troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Video Game: Grim Fandango
Manny Calavera: Grim Travel Agent

"Bound only by the paper-thin wrapper of mortality, a soul here lies, struggling to be free... and so it shall, thanks to a bowl of bad gazpacho and a man named Calavera."

Manuel "Manny" Calavera is a travel agent with the Department of Death — otherwise known as a Reaper. His job is to bring souls to the Land of the Dead, look over the deeds they have committed over the course of their life, and provide them with the best form of transportation possible for the long journey to the Ninth Underworld. The worst people must walk for four years, facing danger at every turn; the best receive tickets on the luxury train the Number Nine, which covers the same distance in four minutes.

Manny used to be the best in the business, but pickings have been slim for a long time. While the obnoxious Reaper Domino Hurley constantly brings in first-class commissions, Manny is stuck handing out walking sticks to first-rate scumbags, and since he needs to pay back his own misdeeds in life (the exact nature of which is unclear, even to him), he's getting desperate.

He concocts an ingenious scheme to steal one of Domino's clients, a saintly woman named Mercedes Colomar. But when she too comes up on his computer as morally bankrupt, Manny stumbles onto a plot to steal people's eternal rewards away from them. His quest to uncover the truth and save Mercedes takes him on a journey across the Eighth Underworld, spanning years, full of extraordinary places, bizarre characters and startling revelations.

This 1998 Adventure Game for the PC from Tim Schafer is a heady blend of noir, Mexican mythology and Schafer's own warped sensibilities. As with all adventure games by LucasArts, it contained no real action or danger, and no possibility of dying, focusing instead on solving the often tricky puzzles strewn throughout the game, as well as just wandering through the place talking to people. It differed from adventure games of the time in its simple interface; Manny could move in three dimensions in a stationary environment, and interacted with it through three keys — an Examine key, a Use key and a Get key, which could be used when Manny turned his head to look at something or someone. Sometimes all three keys could be used on the same item to different effect; stand near the giant pit of kitty litter and hit Examine, then Use, then Get, and you will get an increasingly funny series of reactions from Manny. Also, except for one arm-in-a-coffee-grinder moment, the adventure game standard of combining items was absent.

For the longest time, Grim Fandango was not given a digital rerelease, meaning that in order for the game to play on Windows 7, some creativity is required. A remaster, for PS 4 and PS Vita, has been announced, with Double Fine later confirming PC, Mac and Linux versions via Twitter.

