If there’s one thing I noticed while playing Double Fine’s remake of the 1998 classic Grim Fandango, it’s that old adventure games were much more mechanical than The Walking Deads of today. You might have to find one or two things as you make your way through the story of The Wolf Among Us, but Grim Fandango doesn’t progress until you’ve thoroughly searched through each scene for items and figured out how to creatively use them to solve problems.
So, whether you’re a new adventure game player or not, these tips should help you through an older game that still amazingly holds up, as I found in my review.
Remember when I said sifting through each scene is important? As you get further into Grim Fandango, the scope will get bigger and it’ll be harder to remember what things need solving and what objects you can interact with. It wouldn’t hurt to jot down a quick reminder or two about what things need to be taken care of, so that you’re not stuck walking around searching for what to do next.
Many of the puzzles in Grim Fandango require you to break a pattern. By that I mean inserting yourself or an item within a routine that another character or object does and creating a different outcome. If you find yourself confused on what puzzle you even need to solve, look for things that the game repeats through cutscenes and think of ways to break it.
Listen to dialogue for clues
This one is standard to most game design, but it’s worth repeating. Pay attention to what the characters say. If you know they like or dislike a certain thing and the item you have has to do with that, show it to them! Chances are, it’ll get you further on your hunt for puzzles.
Grim Fandango doesn’t auto-save and the not-quite-finished PC build I played for review crashed a lot. While I would hope a lot of the crashing problems are ironed out before released, I still recommend saving pretty often just in case. Of course, you should be saving a lot anyway since there’s no auto-saving, but I found myself saving before any big interactions or cutscenes I knew would happen. Those events seemed to be where the game had the most problems. It’s also good to have saves before one of the game’s more finicky timing-based puzzles, just so you don’t have to wait for something to happen again.
Don’t forget to run
If you choose to use direct control don’t forget to use the run button. Manny Calavera may not have any fat on him, but he’s pretty slow. If you use the PC point-and-click controls, just double click on locations or scene transitions to make him run. And most importantly, when you interact with objects, hold down the run button to make Calavera hurry up since he walks by default.
Don’t be ashamed of cheating
Grim Fandango is an old game. Some of its age shows with the puzzle logic. And sometimes you just might not understand what you need to do for whatever reason. In times like those, don’t be ashamed of pulling up a walkthrough and getting past it. The game is long, about 8 hours, there’s plenty of puzzles to work through by yourself.
Go back through the dialogue
If you pause the game and enter the “Special Features” option, you can view all of the game’s dialogue. It can be helpful when you need to remember what you’re doing or to find whatever else you missed.
Take a break
As with any puzzle game, it’s always good to just stop playing and do something else. Time away from puzzles can often cause you to come back with the solutions or at least different ways of approaching them. If you can’t pull yourself way, then visit the “Special Features” option in the pause menu and browse the sweet concept art. Just be wary of spoilers for the later parts of the game!
Listen to the commentary
It’s fascinating to hear the original developers of Grim Fandango talk about it on a scene-by-scene basis while you’re playing through. Turn on the audio commentary if you want to see what went into this seminal adventure game. You’ll learn about crazy things like a cat race simulator in the code that starts at a certain part of the game and continues until the end because nobody turned it off, or a deadly armadillo called the Dillopede that was cut from the game. The parts with commentary are not always clear since they aren’t represented in the world but instead as a button prompt. If you play with it on, don’t sprint through each location so you won’t miss any!