Grim Fandango is one of the best adventure games LucasArts has ever released. You know that already, but is this new remastered version worth paying for? If you don't want to read the whole review, and just want the short of it, the answer is unequivocally yes. Whether you've never played this game before or want to play it again with the remastered assets and behind the scenes features, this is well worth picking up, especially for the asking price.
The main selling point of the remastered version over the original is, of course, the remastered content. They're all done extremely well, and unlike the special editions of the Monkey Island games, don't change a lot, so they might not be appreciated right away. And, that is definitely a good thing. The game's improved textures are not too apparent at first, but that's mostly just memory playing on your mind, as they become readily apparent when you switch to the classic mode. The models haven't been upgraded, so there the odd joining of joints and other things stemming from the low polygon count are still there, but the pixelated textures and artifacts from 1998 are now smoothed over, and make the game look fabulous. The game's advanced lighting can also be turned off at will, and like the textures is readily apparent once you do so. The improved lighting has been done in such a way that adds to the ambience rather than detracts from it. The cutscenes are also now of a much higher quality then they ever had been before, looking mostly clean and free of the artifacts of compression. They haven't been remade though, so the pixelation and artifacts on the textures of the characters can still be seen here. The backgrounds also sometimes have artifacting, as they haven't been remade either, but this game certainly looks better than it ever has before.
The new music also keeps to the original remarkably well. Like the new textures, it's not readily noticeable that it has changed, but when you hear the pieces side by side, such as listening to the main scene of the opening of the original and the orchestrated version by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra you can hear it. Unlike the original textures, the game doesn't seem to have the option to play the original music, but since the difference is so nuanced, it's definitely not needed. The remastered version of the game sounds fantastic in every respect.
The control of the original Grim Fandango was disliked by many who played it, even at its release. This led to the option of character relative movement in the GrimE engine in Escape from Monkey Island. You'll be happy to know that there is both the option for camera relative movement and character relative movement in the remastered version of Grim Fandango. You can play with a keyboard, as well as controllers. Double Fine has stated that both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 controllers are supported in the computer versions. I have played with a PlayStation 3 controller myself on Mac, and it really is nice to play the game that way. Although, the control problems related to the shifting of camera angles sometimes is still an issue, as you'll sometimes still have to switch directions when the camera shifts. Better still, there is also the option for pure, classic, point and click controls. Tobias Pfaff became well known in adventure circles last year for adding point and click controls to Grim Fandango through his modification of ResidualVM called Grim Mouse. He worked with Double Fine to get mouse controls in Grim Fandango Remastered as well, but the team has gone one better with the interface. They've added a Full Throttle style verb coin, with options to look, pick up, and use and there is now coat icon for the inventory. The inventory is still presented in the classic fashion, however. It's presented as objects in Manny's suit, and you flip through it with the arrow keys or the directional keys on the gamepad. The classic keyboard shortcuts are also used to use or examine, however they are displayed on the screen for those not familiar of the original game's interface. The mouse control also gives you the ability to double click to run, which is necessary in some large environments such as the Department of Death garage or the Bridge in Rubacava. The Full Throttle verb coin inscription on the the Rubacava crossing truly has a new significance now. It's really a pure joy to play Grim Fandango with Full Throttle's style of interface.
The thing that will interest a lot of fans of the classic game in remastered is the inclusion of a lot of bonus material. There is a concept art viewer, which will allow you to see a lot of the fabulous concept art of Peter Chan in high definition. You can access it in the special features section. A few pieces are available at the game's start and more can be unlocked as you progress through the game. There is also a commentary track available, which is also selectable from the special features menu. The commentary is presented in a similar fashion to the Wadget Eye Games releases. When a commentary track is available that is related to the scene at hand, an icon appears with a key shortcut displayed. When you hit that key, you are presented with the commentary relating to that scene. There is a lot of insightful comments about the design of the game to be heard here, as well as the expected funny commentary relating to some of the characters from Tim and co.
Whether you've played Grim Fandango before, or have yet to try it, you really should pick up the remastered version. The remastered assets and behind the scenes material make the game well worth the asking price even to those who still own the original. For those who don't own it, it's a no brainer. Grim Fandango is one of the greatest adventures of all time, and this game keeps the excellence of the original game while retouching it as well as possible from the original 1998 master material. Double Fine should be commended for the care they took in bringing out this version. This is how remastered versions of games should be handled.