Okay, this game is legendary and I give it a solid 6 out of 6 for endless creativity, intoxicating atmosphere, music and sound design and overall top quality.

It’s amazing how the production team managed to pull of that level of visual quality taking into account the limitations of hardware of the time. Of course the choice of theme helped a little bit, but not only the skull candy models look awesome, but the whole art deco setting is astoundingly beautiful and atmospheric.

The story is on par with the all of the above - it’s captivating and keeps you asking for more. I love all the characters and voice acting, there’s really really little to complain in that regard.

But…

This game is also incredibly hard. I play it every 5-6 years and last time I replayed it I made myself a favour and played it partially with walkthrough and forums to make sense of the puzzles and some of the story. The bit with the ticket and identical booths was insane. I spent hours and hours trying to figure it out. And that’s just one of the examples of questionable puzzle design. The mapping and exploration system is also no good. I’m always at a loss with regards where I am and where I am supposed to go now and how to reach this or that destination.

The story is great and the graphics and designs are fantastic, sure, but the gaming aspect was always kind of a chore for me personally. I replayed this game many times and every time I felt stuck and frustrated, so I decided that I’ll just perceive this games as an endlessly creative visual novel with a gorgeous production design and heart-touching music and story.

On a side not I would add that the remastered version is now a preferable way to play for me because point and click interface they added is infinitely more convenient than the keyboard control from the original version. It’s also not perfect I very much disliked the fact that they decided not to change clunky inventory system, but in other aspects it’s really a great improvement.

Contemporary Reviews [hide]

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Year 1

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Comments (2) [hide] [Post comment]

Herr M. (2014-06-22):

Sounds interesting… that is if they don't stick to the Playstation and just improve the things that need some fine tuning (like the controls and maybe the graphics).

Mr Creosote (2014-06-21):

Apparently, this game is getting a remake.
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