Grim Fandango's world combines elements of the Aztec belief of afterlife with style aspects of film noir, including The Maltese Falcon, On the Waterfront and Casablanca, to create the Land of the Dead, through which recently departed souls, represented in the game as calaca-like figures, must travel before they reach their final destination, the Ninth Underworld. The story follows travel agent Manuel "Manny" Calavera as he attempts to save Mercedes "Meche" Colomar, a newly arrived but virtuous soul, during her long journey.
The game received positive reviews, praising its artistic design and overall game direction in particular. Grim Fandango was selected for several gaming awards at the time of release, and is often listed in publishers' lists of top games of all time. However, the game was considered a commercial failure and factored into LucasArts' termination of their adventure game development, contributing to the decline of the adventure game genre.
Review of Grim Fandango from Gamespot:Grim Fandango is based upon Mexican folklore, set in the land of the dead. You play Manny Calavera, employee of the Department of Death and travel agent to newly dead souls who are just setting out on the treacherous four-year journey to the ninth underworld. Employees of the DOD, as it is called, are souls who must work off debts from their previous lives in order to earn their own passage to the final resting place. To pay off the debts, agents must accrue a certain number of premium souls, those of the virtuous who have earned more pleasant means of passage, the ultimate of which is the Number Nine, a bullet-train that makes the journey in a more desirable four days.
But the writing is where Grim Fandango earns the most praise. Parodying film noir cliches has become a cliche unto itself, and Grim Fandango thankfully avoids the obvious. This isn't just a faux Sam Spade mystery. Instead, the game draws upon darker and more complex sources, with Chinatown, Casablanca, and even David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross lurking in its shadows. And there are very few jokes in the game, but it is funny. It derives its humor from its situations and characters (such as Manny's oversized sidekick, Glottis) without making fun of itself, helping to create a believable world.
The puzzles help to maintain this believability. While traditional in nature, they are worked into the storyline well. And they are varied, both in style and difficulty. For the most part, you'll have a series of known objectives to complete before moving on to the next locale. These objectives are complex, though, and often the solutions will have multiple parts. You'll undoubtedly be stumped more than once, but the solutions are logical and subtle clues are plentiful.
Grim Fandango is not a typical LucasArts adventure. It's the first from the company to dispense with traditional 2D animation and move to the more cinematic 3D style made popular with Infogrames' Alone in the Dark games, and also utilized in Origin Systems' underrated Bioforge. It uses a keyboard-driven interface instead of the traditional point-and-click, and Manny signals significant objects by turning his head and looking as he passes by. Grim Fandango overcomes the major problems with this style, so only rarely will you be frustrated by disorienting camera-angle switching or feel lost because of an obscure exit.