Lucas Arts - 1998
Lucas Arts had always been great at adventure games: Loom, Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis to name just three. They all used the point and click SCUMM game engine and were all very successful but by the late nineties gaming was firmly 3D and SCUMM was looking dated so the format was regenerated with a new 3D engine. The first and only game to use it was Grim Fandango. The SCUMM engine used 2D sprites which could only be viewed from limited angles because every angle required a new sprite; this limited the viewpoint of the pre-drawn backdrops and gave the games a very flat feel. The new engine replaced the sprites with real-time 3D models which freed up the artists to use any viewpoint they liked for the new pre-rendered 3D backdrops. Yes, I know that's what the early Resident Evil games did and we hated them for it but Lucas Arts are rooted in the movie business and their adventures have always used the language of cinema. Those fixed viewpoints, suddenly freed to be wherever they liked, become camera angles chosen expertly by a director. Mise en scène suddenly became relevant and before we knew it we found ourselves in a genuine interactive movie.
If all of this is still meaningless to you, you still have ingenious puzzles, amazing 30’s-style design and music, genuinely funny dialogue that is actually acted well by proper actors, and a deep adventure that will surprise you at every turn. More’s the pity that Grim Fandango failed to sell despite a hearty critical reception. Games had moved on and true adventures like this one were just too slow and lacking in action for modern tastes, thinking games went out of fashion.
Jakey 12 Mar '08
ebay - You'll find it on ebay or any good second hand game store.
Grim Fandango Network - All you could want from an unofficial site; tons of info and downloads of patches, game saves and a demo version of the game.
The Department of Death - Another great fansite with yet more downloads including mp3 files of the soundtrack.