stylo and digs play!!

I know @stylo has mentioned a few times that we’ve been playing games together while we’re quarantining so I thought I would come by the forum and make a thread.

she tells me I should introduce myself so: I’ve never been a particularly serious gamer—after my childhood gameboy it’s mostly been little mobile games. I’ve made other kinds of art at various times (grad work in poetry, some drawing and painting, a little theater), so I’m really interested in art criticism, and stylo and I have a lot of fun talking about games and comparing how we approach them.

this week’s game is Grim Fandango, which has been absolutely terrific. I was surprised looking at the reviews of the remastered version since they seemed pretty thin in talking about what I actually like about the game. I mean, the puzzles are sometimes pointlessly hard and obscure, the motion and inventory are sort of clunky, the game mechanics are definitely not what make it special. but it seems great to me not just because it mashes up noir with the Land of the Dead, but because it actually has clear ideas in it. it’s really refreshing to go from watching tv shows and franchise movies that are 90% incoherent retreads of other concepts mashed together on the fly, to a piece that’s doing exactly what it means to be doing.

instead of being reactionary shit about shooting terrorists or whatever, it tours you through a whole economy based on exploiting migrants: corrupt ringleaders at the heart of it, bureaucrats getting paid off, workers and revolutionaries fomenting small pockets of resistance, even a few hipsters getting off on the idea of rebellion without doing anything, and finally the victims themselves. Manny is kind of a charming-dickhead/reluctant-good-guy main character who’s always clear that he’s not in this to save the world, and it’s not pitched as a didactic or even explicitly socialist story, but the worldbuilding is just a lot smarter than average, you know? and you can’t say it’s lost relevance since the 90s…


I really love Grim Fandango, it’s probably one of my favourite concepts for a game world… I remember being exposed to it as a kid via the rare PC gaming magazine with a demo disc, playing the “use a piece of coral as a grappling hook to get up to the pigeons on the roof” puzzle over and over as a kid, imagining how huge and beautiful the rest of El Marrow would look like in the full game…


my thoughts on grim fandango!! i always got stuck in year two when i tried to play this over the last nine years, so playing with everyone’s pal @digs was a good way to finish the story

i’ll focus on the story/puzzles because in short everything about the art, writing, design, voice acting, world building etc holds up

I felt like some of the obtuseness of the puzzles in Act 2, and the entirety of Act 3, was a bit of a let down compared to the rest of the game

to me Act 2 is really the highlight, you have this big open-ish world of Rubacava, tons of worldbuilding and interactions with different characters, even a labor revolt. pretty cool to see the nightlife of the land of the dead! puzzles are enjoyable here, nice to figure out some concrete action items: need to knock out that sailor, find a union card, bust someone out of jail, etc etc. had a little trouble getting into the wine cellar - that baiting the waiter stuff didn’t make much sense but not too bad overall. I even thought the maligned “Lola’s photo” puzzle was pretty clever once it became clear how it was supposed to come together. However this is where we started to lean on the Universal Hint System a little more than I would like. There’s just so much stuff to interact with that it’s difficult to figure out what’s needed to finish out some of the puzzles. There’s a little less nudging than was required for us.

Act 3 by comparison feels really isolated and hollow. It’s a combination of huge map, barely anyone on it, very limited amount of things to interact with, slow movement (pipe crawling etc), and truly obtuse puzzles:

  • you start off with a truly incomprehensible engine room puzzle. if both the anchors are up, why does the throttle do nothing? surely you should be moving? and the solution of ‘tear the ship in half with its own anchors to get away from some guys,’ very intuitive.
  • why do you have to stick your scythe in the safe lock to get the tumblers to stay? how the hell does domino open that thing? does he stick his gun in there every time? surely you line up the combination and pull the handle, that should do it? Also the door contact thing is completely incomprehensible to me, i have no idea how the wiring in this place is supposed to work.
  • explain to me why one cannot use the bust-all to bust open a floor tile? why do you have to drop a halberd on it instead? IT’S A BUST ALL!!
  • why do you have to reverse the conveyor belt four times after you figure out that you have to drop the giant chain on it, just to get it to snag on the anchor?

