Grim Fandango's story takes place over the course of four years on El Dia De Los Muertos. Our hero, Manny Calavera, works for the Department of Death and is responsible for helping guide the recently deceased into the underworld. Unfortunately, Manny is stuck in the Land of the Dead, the Eighth Underworld, working off his sins. His only hope to reach the salvation of the Ninth Underworld is to find clients whose good deeds in life qualify them for expensive travel packages in the Land of the Dead, such as a trip on the Number Nine express to a sunnier afterlife.
The plot of Grim Fandango unfolds during The Day of the Dead across a span of four years -- Manny is utterly devoted to finding Mercedes, and not just for his self-imposed obligation to her. Thanks to great writing and equally impressive voice work, Manny really feels alive (no pun intended). Beneath his witty observations and jokes, Manny puts on his best Rick Blaine -- a little bitter, a little forlorn, and a little love struck, no matter how he tries to hide it.
Grim Fandango's narrative is strong enough to carry the game alone, but the presentation is really what cements it as an all-time classic. The influence of the movies permeates every aspect of the game. Oftentimes the characters and design are straight out of film noir -- everything from the low key lighting and profusion of cigarette smoke right down to the clothing. The soundtrack also falls squarely in the swing era and mixes upbeat and melancholy jazz and bebop tunes that meld perfectly with the art-deco look of the various locales Manny explores in the Land of the Dead.
All the game's environments are created using pre-rendered CG, which makes for some moody lighting and especially detailed, expansive set pieces. Manny's journey takes him from his job in El Marrow to the port town of Rubacava -- and beyond. Each area has a fresh look and feel, but the setting of the Land of the Dead permeates every aspect of the game world and retains a sense of consistency. It also makes each unique character extra awesome -- the cast are especially memorable thanks to that fact that they're all unusually expressive skeletons.
Like most PC adventures, the gameplay itself is predominately puzzle-based, and Fandango has some real brain
It's easy to ramble on about Grim Fandango's positive attributes because there are just so many -- the few faults it has are only minor problems in an overall fantastic game. At a decade old, it's showing some weariness in those old bones. But by porting the game to the Wii, the few faults Grim Fandango has could easily be cleaned up and polished away.