Grim Fandango came out in 1998 from Lucasarts, and gave the gaming world something that was never done before, and probably never will be done again: an artistic depth. I`m not talking about some good drawings and nice music, I`m talking about art deco architecture, free form jazz, illustrations full of culture, and a plot that says "somebody sat down and actually thought about this" all over it.
Grim Fandango is a graphic adventure set in a world stuck between our world (whatever that means) and the afterlife, called the Land of the Dead. The story follows the travel agent Manuel (Manny) Calavera, who attempts to save Meche Colomar, a newly arrived but virtuous soul during her journey to the nine underground (afterlife).
Manny`s world combines elements of the Aztec belief of afterlife with some film noir tones and Casablanca-like old movie setting. But at the end, it`s an adventure game where you click your way into the game`s beautifully designed plot. So it kinda feels like eating a five-michelin star dinner alone at home in front Seinfeld.
There are some problems with making a classy game. First of all, as a player, you can`t tell anybody. What are you gonna do, run and tell people that the game is frickin full of character? As a person playing computer games, your reputation of understanding and commenting on art and class is probably not too high. So your whole enthusiasm explodes inside, nodding to the screen with a stupid smile on your face. Secondly, classy games don`t sell much, because it`s not democracy, but mediocracy ruling on this earth. Sadly, the game became a victim of too high of a quality and could not sell too well.
All in all, not many games talk about death. They show death, they create and celebrate death, but never ever really talk about death. This one does - with cool jazz, latin overtones and some unexpected referrals to other uncommon topics like freedom, poetry and inward journeys.
I`m not going to suggest that you should take that journey, play this game or make an effort to understand it. I`m just saying whatever you do, if you have to talk about games someday, don`t you dare to ignore Grim Fandango.
..or this whole crowd below will get you to the nine underground by force.
pics by lucasarts and pocketgamer.co.uk