Classic adventure title Grim Fandango made a return to modern systems last month with Double Fine releasing a remastered edition.
Originally released in 1998, this critically acclaimed classic suffered from bad sales, the few who played it remembered it fondly, and as the most requested title on GOG.com, it was only a matter of time until this release came along.
The game followers the adventure of Manny Calavera, who is a sort of travel agent to lost souls travelling across the land of the dead to the ninth underworld. He meets a mysterious woman named Mercedes Colomar who is assigned to take a four year journey across the land of the dead, although Manny believes she deserves a place on the number nine express train due to her good life.
This encounter takes Manny on a four year journey across the colourful land, where he discovers a criminal underworld controlling the destiny of these lost souls.
The noir adventure stands today, with beautiful art and design and challenging puzzles. The remastered edition has a few graphical updates including updated textures and higher resolution models. Though the pacing of the game remains unchanged, some may struggle with the complex, obtuse puzzles.
The lack of support for widescreen resolution results in bars either side of the screen which may annoy some, however many who are playing for the nostalgia will not be disappointed.
Grim Fandango lacks any autosave feature, which by today’s standards is annoying, so regular stops to the pause screen are required.
Though many aspects of the game seem outdated to modern gamers, Grim Fandango is still the great adventure it always was.
Who cares if it’s a little obtuse, that’s what adventure games were all about back then!
If you are a fan of adventure games with a sense of humor in the vein of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and ToonStruck, then this one is for you!
It’s great to take a trip across the land of the dead with Manny and co. again.
Sorry for the lack of updates in the last week as I have been away in Croatia livin’ it up a little bit but rest assured there will be a new update in the next few days and there are more exciting features still to come including:-
The 11th Hour
Escape From Butcher Bay
Remember if there are any titles you would like to see up here contact me on Twitter @benjamincoren.
Other platforms: PlayStation, Game Boy, OnLive, PSN
1997 was a fantastic time in video game history. We saw the release of the Nintendo 64, and 3D graphics were fast becoming the standard with releases such as Tomb Raider 2, Crash Bandicoot 2, Final Fantasy VII, and the first Gran Turismo.
One title stood out from the rest though, maintaining a classic 2D side scrolling look combined with beautiful backgrounds and character animation, with a unique take on gameplay which focused primarily on taking a slow pace and solving puzzles. This classic was Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee.
You are the titular character Abe, a clumsy but well-meaning Mudokon slave working at RuptureFarms, which is said to be the largest meat processing factory on Oddworld. While on the late cleaning shift Abe accidentally discovers details of a new meat product to come out of RuptureFarms – It’s him and his fellow Mudokons. As Abe you must escape from this hell and rescue as many of his enslaved race as possible.
Abe’s Oddysee is not a fast-paced action game, and it can only loosely be described as a platformer as the main gaming element here is puzzle-solving. The game pulls no punches from the start dropping you right in the middle of Abe’s escape. There is no user interface and there is no heads-up display. Navigation can be difficult through many of the stages leading to incredibly difficult gameplay. The learning curve of this game could be likened to a brick wall, on a slight slant.
The gameplay itself is still unique and good fun. One necessity to finish the game is to utilise ‘gamespeak’, a mechanic which allows Abe to interact with other characters in the game. Abe can lead Mudokons to safety, open up bird portals, and chant in order to possess armed enemies known as Sligs.
The game at times is an incredibly frustrating experience, often a lot of trial and error is required to pass certain screens, and often you find yourself learning the events of certain areas to pass it after 10 or 12 attempts.
Most confrontations in the game require avoidance and cunning. You will find yourself running away, hiding in shadows, pulling switches and making leaps of faith. Some tasks require precision jumping and timing which at times can result in many rage quits.
Abe’s Oddysee does draw you back though, and it has so many redeeming features which will keep you coming back and drive you to finish the game.
There is a brilliant story being told here and instantly likeable characters that you want to guide to safety and share in their journey. All the characters have a fantastic sense of humour too, enemy interaction is often hilarious and talking to other species in game is sweet and entertaining, such as meeting the ‘Elum’ which Abe teams up with later in the game.
The sweet sense of humour in the game is also hidden in the backgrounds and makes use of loads of visual and audio gags. A strange contrast to some of the in-game cut scenes which are extremely violent.
AS the game progresses Abe gains new skills which add another dimension to puzzle solving in the game which keeps it fresh and interesting.
Abe’s Oddysee is a cruel and punishing experience, similar to what our hero suffers at RuptureFarms, but there is a sense of achievement to be had when passing the increasingly difficult areas.
Be warned though, this game has two endings and after all that hard work saving Abe, facing the bad ending is one of the most demotivating moments in gaming.
Abe’s Oddysee is an enjoyable and difficult gaming experience which is endearing and fun but at the same time a frustrating puzzler which will have you tearing your hair out. This is a game which requires time and patience but will ultimately pay off.
I give Abe’s Oddysee a modest 70 for an excellent story and puzzle experience, but many people may not see it through to the end.
The critically acclaimed writer and games designer Tim Schafer boasts an impressive resume of games including Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, and the Monkey Island series, but one special title stood out and still stands today as a fantastic example of unique and fun gameplay combined with engaging and funny storytelling.
Released on most platforms in Europe in 2006 Psychonauts gained a huge cult following and was praised by critics but suffered with poor sales. It has since been re-released and made available at GOG.com and Steam to an embracing reception.
In Psychonauts you take on the role of Raz, a young psychic who has broken convention and run away from the circus to become a ‘Psycadet’ or a ‘Psychonaut-in-training’.
