The ghost of point-and-click adventure games rises again in Grim Fandango Remastered, the 1998 classic that’s now available on current systems.
As fun as it is to revisit the past, this week also brings a glimpse at the future of adventure games with Life is Strange, a high school-set story about a social outcast trying to make her way through the struggles of adolescence. Also, it wouldn’t be 2015 if hardly a week went by without a new zombie game slow-walking its way onto shelves, and Dying Light fits that bill.
(Xbox One, PS4, $60, Mature)
The latest open-world, first-person zombie saga picks up the mantle of Dead Island and beats the long-gestating H1Z1 to the punch. You roam a decaying, undead-infested environment, meeting other players online at random who stumble onto your server, scrapping for survival as you scrounge for limited resources. The environments are immaculately detailed and laden with crannies and hiding spots to use to your advantage. Enemies are expectedly dumb and slow, helping you feel like a master of your dilapidated surroundings.
The world’s vastness, though, works against it. You too often find yourself lost in the wilderness, with little idea of where to go or what to do. To enjoy Dying Light, you’ll need to be able to appreciate the vacuous feeling of stumbling around blind, paranoid that you can be jumped at any time. In that respect, it takes on the questing feel of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Feelings of loneliness and desperation plague you as you power through the zombie apocalypse. This is a place to spend time and explore rather than a game to attack and conquer.
Grim Fandango Remastered
(PS4, Vita, $15, Teen)
The 1998 film-noir-themed PC adventure game is one of those titles that everyone raves about but nobody plays. Now revamped with sharp graphics, sound and controls, the masses get to experience the classic in a far finer form than it had ever been offered. The gameplay does hold up — for what it is, at least — but shows its age in many ways. This is still very much a product of the 1990s, plagued with frustratingly stiff design that lacks the innovations Telltale games has brought to the genre.
Conquering the puzzles on your own may be more rewarding, but juggling the commands and inventory system can make tackling the game’s riddles more of a chore than it’s worth. Settle in, expect a grid, keep the walkthrough page on your browser open and you’ll be able to minimize the rough patches to appreciate the hilarious and haunting story. You help your hero, sort of a travel agent for the undead, untangle himself from a frame-up that could keep him from the rest and redemption he craves. Grim Fandango may not be quite as great as everyone remembers, but it’s still a worthwhile and entrancing piece of gaming history.
Life is Strange: Episode 1
(PS4, Xbox One, $5, Mature)
Playing as a photography-obsessed high school girl both blessed and cursed with the ability to rewind time, you deal with bullies, cliques and oppressive adults as you unravel a mystery of a missing girl. Bursting with creativity and boldness at every turn, Life is Strange is unlike anything I’ve played. The mostly-dialogue, little-action playstyle is a refreshing change of pace from the norm, and the writing and graphics do a better job of capturing teen angst than say, Bully — one of the few other games to have attempted it.
The time-rewinding gimmick is fascinating and fun, but it gets repetitively applied, turning every situation into an automatic failure on the first attempt. Once you play things out and, say, hear the teacher mention the right answer that will coax him to let you out of class early, you go back and make the right choice to advance the story. But even when the game gets slow and difficult, its advances in gameplay make it worlds more user-friendly than the archaic likes of Grim Fandango. With the likes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and, now, Life is Strange leading the charge, the future of the adventure game is brighter than ever.