1. Yesterday was my first snow day as a parent, which meant that, among other things:
- my wife and I still had to wake up at 6:30 and be coherent and spatially aware enough to change a morning diaper;
- all the candy and booze I’d stockpiled couldn’t actually be used during normal business hours; and
- our usual snowday routine of movie and videogame marathons had to be put on hold.
Instead of getting drunk and watching every Wes Anderson movie in chronological order or what-have-you, we instead had to watch marathons of Team Umizoomi and Blue’s Clues and build forts under our kitchen table and such. This is fun, in and of itself, and the kid is adorable, and we had a lot of fun. BUT. It made me realize that snow days will never be the same again.
2. Yesterday was also the release of Grim Fandango Remastered, which (after much hair-pulling) I finally managed to get working after the kid went to sleep. Grim is one of my favorite games of all time, and I hadn’t been able to play it in probably 15 years, and so I was very anxious to get my hands on it and see if the game still held its own against my murky memories of playing it.
After about an hour or so, I came to a few conclusions.
- The game is still remarkably well-written.
- The puzzles are still astoundingly obtuse, and I’m never going to finish it without a walkthrough.
- I’m not sure that Tim Schafer – and I’ve played nearly everything he’s ever made – had ever made a truly great game. His writing is always terrific, his characters are always interesting and relatable, his world-building is always unique, his situations are always engrossing. But the part where you actually play the thing has never really been all that great. Psychonauts is probably the closest he’s ever come to a complete package, and even then it wasn’t without some significant flaws (i.e., the Meat Circus). Brutal Legend… well, I’ve talked at length about how sad I am about how that game turned out. Broken Age is certainly promising, but it’s also (currently) half-finished, and it’s also not terribly innovative – it is, by definition, a call-back to these old-school point-and-click adventure games, which is what brings us back to Grim Fandango.
The “remastering” isn’t a top-to-bottom remake, like what happened with Oddworld: New & Tasty. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I kinda like that it’s still a little fuzzy around the edges. The art style is still bold and vivid even if it’s not in crystal-clear 1080p; the music apparently has been re-recorded, however, and it’s as wonderful now as it was then. The control scheme has been modified, which is much appreciated – even if it’s still wonky at times.
No, the problem is the puzzles, which are as mind-clutchingly obtuse as they ever were. I managed to make it up to the point where our hero, Manny Calavera, meets his femme fatale, Mercedes Colomar, and that’s only because I happened to remember how certain puzzles were solved after all these years; and even then, I only vaguely remembered what it was that I was supposed to be doing at any given time. For example – I remembered that I needed to put one of Manny’s playing cards in the secretary’s hole puncher, but I couldn’t remember why; I also had a vague recollection that I needed some empty balloons and that I needed to screw up the pneumatic tube system, but it took me a while to remember how that worked, and even now I can’t recall why I needed to do that. The game doesn’t really ever tell you what it is you need to do next, which is why I’m sure I’ll need a walkthrough before too long. (Fortunately, it would appear that the same walkthroughs I used all those years ago are still useful today.)
3. On a related note, ye gods, PSN still drives me up the goddamned wall. It turns out that anyone who pre-ordered and pre-loaded Grim Fandango for their PS4 wouldn’t actually be able to play Grim Fandango because of a technical SNAFU that wasn’t ever adequately explained. I was eventually able to get it working (which involved deleting it from my PS4 hard drive, then re-downloading it from a certain queue in the PSN web store on my computer), and it should be noted that because I was playing with my kid all day I wouldn’t have been able to play it until the evening hours anyway, even if it had been working the way it was supposed to. It’s a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, but had I been devoid of parental duties and spousal company and thus free to finally replay one of my favorite games in almost 20 years, only to find that my pre-ordered copy didn’t work, I would’ve lost my mind.