Events take place in Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, which is really a cover for a top-secret government training facility. As Raz you use your psychic powers to enter the minds of others and help them overcome the fears of their past.
The camp in which the story unfurls is fully explorable by our hero and acts as a hub to the main ‘action’ levels encountered throughout the games. As the story develops in the camp, events later move into its surrounding areas, including a huge lake which is home to a giant lungfish and the disused insane asylum at the other side of the lake.
In order to enter the games ‘levels’ our hero uses a small door which he throws onto the heads of others to enter their minds. Each of these levels is a beautifully designed and quirky masterpiece which reflects that characters fears, memories and personality. For example the opening level is in the mind of a camp trainer and greatly resembles a war zone, a later stage is set in the mind of an insane security guard and the stage is full of hidden cameras and shady characters which are representative of his paranoia.
Each stage has its own unique flare and gameplay style, where some stages play like a 3D platformer; others require strategy and planning or exploration and problem solving in order to progress.
Enemies include the residents of these twisted worlds and annoyances called censors who exist to remove Raz from the character’s mind. Each level ends with a huge boss battle which always requires a level of puzzle solving and experimentation in order to defeat the final lug.
A fantastic part of this game is the character development, throughout the game Raz can increase his Psi Ranking, and with each level of development Raz gains a new power, these include pyrokinesis, levitation, & psiblast to name a few, as Raz’s ranking goes up the player can also develop these abilities making them more powerful.
Psi ranking can be increased by finishing action stages, exploring the world or by seeking out collectables in action stages. In the character’s minds Raz encounters figments of their imaginations which can be collected to help improve his ranking. Discovering luggage tags and reuniting them with their matching ‘emotional baggage’ will also help Raz gain ranks.
Psychonauts which is often hailed as one of the greatest games ever made truly is a unique and fun gaming experience. If you have yet to play it, I strongly recommend getting hold of it immediately from either GOG.com or on Steam. You will love its demented character’s and twisted world as well as its wholly enjoyable gameplay. The story is genuinely hilarious and is incredibly engaging. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the dialog and puns and some of the visual gags throughout the game are fantastic.
Psychonauts is an addictive experience and I was playing nothing else whilst I was focused on it. Today very little of it has dated, the graphics are as colourful and cartoony as ever, the gameplay is still fresh and original and I look forward to the next mystery release from these developers.
Version Tested: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console – Originally on: N64
We’re all familiar with the Pokémon formula, top down RPG games where we get to go on an adventure capturing and battling a variety of little monsters that fit in our pockets.
Pokémon Snap was released in 1999 on the Nintendo 64 to a warm critical reception and offered a completely different gameplay style to what we were used to in Pokémon.
Players take on the role of a photographer hired by Professor Oak to put together a report on an Island about the Pokémon who reside there. The player explores various regions including the beach, a volcano, a river, a cave, and a valley in an amphibious buggy named the Zero-One.
The gameplay takes place on rails and the player is moved automatically through the regions, the world is viewed from a first person perspective, and players control the camera and the various items at the disposal to manipulate the Pokémon and the environment to get the best possible photos.
The game urges the player to experiment in each level by throwing apples, pester balls, or playing the Poké flute to change the Pokémon’s behaviour. Often this leads to a lot of trial and error, testing out different ways of getting the Pokémon to move or evolve, or interact with others.
This level of experimentation is worth it to get the best possible photo of each Pokémon. Each photo is graded on the pose, size, and technique, bonus points are added for unique poses or for having more than one of each Pokémon in frame. Strangely this is highly addictive and I often found myself going round courses again and again for another ‘hit’. This game is more addictive than meth.
On some trips around a course you will find yourself launching pester balls into the face of every Pokémon with the hope of some sort of prize, half the time you just knock them out which raises a few questions about the ethical treatment of the Pokémon. In one level, as far as I can tell you actually kill Koffings with pester balls. Is this some sort of animal abuse? My answer is no, as they are fictional creatures.
Level progression often requires you to solve some kind of devious puzzle which on first glance is not entirely obvious, for example knocking a Squirtle into a Mankey at a very precise angle so the Mankey hits a button.
Later on the game becomes more humane equipping the player with a flute. Playing music offers different poses and triggers new events, you are also awarded with a dash engine letting you speed up through any level segment to capture any missing Pokémon in your collection.
Once all the courses are unlocked you need to return to each one to take photos of Pokémon signs which are cleverly concealed into the scenery of each course, capturing all of these unlocks the secret final stage which acts almost like a boss battle.
No spoilers here but this final stage features only one ultra-rare Pokémon which is remarkably difficult to snap, but a bit of experimenting should help you snap the prized photo.
Pokémon Snap has some good endgame content but is fairly limited, due to the small number of courses (there are only 7 to choose from) and also the small numbers of Pokémon, only 63 of the original 151 are included.
After all the Pokémon are snapped and all the courses are clear Oak issues challenge scores to beat on each stage. To beat theses scores you need the best quality photos of all the Pokémon from each stage, making it remarkably difficult to beat this score on all the stages.
The final prize is a nice credits reel showing off all of your best photos. Though graphically Pokémon Snap has not aged well the gameplay is still as fun and fresh as it was back in 1999. It has fantastic replay value and you will always find yourself going back to it.
The Virtual Console version does suffer from slightly clunky controls, but it includes a nifty little feature allowing you to share photos with your friends, which makes up for this. The game is short and sweet and so I give it snap-tastic 75.