The GWJ Adventure Game Club - Game 17: Grim Fandango

Grim Fandango (1998)


Directed by Tim Schafer, developed and published by LucasArts, Grim Fandango is the first adventure game by LucasArts to use 3D computer graphics overlaid on pre-rendered static backgrounds. Leading to the infamous "tank controls".

Set in the Land of the Dead, where recently departed souls (represented as calaca-like figures) attempt to reach their final destination, this adventure game follows the journey of Manuel Calavera (aka Manny) as he tries to save saintly new arrival Mercedes Colomar (aka Meche) and uncovers a conspiracy bigger than both of them. The game features a gorgeous aesthetic which combines Aztec elements of the afterlife with a film noir style.

You can find the wikipedia page here, the usual spoiler warning applies. How Long to Beat estimates about 15 hours to completion. Available on Windows, Linux, OS X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Android, iOS and even the Nintendo Switch!!

You can find the main thread over this way. We'll be playing Grim Fandango through March 2020, with an extra month for stragglers like me.

Banner art by Jonas Åkerlund, Concept Artist at DICE.

If you get stuck, don't hesitate to ask here, or check out the Universal Hint System!

I'm super excited for us to play this gem, and to kick things off, here's my favorite track from the delightful soundtrack by Peter McConnell:

I'm down. Perfect game at the perfect time.

I'm in. Been waiting on an excuse to give this the attention it (by all accounts) deserves.

I bounced off it early on in the late 90's/early 2000's. The controls really got to me then...but I did make it through Escape from Monkey Island just a few weeks ago (granted with gritted teeth), so I know I can do it in Grim Fandango as well.

AUs_TBirD (and potentially others), rejoice!
You don’t have to use tank controls if you sont want to!!!!! You can switch to “classic” point and click interface, at least that’s how it was in my remastered version on the PC.

There’s a cheevo for getting through the game on tank controls and Tim Shaffer has said it’s the “real” way to play it, though. Just sayin’.


Disclaimer: I am kidding and playing with a p&c interface is a perfectly fine way to play the game, the most important thing is to enjoy it!!

Empezando ahora mismo. ¡Deséenme buena suerte!

First off...I *highly* recommend changing the aspect ratio to 4:3 in the "Special Features" menu. Manny looks like he's had one too many tacos without it.

Grim Fandango is in my top ten of all time, but I highly suggest using the Universal Hint System. Enjoy the story, the voice acing, and the wonderful atmosphere.

Just finished in Marrow, I haven’t played before. No hints. The puzzles are challenging but fair.

I'm going to endeavour to play this game...

Started in last night and got a nice little hit of nostalgia. I had forgotten just how good the voice acting is, and the remaster looks pretty decent too! It's a countdown to the first puzzle where I remember the end solution while having no recollection of how to get there, but I suspect I won't hold out long before consulting the UHS this time around.

Has anyone managed to get this on Android? It seems to be off the google play store for some reason. It's still even linked from the game's official page, but the link just goes to a page that doesn't exist anymore.

I’ve started playing. The game holds up. I like Manny already.

I'm sorry to say that I don't know, d4m0. Maybe you'll have better luck emailing support?

For those of you still unsure whether or not to join in, I streamed the first year (out of 4) last night, so you can find that here. It's been a few years, but good grief, I still know the game like the back of my hand.

I'm feeling like I'm not in the right headspace for Grim Fandango.

I wanted to experience this classic by Double Fine but moving back and forth through the games environments trying random solutions to puzzles doesn't appeal the way it once did. I thought playing with a guide would be the obvious solution but reading three or so steps in the guide, enacting those steps in the game then going back to read the next few steps wasn't a way of playing I enjoyed either.

I've started watching the game through on YouTube and, sacrilegious as it feels, I think that's the way I'm going to go. I get to experience the fantastic characters, witty dialogue, wild feats of imagination and the intriguing story without feeling guilty about being frustrated with the games puzzles.

Tbh, I haven't even started yet. Haven't played much of anything this month except for some stuff with the kiddo.

