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Unfurl Your Scythes, Grim Fandango Is Now Available

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1998 was a pretty significant year for many gamers on many platforms. Half-Life, StarCraft, Thief, Unreal, Descent: Freespace, Heart of Darkness, Metal Gear Solid, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, Ocarina of Time, Baldur's Gate, SoulCalibur and Spyro all made their debuts this year, raising the bar for their respective genres. For Linux gamers, Loki Software was founded, and our friends at LinuxGames launched their site.


Today, one title that holds its own amongst these classics was released for Linux. LucasArts' acclaimed film noir styled take on Aztec afterlife and underworld mythology, Grim Fandango, has been released today for Linux, Mac OS and Windows, making the game commercially available for the first time in nearly two decades.


Beyond being published during a cool year, Grim Fandango stands out for its strong characterisation, engaging story and sweet tank controls (people hate this now, but I don't remember anybody at the time thinking it was terrible), and has received widespread recognition as one of the most significant adventure games ever made.

Grim Fandango tells the tale of Manuel Calavera, a travel agent for the Department of Death, who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy as he attempts to save an innocent traveler from a dangerous journey across the Land of the Dead. Grim Fandango exposes some of the most cinematic storytelling ever realised in a game at the time, and garnered almost immediate recognition from critics.

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In addition to being the recipient of numerous awards and being included in a huge number of lists of important/good/noteworthy/loved games since its release, the game has maintained a strong fan base and carved out a special place in the hearts of many players (check out page three of The International House of Mojo's Secret History article on Grim Fandango for a nice collection of fan thoughts - in fact, check it all out, it's a good article), leading to a community developed engine replacement, a graphical modernisation overhaul, fan movies, stop motion reproductions, and more.

Grim Fandango is also often noted for how well its visuals have aged compared to other titles of similar vintage. Rather than striving for realism, Peter Tsaykel and his team worked with the limitations of the technology at the time by creating low polygon characters styled after skeletal calaca figurines (which play a role in the Día de los Muertos celebrations that the game draws upon).

Tim SchaferI mean that's actually the genesis of Grim Fandango. 3D art had just started, but a lot of us didn't want to use it because we thought 2D art was so much better-looking at the time. I thought 3D characters in real time looked like a nylon stocking stretched over a bunch of cardboard boxes duck-taped together.

But when I was looking at the Dios de Los Muertos, I noticed they built the skeletons as these solid tube-shaped bodies with the ribcage painted on. And I thought, what does that remind me of? It was like cheap texture mapping. It's made to be mass-produced and built really quickly and so it's perfect for rudimentary 3D engines and stuff. (source)


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Grim Fandango Remastered aims to be a work of preservation first and foremost, presenting the game in its original form (that includes its original 4:3 aspect ratio) along with some small enhancements. New dynamic lighting and self-shadowing helps place characters within the game's scenes in ways that were less achievable at the time of the original release, and the game's 3D elements are rendered at native resolution now, giving them a crispness that compensates (and perhaps overcompensates) for the initial version's contrast between low resolution real time characters and higher fidelity pre-rendered backgrounds. There are also some more subtle changes, such as high resolution textures that re-create the original textures' characteristics whilst not being limited to the same colour palette constraints.

The game's award winning soundtrack has been re-recorded by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (who also performed Broken Age's score), adding some extra depth to the game's soundscape, and polishing up some rough edges under the direction of the game's original composer, Peter McConnell.

The input system has been given an overhaul, with scene relative movement controls (rather than the beloved tank controls) being the default for keyboard and gamepad play, and a new mouse interface which allows the game to be played as a traditional point and click adventure. This feature comes less than a year after community modder Tobias Pfaff released a point and click interface for Grim Fandango running under ResidualVM (it's worth noting that Tobias was credited as a consultant for Grim Fandango Remastered and spent time in the Double Fine offices assisting with the project).

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The game also features developer commentary, a concept art browser and the ability to toggle between old and new rendering modes.