…etc you get me, it’s annoying. liberal use of universal hint system for this part.

luckily when we get to the ninth underworld it gets interesting again, the art here is really beautiful and it’s nice to take a trip back through old scenes and see how things have changed, plus get a glimpse of the underworld under the underworld… both literally (sewers) and figuratively (hector). Act 4 is actually a really strong denouement, I liked tying up all the loose ends of the characters we met along the way - especially comrade Salvador. VIVA LA REVOLUCIÓN o7

overall rating:
+++ (Incredible)
++ (Excellent) . . . . . :skull:
+ (Fine-to-Good)
~ (Crap)
~~ (Repellent)
~~~ (Intolerable)


I love that you’re doing this! Right on

Grim Fandango, man. I’ve always been a PC guy from the start. There’s just something about those games back in the 90s. Sure, Mega Drive was hot but nothing there really gripped me like, say Monkey Island games and Doom.

Grim Fandango was my favorite video game world back then. It felt so unique to me and made me realize that I loved the noir genre before I really even got heavily into those films. It was a mind blower. I also was pretty disappointed in the puzzles and I guess this came when point and click adventures were pretty much over for me.

The world, the story, the characters and especially the ending made me feel all kinds of things though. Like I think I was a little bit traumatized after it was all over because I’ve never revisited the game. I do want to enjoy the story again and the 3D art, the atmosphere, I just don’t want to go through the whole game part, necessarily.

I’m terms of puzzles I think Full Throttle nails what I want out of an adventure game. Still prefer the world of Grim Fandango though

1 Like

Oh and welcome, @digs!


It’s pretty interesting playing the remaster and checking out the tons of concept art you unlock alongside your playthrough. Year 4 in particular looks like it got shrunk significantly in between concepting and the final product, though I don’t mind that at all.

1 Like

well me and @digs tried playing THE JOURNEY DOWN which is painted as “inspired by grim fandango”…

just gonna copy paste my steam review…

TL;DR I absolutely cannot recommend this game. I played 15 minutes and put in for a refund.

The Journey Down is painted a classic point-and-click as “inspired by Grim Fandango” in its inspiration from Jamaican / West Indies culture. Grim Fandango was immensely respectful of and true to Mexican culture and heritage (including authentic Latinx voice acting, research from a folklorist of Aztec culture, beautiful art inspired by Dia de Muertos, etc).

However, The Journey Down fails that bar dramatically. Within the first 10 minutes of gameplay we encounter 5-6 characters all of whom have AWFUL and arguably racist voice acting. The main characters are based off of African mask designs whereas their slang is Jamaican. I can’t say the accent is Jamaican, it’s just too amateur to even consider close. There is no tying together of the aesthetics and the setting. It felt like this game was telling me “all black cultures are the same and all Jamaicans sound like stoners.” I paused the game and read some reviews since I was so stunned; some reviews mention there is a racist Asian accent character later in the game who confuses their R’s and L’s like a 1950s sitcom character. This is not the game that was advertised.

From the first 15 minutes, AFAICT, this game has basically a child’s understanding of diversity - aping the aesthetic of other cultures to “look cool” without any thematic understanding. I was deeply disappointed. If you care at all about cultural respect in your games, do not buy this game. It is made by white dudes who do not understand the cultures they are aping and it shows.

P.S. One of the characters in this game has the worst fake New Yaaaaawk accent I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing. To the point I was wondering what accent he was even going for.

it’s a shame cuz the menu music is a bop.

I give it a solid



Just seconding this—after Grim Fandango we had browsed around @stylo 's unplayed adventure games to find something to play next, and the trailer for The Journey Down had pulled us in really effectively. Pretty art and music, a range of interesting places (docks, maybe an electrical substation, corporate offices) and a focus on nonwhite characters, mentioning Grim Fandango as an inspiration—I was hoping for more of the same complicated worldbuilding and social commentary, and looking forward to seeing how they riffed on Grim Fandango’s ideas. Such a letdown. We had barely gotten past the opening cutscene and into the first puzzle when we looked at each other like, can this really be this bad? I’m white and neither of us has a ton of familiarity with Jamaican/West Indies culture, but it was just so blatant. Beyond what stylo mentioned already, one of the main characters is named Bwana, which is Swahili for sir/mister and/or affectionate slang to refer to a friend—not a person’s name, and not Jamaican at all, as far as I can tell. They should be embarrassed to mention Grim Fandango in the same breath as such a lazy, racist production, honestly.

Anyway, we’ve moved on to Disco Elysium, which lots of our friends have played and enjoyed already, and it is definitely witty and interesting and, pleasantly, communist. So I am interested enough to keep going despite my general objection to alcoholic-divorced-guy stories (personal history of overexposure to alcoholic divorced guy writers—they’re funnier as characters than in real life!).