I'll get back to streaming Grim Fandango, I promise. I'm sorry, everyone, I've been a bit MIA, but between the move and the hospital, I've had very little free time, not to mention that my ISP cut my internet earlier than they should've. But I'm here, I'm back and I'm planning a stream of year 2 on Sunday. Hope you all drop by!

I watched the game all the way though and I thought it was a ton of fun. I can heartily recommend the play through above. Some of the puzzles later in the game, we're very clever. I liked:


How Manny found the metal detector in the massive cat litter tray by waving his scythe over it in the reverse of what you normally do with metal detectors.

I'm glad I've experienced this game now even if not in the way intended. It one of the big ones that escaped me back when it first came out.

That's so awesome!! I'm glad you got to experience it in some form, Hig! I'll conceded that my playthrough may have been a bit of a speed run, because I don't delve into all dialog and Easter eggs. I really enjoyed playing it again, though, because it's such a gorgeous game, very near and dear to my heart.

There's one thing none of you should miss, though, and it's Glottis singing:

Reached year 2 (and got a ways in) last night. I did not see that change in Manny's situation coming!

Also, the sudden language change by the tattoo artist was a delight! I would NOT have caught that joke 14 years ago before my move to Hungary.

Oh sweet! I'm glad you're enjoying it! Year 2 is by far my favorite year, though Rubacava can be annoying and confusing to navigate sometimes. And Toto Santos is great, I adore him. Though...


it breaks my heart when he tells Manny to say hi to Lola, when we know she's already been sprouted.

Year 3. Glottis really has some skills! Too bad I never got him to take a request in year 2... At ;east I became really popular with some bees, even if it took a few tries to get them to warm up to me.

Speaking of year 2, I got stuck several times and had to get some hints. At least once I knew what to do, but couldn't figure out -exactly- how the game wanted me to do it.
I hope I do better in year 3.

Reached year 4. Got stuck twice at the last main area of year 3 in a similar vein to year 2. Mouse controls aren't ALWAYS the best way to play on each screen....just usually.

End of year 3 was pretty satisfying, I have to say.

Oh sweet, you're making great progress! Yeah, year two is the chunkiest one and with more locations, more people, it's not necessarily the easiest. Year four is pretty quick, too, so you're getting there! But year three is very satisfying. Especially with Domino and all that.

I tried, I really did, but kinda like what Hig described, I wasn't in the right headspace. So finally I looked up a walkthrough, followed the steps, and each one elicited a "It'd have taken me a while to come to that conclusion." Also just following walkthrough steps isn't very satisfying.

Adventure games were the form of my youth, and I wondered why this was so hard for me to get into, and it finally came to me that when I played games like this as a youth, it was with my friends too, clustered around absurdly thick monitors and shouting out what to do. It's not quite the same with just my dog, which is probably why I very much like what the modern incarnation of the form has become, focusing on story and character and theme while being very low impact on the What To Do side on things. A little disappointed in myself, but, eh, not much I can do about it. I'll satisfy myself with a let's play as well.

Don't beat yourself up over it, SpaceP. I know quite well how it can be tricky to get inot the right mindset, and sometimes, it just doesn't happen, and that's okay. A Let's Play is a perfectly valid way of experiencing the game and I'd advise that over not experiencing it at all (though I'd recommend not watching mine, because I skipped over a lot of the dialogs! ).

Credits rolled last night! Not sure why, but I was surprised when they did as I expected another 20-30 minutes of game for some reason.

I'm very glad to finally be able to check this off of my to do list (I bought it from Office Max in Auburn Alabama in 1999, a few months after it was released). It was, except for a few niggles, a very positive experience! Thanks to everyone who voted for it

Some thoughts:


Definitely looked up a few solutions - usually via UHS, a few via Youtube. In most cases, I just didn't see something I could interact with, such as the medicine cabinet in the tatoo parlor, or the ledge by the alligator.
As mentioned before, point-and-click is usually, but not always the best way to play. A few spots seemed unsolvable without using keyboard controls - either to reach an area, to be able to see Manny look at something that could be interacted with - but didn't show up when mousing over it, or to force an interaction via keyboard shortcuts because the mouse cursor would not react.
Wtf happened in Rubacava? The only hints we get are that (almost) everyone is gone, and that it's a "mob town".
Domino's style of bomb definitely got a laugh out of me! I totally stumbled into the first part of the solution.
The latter half of the game feels a big light on content. What I mean is that some of the locations seem like they could have been fleshed out much more - I'm specifically thinking about the Edge of the World and the Casino.
Navigating the edge of the world was a slog! It made me long for Rubacava.
Viva la revolucion!