If you're looking for a remake or a reimagining, then Grim Fandango Remastered isn't for you. It's the 1998 experience with a little extra shine, plus some additional insight into its development. Grim Fandango Remastered is now available for Linux on Steam, GOG and the Grim Fandango Remastered website (via Humble widget).



I still play through the game every couple of years, and even with that level of familiarity, I can't help but worry about Meche, grin at Glottis' indomitable spirit, root for Manny, and get swept up in this tale of corruption in the Land of the Dead. Grim Fandango is captivating in ways that few games have been before or since, and Manny's journey unveils a rich world filled with memorable and believable characters whose comings and goings feel like they mean something - their hopes, aspirations, tragedies and victories touch Manny and through him, they touch us.


This is a piece of gaming history and heritage that I'm glad to be able to share with Linux users, and I hope that the remastered edition ensures its longevity and accessibility for a long time to come though both its current availability and by inspiring projects like ResidualVM and Grim Fandango Deluxe to continue and grow.


¡Viva la Revolución!
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Comments on this article are now closed.
Smilex 27 January 2015 at 9:01 pm UTC
  • Supporter
Will absolutely get this, but only to add to the collection. I don't see a reason to play this after watching the amazing non-commentary LP of the game
flesk 27 January 2015 at 9:10 pm UTC
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  • Contributing Editor
  • Supporter
I'm playing it now and I'm very satisfied with how it turned out. Having it officially supported for Linux is great, and it's awesome that many will now get the chance to play this gem for the first time.
drmoth 27 January 2015 at 10:58 pm UTC
This looks fantastic...I never thought I would get a chance to try this game, but there you go.
Steam says it has full controller support, any idea how this fares?
Shmerl 27 January 2015 at 11:44 pm UTC
If you are using XFS partition larger than 1 TB, you might encounter the bug that prevents launching the game. There is a workaround (simply place it on a smaller partition even using a loop device). See here.
pd12 28 January 2015 at 1:40 am UTC
please add Starsiege: Tribes (my favourite game of all time) ^^ to your list of 1998 games xD
Cheeseness 28 January 2015 at 3:57 am UTC
drmothThis looks fantastic...I never thought I would get a chance to try this game, but there you go.
Steam says it has full controller support, any idea how this fares?

I haven't tried this personally, but I spoke to another reviewer with Linux access, who I believe had tried it with success. I can have a go a bit later on today if you need confirmation.

pd12please add Starsiege: Tribes (my favourite game of all time) ^^ to your list of 1998 games xD

Ha ha, the list of noteworthy games from 1998 is definitely too big to include
drmoth 28 January 2015 at 4:35 am UTC
Thanks @Cheeseness, no rush but if you get a chance i'd love to know if it works flawlessly. I will get this title, just a question of when....and if I can play it on the couch that might accelerate the 'when'
Kallestofeles 28 January 2015 at 10:16 am UTC
Oh boy have I waited for this. I have never checked out any let's plays on Grim Fandango, nor have I played the original. All this because I was always waiting for the perfect time to sit down and just do it. But ever since the announcement I've been keeping a close eye on this to play it through.
Needless to say, got it a couple of days ago and now installing it on my 14.04LTS... as I just finished Metro2033 redux, this is the perfect time to finally check out the game that's been intriguing me for so many years.

A huge thanks for the devs for the linux version!
Hello Toonie 29 January 2015 at 10:50 am UTC
Really enjoyed this back in the 90s, replayed it a couple of times (under WINE!), still have fond memories. TBH I'm always reluctant to buy the same game twice, but the (minor) enhancements might make it worth it.

Respect to Double Fine to their continued Linux support.
Cheeseness 30 January 2015 at 1:34 pm UTC
drmothThanks @Cheeseness, no rush but if you get a chance i'd love to know if it works flawlessly. I will get this title, just a question of when....and if I can play it on the couch that might accelerate the 'when'

I've done some brief testing and it doesn't seem to recognise my Logitech F310. I haven't had time to file a bug report yet.
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