Ya I was hoping disco Elysium would be a customize your character deal, old drunk sexist is a little overdone (altho obviously you can play him differently)

I like the “thoughts” system, it’s pretty reliably entertaining. we put our signature perk as “Inland Empire” for the laughs

1 Like

earthbound plays!

have since defeated the pyramid dungeon in scaraba, that one dungeon took like two hours, and then there’s another dungeon immediately after that, jesus the pacing really went to the shitter here

something to be said for the ‘skin of your teeth’ feeling engendered by all these tough dungeons with necessity of psi management i guess


finished earthbound. it’s… good… I mean it’s better than I expected. still has way too many battles though, it’s the weakest part of the game but really becomes the main game from like midgame onward

was unexpectedly moved by several of the sound stone “Your Sanctuary” scenes

nice touch in the final boss fight with Paula. I feel the game sort of lacks narrative cohesion, but you know, whatever. would be interested to read an essay on it


yeah i feel like, i liked earthbound a lot but i have trouble coming up with any over arching statements about why i liked it. it just had a … nice personality! loved the mr Saturns (boing!), loved the back-on-trend trippy fight backgrounds, loved the somewhat terrifying portrayal of the US (blonde women with horrifying makeup smiles, blue Klansmen/Mormons/Happy-Happyists) and the loopy yet sincere vision of childhood. i may cave and try a fan recipe for peanut cheese bars.

agree with @stylo that there was too much fighting … I appreciate the effort to provide #content but they really could have cut a few of the more random dungeons–as a backseat gamer i would often be zoning out and just like, let me know when you’re done with the next interminable batch of orbs babe


me an @digs just been watching a let’s play of pathologic 2, somewhere in day 2 evening rn

probably wouldn’t have been able to get thru this one if we were playing it but it’s nice to watch the let’s play. albeit i’m getting more and more frustrated at this LPer ignoring time sensitive quests to rummage through trashcans, and i wouldn’t say his style of reading every line aloud is that great

i appreciate the artistic ambition of the game to just let the player fuck up and lay the consequences on you. albeit my expectations were maybe a bit high after reading that rock paper shotgun series like 10 years ago

1 Like

I wonder how well I this translates to a watcher. A lot of the magic is the way that stress and pressure imparts almost a manic fugue state on the player, and how the game backs out into its framing devices as a means of shaping emotional state to regulate the experience. The use of discomfort for its aesthetic puts it right in line with the horror game tradition, I think.


I can’t watch let’s plays of games with choices like that cuz the player never aligns with what I’d choose (or they get stuck on something I think is obvious and then I get to spend a whole video yelling at the screen) and it’s endlessly frustrating. if it’s not something that’s like, replay burners tier kind of game I’m probably not going to get any enjoyment unless I do it myself.

like I can’t even watch someone play kotor 2 without my ears releasing steam while making kettles ready sounds


yeah i think part of the problem i’m having with the let’s play is the guy doesn’t seem to have any artistic sense of the themes, doesn’t have anything to say about what’s going on other than gamer-guy commentary on mechanics. he seems to be roleplaying the haruspex in like… a very uninteresting way? kind of like a dumb guys idea of duty and honor and upholding your lineage etc. which is strange to have a game that actually conveys that sort of player experience with very limited dialogue choices. speaks to the quality of the game i think, that with such limited dialogue trees you can have an LPer who (without actively RPing the character) leaves you with the impression that you would do things so differently. The game as a vehicle for conveying something about the player. Reminds me of that essay about that one star wars game and bowing before lightsaber duels. (cw slur)

the most i liked him so far is when he actively broke away from the game to say “hell no i’m not killing that kid!” but overall he is playing in a pretty utilitarian “plot go forward” type of way, and the haruspex seems to be such a complex and creepy chara that’s it’s a lil frustrating. like uh, there’s a quest where you have to take a shiv out of someone’s stomach, and he spent like several in-game hours doing all the other side quests in the vicinity first. or the game tells you “your father’s funeral at dawn”, and he spends so much time doing sidequests he shows up at like 1pm. i was rooting for the game to severely punish him for stuff like this lol.

i think that i could certainly sink my teeth into this game for a week or two, to the detriment of my other life matters, but i don’t think this is something digs would have watched me play or played on her own. (i might still give pathologic classic hd a shot on my own)

i thought maybe we’ll try another LPer, just to get a comparison of playstyles for this small section of Pathologic 2.


finished watching pathologic 2… thoughts… wow!!

this and kentucky route zero are my two +++ games of all time


are you interested in mother 3 after that? it is violent and sentimental in equal measure. more pointedly anti-capitalist than earthbound’s “money money” statue but fumbles queerness a bit

the fan translation got a new patch last year btw

1 Like