You may flip burgers for eight hours a day. Maybe you're the unfortunate soul who has to scoop deer carcasses off the highway. Perhaps you test dangerous food additives for a living. No matter how bad you think you have it, there's at least one person who has a worse occupation than you. His name is Manny Calavera, star of LucasArts' Grim Fandango, and he has the dead-end job to end all dead-end jobs: He works for the Department of Death, hocking afterlife packages to recently deceased individuals.

This title, which released for PC back in 1998, has been a constant topic of conversation here at GameSpy. You've heard us mention it in the list of the 25 Most Underrated Games, the Top 10 Game Bargains, and it lost a tough battle in round two of Title Fight. There's a reason we speak so highly of it, so often, and it's time Grim Fandango takes its place in the Hall of Fame.

Who's the Manny?

As an adventure game, Grim Fandango is as good as the genre gets. Unlike a lot titles of this ilk, Grim Fandango's narrative isn't just a vehicle to take you from puzzle to puzzle. In fact, the total opposite is true -- that's fortunate, since the story and characters are absolutely sublime. Manny and most of his co-stars may be skeletons, but they have very meaty personalities.

Manny's been down on his luck at the Department of Death lately. His hot-tempered boss is always on his back, and the other agent seems to be getting all the good clients. The people Calavera is assigned to -- even the most pious ones -- fail to qualify for the supreme reward of a train ticket to eternal bliss. Instead, these good people are forced to take a dangerous four-year quest, on foot, to try to reach the destination. It turns out this isn't a coincidence, and Manny uncovers a grand conspiracy.

Reaping burns a lot of calories.
He gets out of the agency just in time to avoid being sprouted -- being shot with seeds that sprout flowers that consume your body -- and finds himself aiding an underground militant group. What follows is Manny chasing after one particularly sweet client -- a gal named Meche -- while trying to keep his own bones out of harm's way.

Logical Puzzling

As I said before, Grim Fandango's puzzles go right along with the game's story. Items you find lying around will likely be used for something before too long. Conversations feature the typical branching dialogue lines, and are well-written enough that you'll want to say every line on the list, just to hear the witty banter that results. Puzzle solutions are obvious enough that you won't have to run to one of the numerous online FAQs, but not so easy to prevent you from scratching your head in confusion every few minutes.

Only you can prevent flaming beavers.
The control and gameplay mechanics brought some new things to the adventure table. The only time you use the mouse in Grim Fandango is to click the icon on your desktop to load the game. Otherwise, it's all keyboard or gamepad. Even without any pointing and clicking, maneuvering Manny and managing his inventory is no problem. His movement style is very similar to the Resident Evil series.