Adventure Game of the Year
"The designers have created a rich world that you won't want to leave, filled with memorable characters that are hard to say goodbye to."
- Ron Dulin, GameSpot Review
When Tim Schafer's Full Throttle was released, it was praised for its characterization and puzzles, but criticized for its brevity and reliance on action elements. In Grim Fandango, his first adventure game since Full Throttle, Schafer took said criticisms to heart. The result retained and improved upon Full Throttle's best traits, while seamlessly integrating puzzles and story into its beautiful, exotic world.
Taken on their own, all the aesthetic elements of Grim Fandango - the music, the art, and the writing - were all top-notch. The story was funny and touching, without resorting either to predictable jokes or cheap sentimentality. At the same time, like the classic film noirs it acknowledged, Grim Fandango managed to be emotional while showing a cold world filled with characters that had adapted to their environment. The environment, in this case, was the Land of the Dead, a mythical afterlife inspired by Mexican folklore and populated with memorable characters, each full of personality down to the most minor bit roles. These elements alone would make Grim Fandango a great animated film. What made it a great game is how the player was integrated together with everything else, and how the puzzles seemed both organic and logical, thus making the player feel more involved than a witness to an animated film ever could.
Puzzles were intuitive and logical within the context of the game, and subtle hints either through dialogue or scenery made for an ideal challenge. And unlike Full Throttle, Grim Fandango wasn't too short, as it offered around 40 hours of play for the average adventurer and demanded to be experienced more than once for its fantastic dialogue. Of course, when protagonist Manny Calavera's four-year journey finally came to a close, Grim Fandango did feel characteristically Schafer-esque for ending just too soon. It's just that good.