Marty's tatoo and one of the cookies

Marty's tattoo and one of the 21 cookies

The past year marked the 10th anniversary of the best adventure game ever (and my favorite one as well) – Grim Fandango. The precise date (supposedly) coincided with The Day of The Dead. For this occasion Grim’s mighty creator Tim Schafer baked with his own hands a special Grim Fandango cake which was seen live by a group of chosen ones and surely isn’t just a photoshopped image.

In an even more impressive and crowd-pleasing gesture Schafer has shared with the world his Puzzle Design Document for the game. Unfortunately, it has been pretty quickly taken down by LucasArts that apparently has the rights to it. So now people like me who grabbed it in time can spread seemingly outrageous rumors about what was in the file. And what was in there indeed – detailed descriptions of scenes (left out during pre-production stage!

The original concepts for the game had lots and lots of more demons – including an armadillo spreading through several locations and a killer hamster. More of mythological, Odyssey like challenges as those in the Petrified Forest. Manny visiting his brother in the World of The Living during The Day of The Dead in Year Four. A whole new section in the El Marrow city with the Bone Wagon remade into a Pizza delivery car and Manny flirting intensely with a girl in a giraffe costume (both desperately trying to unzip it with the help of various lubricants, our cynical Manny just for the reason that he could use a longer neck himself). Ah, the unrealized possibilities! Like something from an old Grim Fandango themed dream…

But lets not get too dreamy. Better to have a look at an enthusiastic remembrance from a fellow Grim Fandango fan – Marty Mulrooney – who had his own very special way of celebrating the anniversary (and his 21st birthday):

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I remember many things from my childhood warmly, albeit with varying degrees of clarity. I have always from a young age had a love for a good story, be it in a book, film, or indeed a game. One memory remains crystal clear.

I remember a classroom that I couldn’t wait to leave, the clock creeping defiantly towards 3.30pm, home-time. It was 1998, I was 10 years old…my first home computer was waiting at home. I had already dabbled in gaming on it, some Tomb Raider 2 here, some Discworld 2 there…but nothing that truly replaced a good book or a captivating film. That all changed when my friend let me borrow Grim Fandango. What’s it about I asked? My friend tries to explain with futile effort about Manny Calavera and the Land of the Dead, as I am sure many had before, and have since, with little success. I just didn’t get it.

So I’m sat at home, installing this thing. While I wait colourful screenshots are popping up on screen of demons, skeletons and the grim reaper. I really didn’t get it. Installation finished, I fired up the game, curious. The famous LucasArts logo turns to bones, the opening cutscene begins…by the time the game starts, I am utterly captivated. Now I get it. I play on, drawn in not only by the ‘game’, but also by the experience. This is another world, another time, another place. Characterization is perfect, every line a joy, every interaction a surprise. The fact that everybody is no flesh and all bones means little. These people have souls, aims, dreams…destinies.

The game had stuck with me in the 10 years since, and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a surprisingly present constant in my life. I have completed it numerous times (I now have several copies of my own!). I even got a tattoo of Manny on my arm for the 10-year anniversary (it was the only design that felt right to be permanently placed upon my skin). As an aspiring screenwriter and journalist, it is also the one thing that always comes back to me as an example of truly inspired writing. Even my relatively non-gamer girlfriend rates the game as one of her favourites, recently baking me 21 Manny Calavera cookies for my 21st birthday!

Manny Calavera‘s destiny, his journey and adventure through the Land of the Dead has always stuck with me, and I think it always will. I have no shame or fear that I will grow old with his likeness on my arm. In some ways, it actually makes me proud, and nostalgic for when games were more than shooting the next bad guy or buying a bigger gun. How ironic that over 10 years after its release, Travel Agent of Death Manuel Calavera and the Land of the Dead is still as alive in people’s lives, if not more so, as it was upon release. Long live Grim Fandango!

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