Glad you wrapped it up. Some things haven't aged well, for sure, and I know I have a strong rose colored glasses bias.

I started into this earlier in the week (continuing to come fashionably late to the club pick party, I suppose). I have heard this game mentioned a lot but knew essentially nothing going in. It's been fun so far. Hoping to take some time with it over the weekend.

I've just made it to Rubacava. Having fun so far, and I particularly love the music!


Definitely glad for the UHS - a couple of those puzzles were really obtuse, and I don't tend to want to walk through every environment five times to get to where I'm supposed to be. But I have been able to hold back on using it too much and solved a few puzzles without any help (like making a cast of my teeth!). A bit mad that the game took away my stash of balloon animals and bread when I left El Marrow.

The bridge with the fire beavers was an example where UHS saved me a ton of time - I had the right idea with the bones and the fire extinguisher, but would never have noticed that little area to the side where I was supposed to lure them.

Glottis is excellent. I love how his ears twitch about and the car noises he makes when you stop are positively absurd.

Oh, I forgot about the bridge. I had the exact same issue there.

Finished Year 2, got partway into Year 3.


I was really stunned at the year transition - that bit was a little spoiled by chatter here and in the hint guide but I was not expecting the casino! Rubacava was neat and the soundtrack continued to be great. Made sure to catch Glottis singing! I found most of the puzzles pretty accessible, there were a few times I had to double check what I was doing though, or I'd made it to the right place and not interacted with the right person/object.

The transition into Year 3 was amusing. Mr. Dragon laughed at the pan down to Manny as captain - he didn't watch Year 1 so I was more ready for it. They really got me with that intro, I thought we'd be spending more time on the boat. I've made it to the edge now and started poking about. Meche seems hardened by her experiences... I'm in a spot where I don't really know what puzzle the game wants me to solve. I'll sit down with it and the UHS sometime this week and figure it out.

Finished up the game a couple nights ago! All in all really enjoyed it, glad this gave me the push to experience one of the classics.

Year 3:


Managed to poke about a bit and solve some puzzles through sheer "this is a thing I can do" - giving the tiny hammer to Chepito and then detaching the excavator from the crane, for instance. It wasn't til I brought it back 'round and dropped the chain that I realized what I was supposed to do. I'd actually thought I'd broken the whole assemblage! Which made me glad that the game didn't have fail states. Manny was bright enough to keep me from using things where I shouldn't. (I did make the angelitos cry a lot though, I'm not a good dad.)

Enjoyed the ending to that year - was not ready for Meche to pull the gun on me or for Domino to go out like that.

Year 4:


I was rather distressed at the possibility of losing Glottis again, but perhaps for real this time... they really got me both times with that one. I was very close on solving the speed rocket gondola puzzle on my own - I'd remembered there was something about the packing stuff from Year 1 but was never going to remember what it was. The little gremlins made me laugh.

I'm almost disappointed that we didn't get to see the rest of Rubacava, especially whatever happened to Calavera's. Here again I got all the components to solve the puzzle but was never, ever going to arrive at "flood the domino room and freeze it." Bizarre. Loved seeing the Bone Wagon again, I'd missed her.

El Marrow was fun. I was suspicious of Olivia from the get-go, but her exit did leave me wondering what her deal was - did she actually get cheated out of a ticket or just believe herself to be? I also really wish that a couple things (including UHS, *shakes fist*) hadn't spoiled me on the part where you get sprouted. But oh well, I handled that without hints. I did spend about five minutes taking potshots at Hector because I was just convinced I was bad at shooting. Wound up giving in and looking up what to do because I'd stayed up too late playing two nights in a row and just needed it to be over. I'd been trying to interfere with the water this WHOLE TIME! Gratifying ending though. I did ponder through the credits about Manny leaving yet another power vacuum in his wake... I'm sure El Marrow will be fine...