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Something is rotten in the land of the dead and it’s not just the flesh on the recently deceased corpses. For down on his luck travel agent Manny Calavera, life in the land of the dead is less paradise and more percentages. He struggles to pay off his debt to the “powers that be” by selling recently deceased individuals travel packages to take them through the land of the dead and onto the Ninth Underworld. The problem is, Manny’s recent clients haven’t exactly been rich with the milk of human kindness, or other such desirable traits that let them qualify for the more expensive travel packages. It’s up to the player to help Manny repay his debt and uncover a conspiracy that will take him on a wild adventure across the afterlife. Grim Fandango is an adventure title that’s widely regarded as a cult classic and certainly a game any adventure fan would want to play.
To play Grim Fandango on a modern PC, do not use the installer on the CD-ROM itself. Instead, create a folder anywhere on your PC. This folder will be your Grim Fandango data folder, for this example we used c:\Games\Grim Fandango. Set up the folder however and wherever you like. Remember if you’re not familiar with manipulating files and folders, there are tutorials available here.
Now, explore the contents of the first Grim Fandango CD-ROM in ‘Computer’. Open the folder called “GRIMDATA” on the CD-ROM. Copy all the files that have the .LAB file extension from this folder on the CD-ROM to the Grim Fandango directory you made on the computer. The easiest way to locate them all is to use details view in File/Windows Explorer and sort by file extension. Once you have copied those files over, copy the file named GRIM.TAB too. You’re now done with disc one.
Insert Grim Fandango CD 2. Explore this CD-ROM using ‘Computer’ and again you will see a folder called “GRIMDATA”. Open this folder and copy the entire contents to the Grim Fandango directory you made on your computer. Windows will warn you that some of the files already exist, but you can safely overwrite them. You should now have a folder on your PC full of .LAB files and one .TAB file, but still no way of running the game.
Before we proceed, there’s one other thing you will need. Download the Grim Fandango 1.1 patch, using the link here. Do not run the patch, simply copy the executable file into the Grim Fandango directory you created on your PC, in with the .LAB and .TAB files. You’re now done installing the game.
Running the game with ResidualVM
To run Grim Fandango on a modern PC, you will need to use a tool called ResidualVM. This tool basically replaces the old graphics engine that used to run Grim Fandango with a more modern one that is fully compatible with modern graphics cards. You can download the program here. Use the latest “Release binary” for Windows. For ease of use, we recommend the “Windows Installer” package that should be the first download link on the page.
Installing ResidualVM is easy, simply run the downloaded file and follow all the on-screen prompts. When installation is complete, start the program from the Start Menu or Start screen and the following window will appear.
Click on the “Add Game…” button. Now, browse to the Grim Fandango directory you configured earlier (with the .LAB and .TAB files) and then click on “Choose”. If you did that step correctly, you should see an options window like the one shown below.
The options can be left as default. The ResidualVM program supports other adventure games too, so unless you want to set an option specifically for Grim Fandango, it’s better to tweak the options for all games rather than set them here. Click on “OK”.
Grim Fandango should now be available to play. Before you start, you might want to click on “Options…”. Here you can change various settings such as enabling full screen mode on the Graphics tab. Remember Grim Fandango is a 4:3 (non-widescreen) aspect ratio game and therefore should run with borders at the sides of the screen on a modern widescreen display. Click on “OK” when you are done. To start the game, simply select it from the list in ResidualVM and click on “Start”. As with many games titles, you may need to disable any secondary monitors before the game will run correctly in full screen mode.
Unlike a lot of adventure games that use a point and click system, Grim Fandango uses the keyboard to move Manny around the world. ResidualVM doesn’t yet support game controllers, so if you prefer to use a joypad, then the much loved Xpadder utility is the solution once again. You might want to temporarily set the game to windowed mode while you configure your Xpadder profile. While playing Grim Fandango, press the F1 key at any time to access the options menu, from here, select “Control Help” to view the keys. Below is a picture of the Xpadder profile we created for Grim Fandango.
As you can see the layout is pretty simple. You can map the keys to the buttons however you like. On the Xbox pad, it’s easy to remember X for examine and green for use. For the left analogue stick, we used Xpadder’s distance zone feature. When the left stick is pushed less than 75% of the way, Manny will walk. When the stick is pressed more than 75% of the way, Xpadder tells the PC that shift is held down, since pressing shift and any direction causes Manny to run, this means he will run when the analogue stick is pushed down the full way. This is similar to the technique we used to fix the controls in Prince of Persia.
So, now you’re all ready to meet Manny on your modern PC. Make no bones about it, this is a classic adventure and well worth a play through or a replay. Good luck on your adventures in the land of the dead!
Grim Fandango Remastered
If you don’t already have a copy of Grim Fandango and you’re dying to meet Manny and his friends, we recommend picking up the recently released “Grim Fandango Remastered”. Thanks to those lovely people at Double Fine productions, you can now play through this classic adventure game with enhanced textures, improved controls, better lighting and a re-recorded orchestral soundtrack. Check out this new version here.