In case you haven't been keeping up with your spooky holiday calendar, it's November 1st - meaning that we're happily sandwiched between Hallowe'en and Mexico's Day of the Dead. In other words, it's the perfect time to surprise-release LucasArts' classic (and extremely skeleton-heavy) adventure Grim Fandango on Switch. And, look, here it is now!
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Android has long played second fiddle in the mobile game department with the more mainstream Apple courting the development market, but Android device owners are catching a break with the latest Android-exclusive Humble Bundle, which offers many of the greatest adventure games in years for an extraordinarily low price.
Acclaimed game audio wizard Jory Prum has passed away, aged just 41.
The latest Humble Bundle honouring Orbyt Play, a celebration of indie games streaming on YouTube this Saturday, offers players very cheap ways of acquiring good games and giving to charity.
Pay $1 (about £0.70) or more and you'll acquire minimalist platformer INK, competitive sidescroller SpeedRunners, and two-button fighter Divekick.
Pay more than the average - currently $3.24 (about £2.24) and you'll also receive Tim Schafer's classic noir adventure Grim Fandango along with survival RPG Dead State: Reanimated.
Psychonauts and Brutal Legend developer Double Fine has discounted its 10-game bundle by 80 per cent this weekend on Steam, bringing the total to £15.19 / $19.99.
Grim Fandango Remastered is out today on iOS and Android devices, possibly in honour of Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican holiday celebrating the nation's victory over the French in 1862.
Priced at £7.99 / $9.99, this represents a modern update on Tim Schafer's cult classic. As such, it hosts higher resolution textures, dynamic lighting, a re-recorded orchestral soundtrack and two hours of developer commentary.
The noir-tinged merging of murder mystery and Mexican folklore has aged splendidly in the nearly 17 years since release in 1998. Eurogamer contributor Richard Cobbett recommended this remastering, even if he had some reservations about its puzzles. "Like the film noir classics it borrows from, it looked and sounded great at release, and still holds onto its style," he wrote in his Grim Fandango Remastered review.
There's a line in the new Grim Fandango Remastered's Director's Commentary that sums it up perfectly: "When you're making something, it should be something that only has been made by you, at the time you made it, in the place you made it." More than most games, never mind adventures, it's impossible to imagine any other team having made the original. It's a credit to every member of it that if this new Remastered edition doesn't seem to have changed all that much, it's because there really wasn't much in need of updating. Like the film noir classics it borrows from, it looked and sounded great at release, and still holds onto its style.
There's no arguing Grim Fandango's pedigree. It's one of the most beloved adventures of all time, and one of the few deemed worthy of sharing a VIP room with the likes of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. For the most part, it deserves that. Main character Manny Calavera in particular is easily one of Lucasarts' finest creations; a grim reaper/travel agent for the dead on a four year journey through the underworld in search of the woman whose destiny he lost. His Art Deco world of Mexican papier-mâché dolls is a work of creative genius, from the Brazil style technology of opening city El Marro to the moonlit waters of Rubacava. Every scene is lovingly rendered, every piece of music so good that it's impossible to imagine anything else going in its place, every conversation sparkles with wit and warmth. Some details of the plot are best not thought over too carefully, especially the nature of Manny's job and trying to do Glengarry Glen Ross in a world where the best clients are given freebies for their good lives, but hey. The heart and style of it easily papers over those pesky cracks.
Grim Fandango Remastered wisely doesn't mess with any of this, avoiding any heavy-handed modernisation like the updates that made the original Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition such a pile (the sequel was better). Instead, it increases the texture quality so that characters are as sharp as they should be, adds a few lighting effects that aren't particularly dramatic but don't hurt, and introduce a point-and-click interface to go along with the original's tank controls (plus a certain pointed achievement if you play through it the old fashioned away). This annoyingly can't distinguish between 'use this' and 'use item on this' though, so you still have keep putting things away to interact with them, and go to a separate screen to check and select inventory items. One puzzle, involving pulling levers, had me at the keyboard before a solution would work. Those are are very minor irritations though.
Grim Fandango is finally being re-released tomorrow after being stuck on CDs since its October 1998 launch. Never available for console or digital download, many thought the cult classic would remain a rare collector's item for adventure game enthusiasts. When a special edition of LucasArts' arguably best-known adventure, The Secret of Monkey Island, came out in the summer of 2009, it led many to believe that Grim Fandango would follow. Yet years went by without so much as a whisper of a re-release. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm on Grim Fandango's 14th anniversary in 2012, many thought it was a lost cause. Disney is notorious for its family-friendly fare, so a tale of crime and corruption with liberal use of drinking, smoking and sexual innuendo didn't exactly fit the house of mouse's modus operandi.
Day of the Tentacle is getting a remastered Special Edition for PS4, Vita, PC, Mac and Linux, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer announced at the PlayStation Experience keynote.
Schafer was the lead on the original game, so he and the fine folks at Double Fine will be handling this restoration.
Speaking of LucasArts classics getting remade by Double Fine, Grim Fandango Remastered is coming to PS4, Vita, PC, Mac and Linux on 27th January.
The Grim Fandango revamp has also been confirmed for PC (Windows, Linux) and Mac, and will launch alongside the PS4 and Vita versions whenever that happens to be - still no word on that.
Chances of the game - a "console exclusive" for PS4 and Vita - coming to Xbox One are understandably slim. Skeleton slim.
Grim Fandango is a LucasArts adventure game from a bygone era. But the stylish 'Day of the Dead meets film noir' setting and sharp writing (and rather challenging puzzles but perhaps I'm thick) make it an experience that stands the test of time. It oozes character.