Where's My Sequel? – Grim Fandango

by Elise Favis on Apr 01, 2015 at 01:56 PM

The LucasArts' adventure game Grim Fandango was a staple in the genre when it debuted in the late '90s. The character-driven tale takes place in a Mexican Day of the Dead-inspired limbo world, where all characters are walking skeletons, similar to calaca figures. The mix of film noir themes and Spanish influence adds color to the otherwise morbid setting.

What It Is:

Told from the perspective of the grim reaper and travel agent Manuel "Manny" Calavera, the story begins at the Department of Death, where Manny gauges clients' eligibility for transportation packages to the next world. If a client lived a moral life, they are offered the most luxurious route: a Double N train ticket to the afterlife. With each expensive sale, Manny inches closer to leaving the limbo world himself, as he slowly pays off his debt.

A string of ugly events takes place when Manny discovers the behind-the-scenes corruption in his department. Rival coworker Domino gets all the good-willed customers, leaving Manny to deal with unqualified, crooked clients. Soon, Manny is led on a long journey across the Land of the Dead, in search for Meche, a young woman eligible for a Double N Package.

This four year journey is filled with 1930s inspired locations, cigar-smoking mobsters, and hilarious dialogue. The gameplay uses point-and-click conventions, spanning from dialogue puzzles to more environmental and item puzzles.

When It Stopped:

Grim Fandango was released through LucasArts in 1998, and while it won numerous awards and received praise in reviews, the game sold poorly. The decline of adventure games followed shortly after, and the struggling genre has only since regained popularity in the last few years in the indie scene.

Since LucasArts closed its doors, Grim Fandango has fallen into the hands of Double Fine, where its creator Tim Schafer resides. If a sequel or spin-off were to happen, it would be produced by this indie studio.

For many years, it was nearly impossible to play a legitimate copy of the game. Retailers no longer sell it, and Grim Fandango was released before the era of digital games. This past January, all that changed when Double Fine Productions re-released a digital remastered version. Bringing it back from dead had longtime fans hyped about its return. The demand is still strong, and fans (including myself) would be thrilled to see a new adventure in the universe of Grim Fandango.

What Comes Next:

Manny's story wrapped up when he stepped into the afterlife, but that doesn't mean that the world of Grim Fandango should die along with him. In an interview with Kotaku, Tim Schafer revealed that he has dreamed of creating an open-world sequel, an idea that was bouncing around in his head for years. Grim Fandango would work phenomenally in an open-world setting, and it could help expand the lore of The Land of the Dead. More locations with that same 1930s atmosphere, in full HD, would be both fascinating and stunning to explore in more detail. Grim Fandango plunged us underwater and showed us city life, but it's unclear just how big this world is. Mapping out the Land of the Dead along with new locations could help paint a clearer picture.

Rubacava was Grim Fandango's largest location, with a distinct art style and quirky characters. The Calavera Cafe, the jazz club, and the casino were some of my favorite places, and a sequel could profit from exploring that seedy nightlife and noir vibe further.

If the game brought Manny back as a main character, a prequel about how he died or the events leading towards landing a job at the Department of the Dead would make a great story. This scenario would give more insight on who Manny is, considering Grim Fandango offered minimal backstory. A new character could work just as well, giving the developers a blank slate. This new protagonist could be a demon similar to Glottis. It would provide a more in-depth look at the species, where they come from, and what their role is in the Land of the Dead in comparison to humans.

If Grim Fandango were to have a successful sequel, Double Fine would have to reimagine and improve the puzzles, which were more infuriating than innovative. The studio's recent adventure game Broken Age had more approachable puzzles with logical solutions, and Grim Fandango 2 could be designed in a similar way. Inventory management would need an overhaul, and adding the traditional mechanic of mixing objects to solve puzzles could be beneficial.

The world of Grim Fandango is rich with opportunity, and no game out there is quite like it. I would return to a revamped Land of the Dead in a heartbeat.