The flawed beauty

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By 2017-08-13

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Ceylon Today Features

When the video game industry was hitting rock-bottom; a time where almost everyone believed video games were at death's door, the infamous movie director George Lucas decided to place himself in this industry.

The classic game now known as Grim Fandango is a result of his contribution to spark a dying industry at that time.

Many know George Lucas and consider him one of the greatest directors of all time. This is easily validated due to the fact that he is the man behind Star Wars; the most epic saga of movies that continue on even to this day. However, not many are aware of his contribution towards video games, especially the genre of adventure games.

When many had thrown away the concept of adventure games, LucasArts almost specialized in the field and made many advancements in the concept. All of this talent was pooled in during the creation of this game, which released during the year 1998 in 3D graphics: which was cutting-edge technology at the time.

The game received universal acclaim from critics, who praised its artistic design and use of noir themes and storytelling. Grim Fandango was selected for several gaming awards at the time of release, and is often mentioned as one of the greatest video games of all time. However, the game was a commercial failure and was one of the reasons why LucasArts stopped developing games, which ended up being a death sentence for the already dying adventure game genre.

The story is based on Mexican cultural themes about the afterlife, basing its world in the realm of the dead where souls must travel to the "Ninth Underworld" to reach their final destination. The concept behind its story is based on the fact that if people are flawed in life, then they are most certainly flawed in the afterlife.

In the game, players follow the character Manuel "Manny" Calavera; a travel agent working for a travel agency that facilitates deceased souls to travel to the Ninth Underworld in luxury. He attempts to save Mercedes "Meche" Colomar, a newly arrived but virtuous soul, who was swindled by the said agency he had worked for and assists her to complete her long journey to the Ninth Underworld.

The events follow in four acts, with each taking part one year at a time, with Manny coming across various situations as he uncovers the underlying sins of his former employment. The rest is a twisting journey filled with murder (even in the afterlife), greed and corruption. Grim Fandango's setting is explicitly noir with themes that emulate classic black-and-white detective stories and crime dramas. It is an atmospheric piece of work with a brilliantly crafted story to follow up with graphics that were at the time of release almost unheard of.

While being an iconic piece of work, the game still was a commercial failure and was a prime example of why adventure games were losing profitability. Even within the game there were errors in the mechanics with some sketchy puzzles.

Even so, there is beauty in Grim Fandango's flaws, making the game feel almost as if it were human. This can be considered true.

Like most people, it is a game that's hard to figure out at the beginning but starts and finally does grow into the player's hearts; making the moment of completing the game a bittersweet experience, almost as if a friend was saying goodbye.

The flawed beauty of Grim Fandango's world is almost tangible, a treat to explore (which all adventure games should be) and an experience that any die-hard gamer should never miss an opportunity to enjoy. This blast from the past is a treat everyone should try out.

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