Hello once more, Unk, Aunt and fellow Traumatots – have you missed me? Since my last two entries on the Groke and Freaky Fred, I have for once NOT been pondering about what else I could think of from my childhood that freaked me out. In fact, I believed I had pretty much covered it all. That is, until a little while ago when a friend of mine, whom I have known for a very long time, told me with a tone of joy in his voice that he had gotten his hands on an old favorite PC game of ours, one we had completed I think maybe six or seven times when we were younger, and one that is probably my favorite of all Adventure games I have ever played. That game is Grim Fandango.
For those who don’t know of this awesome game, it is a LucasArts Adventure Game – yes, the same people who made the hilarious Monkey Island series. However, this time, they had the highly imaginative Tim Schaefer with them, who definitely was the one that made the game as unique as it is. Mixing Aztec concepts of the afterlife by having the underworld populated by Calaca-styled skeleton dolls with the crime noir style of detective films, this game had such an enthralling world to explore.
To tell you a little of what it’s about, in the game, it is established that when a person dies, he or she must go on a four year journey through the afterlife in order to finally get to The Ninth Underworld, the TRUE afterlife. However, some, like the main character Manny, have done so many bad things in their life that they cannot go before they’ve worked it off. Therefore, Manny, in the guise of a Grim Reaper, sells “travel packages” to the recently dead, giving them either a car to travel in if they’ve been good, or a bike… or maybe even just a walking stick and a coffee mug. However, if you have been a great person, you get a train ticket, shortening the 4-year trip to something among the lines of four hours.
However, Manny is distressed – he never seems to get a proper client, and at this pace, he’ll never work off his (to us, unknown) deeds. That is, until he finds a woman to whom he can sell a train ticket… only to discover that somehow, despite her perfect life, she seems to not be qualified for one. Someone is stealing the train tickets to the Ninth Underworld and selling them to the rich who don’t deserve them – and Manny, in his attempt to figure out the truth, sets out on his own journey to find the one responsible.
Have I mentioned this game is great? Not only is the world so vivid and imaginative, it is also darkly humorous, with many characters whose company you WILL enjoy. Manny himself is a wonderful wisecracker, and like everyone else, he is voiced perfectly. The game was composed of four discs, each of which representing one year of his journey to uncover the truth.
This game, however, also manages to be the only one outside the typical Silent Hill, Resident Evil and other survival horror games that have thoroughly freaked me right the hell out despite its usually amusing tone.
On I think maybe the third year or the beginning of the fourth of Manny’s journey, he arrives at the station and the gates to the Ninth Underworld, seeing that the people who got the tickets are simply waiting there, unable to get in thanks to the fraud. When he confronts the Gatekeeper about this, he is told there is nothing they can do, and informs the keeper that the tickets were stolen and sold to others who don’t deserve them. At that moment, the train comes, and the Aztec, in an uncaring monotone, simply remarks that now they’ll “see what they truly deserve.”
And at that moment, I was scared out of my mind.
The train does indeed arrive, and we see one quick shot of the bastard who put you through all this having a little sip of champagne… until the waving sign begins to spin, spin, spin ferociously, turning more and more red before it reveals a devil’s face and grows a devil’s whipping tail, soon pointing straight down to the abyss far above which the tracks are placed. But oh no, just having the train crash and seeing them fall to their judgment was not horrifying enough. At that very moment, the train grows spikes along what at this point can be described as its spine, and with a horrible sound of screeching metal, it’s outsides are scraped off in flames to reveal the face of a menacing, red, mechanically powered dragon – and I swear at that moment, you can still see the horrified skeletal faces of its passengers peeking out from holes in its side – before it leaps off the tracks and straight into a fiery pit.
My God, even if I knew that at some point in the game, Hector LeMans and the ones he sold the tickets to would get their punishment, I was in NO way prepared for the sudden harshness of the judgment, blocky ‘90-ies 3D graphics or not… and it is all topped off by the Aztec-looking gatekeeper sadly shaking his head like he just scolded a few unruly children.
If I remember correctly, this is also what truly sets Manny over the edge, and gets him desperate to settle things once and for all and prevent his client, Mercedes, from suffering the same horrible fate. But I may be wrong – it is so long since I’ve played it. All I truly remember are the funny sidekick Glottis, the amusing Fire Beaver scene, the giant track running cats… and THIS piece of indescribable horror.
Perhaps I’m weak, but I have yet to see or hear others speak of this scene with as much fear as me. However, I have heard MANY praise the game as one of the best ever, and I shall do the same – you owe it to yourself to play this. You will not regret it.
Just… don’t take the train to the neighboring town’s game shop. For the love of God, don’t take the train.