Grim Fandango: How To Get The Metal Detector
Manny Calavera is an ordinary working stiff. He isn’t a king on a quest, a Chosen One, or a super-soldier lugging around tons of powerful weapons and slick gadgets. He’s a short, debt-ridden, unlucky travel agent who learned a little too much and made some powerful enemies. Now his only goal in life (or whatever) is to find and help the beautiful Mercedes Colomar, a beautiful woman with a good heart (or whatever). She spent her whole life helping others, and due to his incompetence, at the last moment her well-deserved reward is snatched away by a bunch of crooks. Maybe there’s no justice in this world, or in the next, but Manny will keep working, traveling, and racking his skull for as long as it takes to solve the many confounding, fiddly little obstacles that stand between him and Meche. He screwed up, and Meche paid the price, but there must be something in his bottomless inventory that can make things right.
He’ll need a coffee grinder. A demon’s broken heart. A balloon shaped like Robert Frost.
He’s gonna need a metal detector.
[If you haven’t played LucasArts’ breathtaking new adventure game, Grim Fandango, these hints give away the solution to the metal detector puzzle. Don’t worry, it’s not a major puzzle, but the big question is, what are you waiting for? Play it today!]
Why do I need a metal detector?
To detect metal. Because the world is full of useful junk, haven’t you noticed? To give to someone, which tricks them into doing something, which persuades someone into letting him into a place he needs to be, so that someday he can get to Meche. It’s supposed to be difficult. These puzzles are a delicate dance between the designer and the player, and the only consistent rule is that sometimes the designer has a wicked sense of humor. Expect to be frustrated in Grim Fandango, to go down blind alleys, to give up, take a walk, and come back to it later, to beg your smarter friend to play it with a fresh pair of eyes. You have all the time in the world to feel confused and stupid—even if it takes years, sooner or later you will figure it out. There is always a solution. Sometimes, in retrospect, it makes some crazy sense.
Membrillo, the coroner: We may have years, we may have hours, but sooner or later, we push up flowers.
Be like that, then. WHERE is the metal detector?
Carla has it. Carla is the security guard at the blimp port by the cat racetrack. Carla is really just an obstacle between you and an item, and in a lesser game, she would just be some officious security guard that Manny simply has to distract somehow. The beauty of Grim Fandango is that this simple puzzle is completely grounded in the world and characters. Carla is a cynical, flirty dame who falls for the wrong type of guy, deliberately, repeatedly. She’s got a crush on Manny and a grudge against his dippy coat-check girl. Of course, Manny only cares about finding Meche, and Carla knows it, but she cares enough to be jealous. All the extra security measures also tie in to an ongoing sub-plot of union organizers, revolutionaries, and the gangsters who run the town of Rubacava. There are stories within stories, and like any good mystery, the truth only comes out at the very end. In the meantime, just soak up the atmosphere and try to get the stuff you need.
Manny looks at the hand-held metal detector: It’s a metal detector.
Carla: Oh, so THAT’S why it never gets my hair dry!
How do I get that sweet, sweet metal detector?
Manny: Let’s slip into the back room for a minute. You can tell me all about your job: the danger, the metal detectors ... .
In chatting with Carla, Manny makes it clear that he’s very interested in getting a closer look at her metal detector. However, she has to follow procedure. If he sets off the full body scanner, she’ll make him take out all of his inventory. Then she gets to hand-scan him, and if he still sets it off with empty pockets, she can take him into the back room for a strip search. The strip search is her favorite part of the job.
Manny carries a big metal scythe. It will set off the detector just fine. He needs to find a way to set off the second scan after he dumps out his pockets.
The solution to this and perhaps other problems can be found in a bottle of liquor. At the bar, Manny finds a bottle of “Gold Flake” liquor. This generic, afterlife Goldschläger is infused with little metal particles which will remain in his system for a couple minutes, until he burps. Simply take a swig before going through the detector, and Carla will have to take Manny into a more private area for a more personal search. Get ready to see two desperate souls let themselves go in the heat of passion, unconstrained by social taboos or skin!
This isn’t that kind of game, is it? Is it?
No, and that’s probably for the best. Manny only cares about finding Mercedes Colomar, and Carla—well, Carla has some issues. Things get pretty crazy in the back room, in a morbidly hilarious sequence so clever that it would be wrong to spoil it even a bit. The only hint needed here is that sooner or later, Manny needs to come clean, and just tell her what he wants.
Carla: Did you just come back here to ask to borrow my metal detector? What is it with you and this thing? I’m sick of it, Manny! Why is it all men are after the same thing—except you?
Grim Fandango is an adventure game, through and through. Manny lies, steals, and plays one character against another to get to his goal, which is always just out of reach until the end of the player’s long, tantalizing journey of logic and illogic. What it does better than any other adventure to date is fleshing out those cold intellectual contortions and filling a world with characters, vignettes, and themes which linger in the brain long after the story ends. I haven’t mentioned the funniest character, or the most emotional moment—I find myself holding back as much as possible so that anyone reading this has a chance to savor the story of Manny and Meche relatively unspoiled, except for a bit about a metal detector. I’ve loved games for a long time, but this is the one I’ve loved the most.
But about that metal detector ...
What about it?
I went through all that, and in the end, I still don’t get it.