Tropified, the game provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The location of the new LSA base, though it's definitely smaller than most examples of this trope.
  • Acid Trip Dimension: The World of the Living(!)
  • Addiction Displacement: Notice how quickly Glottis gets addicted to gambling (specifically, on races) after Year 1? That's not a Compressed Vice; it's a displaced version of his real addiction: speed.
  • Adventure Duo: Manny and Glottis.
  • Affably Evil: Domino Hurley comes across as this, at least at first.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: The Land of the Dead. What lies beyond the entrance into the real afterlife is unknown and unknowable, and nobody who goes through ever comes back; the game ends when Manny goes through.
  • Afterlife Express: The Number Nine express train carries only the most saintly of souls to the Ninth Underworld in four minutes, instead of four years like the others means of travel. Illegally obtaining or trying to counterfeit a ticket, however, has dire consequences, as the entire train turns into a demon, jumps the tracks, and quite literally goes to Hell as a result.
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: In the end, with Salvador's head.
  • All There in the Script: The three revolutionaries from the Blue Casket bar (Alexi, Gunnar and Slisko) only have their names explicitly listed in the credits. Same goes for Terry's last name being Malloy, though this one really shouldn't be hard to figure out. A worse case is the tube-switcher repairman, whose name didn't make it past the original game script (it's Juan Brennis).
  • Almost Dead Guy: Played straight and subverted.
  • Always Save the Girl: Manny gives up a fairly comfortable life in Rubacava to save Meche. And later gives up an opportunity to walk right out of the Eighth Underworld for her as well.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Most of the human souls are white like regular skeletons. Some have strange colours, such as Lupe being purple, Raoul being blue and Chepito being blue-green (though he justifies it by walking in the ocean for so long).
  • And I Must Scream: One possible interpretation of what happens to a soul upon physical destruction of its skeletal "body", by sprouting or otherwise.
  • And This Is for...: If you keep shooting your gun at the greenhouse during the final showdown Manny will start saying this. The villain responds by asking who he's talking about.
    • Manny decks Nick Virago, who wonders if it's for the camera girl he sprouted. Manny replies that it was just for Nick being Nick.
  • Arc Words: "One year later."
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Double N Train and anyone who passes through the Tunnel. No one knows what really resides on the other end.
    Manny: You know, sweetheart, if there's one thing I've learned, it's this: nobody knows what's gonna happen at the end of the line, so you might as well enjoy the trip.
  • Author Appeal: Tim Schafer's love of hot 1970's-style heavy metal-inspired rides with plenty of decals and exhaust pipes is evident with the Bone Wagon.
  • Banister Slide: Can be done in Year 2 at the Calavera Cafe, just for funsies.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Only the most saintly souls can go directly to their final resting place via the Number Nine train. Most others have to spend years getting there, and some are forced to work off their moral debts first. Then there's the whole deal with the stolen Number Nine tickets...
  • Beachcombing: Referenced by Manny after getting the metal detector.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: Glottis literally tears out his heart and throws it away in a fit of despondent Hamminess. Manny has to get it back from a spider-web. It beats the whole time.
  • Beatnik: The Blue Casket bar run by Olivia is home to some of them. According to Manny, the bar's got "extra-thick doors to seal in the hipness".
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Or, rather, Necktie Rope, but for the same effect.
  • The Big Guy: Glottis the demon mechanic.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Manny finally reaches the Ninth Underworld, yet has to leave behind his best friend Glottis as he goes into the unknown.
  • Blackmail: Manny uses a photo of Nick Virago kissing Maximino's girlfriend Olivia to get Nick to free Terry from jail.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Nope:
    Manny: Is this where you tell me all about your secret plan, Hector? How you stole Double N tickets from innocent souls, pretended to sell them but really hoarded them all for yourself in a desperate attempt to get out of the Land of the Dead?
    Hector: No. (BANG)
    • Domino does fall under this trope, though. In Year 3, he knocks Manny out with a single punch, but then does nothing to prevent him from exploring his island, freeing Meche, etc.. He also thinks that having Manny take over his factory is a more practical way of getting him out of the picture than simply sprouting him. Naturally, this attitude backfires.
  • Boobytrap: Domino Hurley arranges one around the Bonewagon.
  • Book Ends: The game opens on an ashtray with four mariachi dolls. The game ends on four mariachi playing around the pool, shaped like the ashtray. Also, the gorgeous Aztec relief on the menu depicting the major events of the game (that acts as the progress bar for your game save) is present in the final room of the game.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Manny can use the men's room in Hector's casino near the end of the game, although the question of why a skeleton would need it is obviously something the player isn't supposed to think about.
  • Break the Cutie: Meche is a lot harder and colder after a year working for Domino.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Chowchilla Charlie tasks Manny with retrieving one from Maximino's club. It turns out to contain fake Double-N tickets.
  • Cave Mouth: The entrance to the Ninth Underworld, of all things.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The Department of Death.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The packing foam (see below), which first gets used for gunking up the DOD mail system early in the game. Also, in Year 4, liquid nitrogen.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Certain information from earlier years — some of which is missable — doesn't become relevant until you encounter certain puzzles in the final year.
    • One of the more extreme examples is a cutscene in Year One where a demon's shirt catches fire, and the demon later scolds Manny for trying to put him out with a magnesium compound fire extinguisher in a room filled with chemical packing materials, because the chemical reaction would have caused a massive explosion. Much, much later in Year Four, you finally encounter a puzzle where you have to combine the two elements to create makeshift rocket fuel.
    • Related to that very puzzle, the mug you give Bruno in year 1 comes back in year 4 as he throws the mug at you, raging that he could at least have been given a magazine. It becomes useful in the same puzzle as described above.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Domino is presumed Deader than Dead after being ground into powder by a pair of coral crushers.
  • Claustrophobia: Raoul the waiter suffers from it; a puzzle consists of locking him inside a closet so that he panics and accidentally knocks himself out.
  • Companion Cube: Velasco and the S.S. Lamancha. Ironically, the latter is a Cargo Ship.
  • Contemplative Boss: Maximino is first seen in his office looking at the cat races through the window. However, he will turn to face Manny if you start a conversation with him.
  • Continuity Nod/Call Back: Many. Manny mentions he couldn't be on a ship without trying to be captain; at the end of the year, he gets a minor job on a ship. One year later...
  • Controllable Helplessness: A puzzle near the end of the game is based on this, where Manny is shot up with Sproutella, which is slowly filling his insides with flowers, and has to find a way to kill the plant while writhing in agony on the ground.
  • Cool Boat: The SS Lola.
  • Cool Car: The Bone Wagon is the product of Glottis' mad compulsion to make all things with engines harder, better, faster, stronger...
    Manny: What a relief. I was getting concerned that our transportation wasn't ostentatious enough.
  • Cool Old Guy: Velasco, especially in Glottis' eyes.
  • Cool Shades: Domino Hurley wears these when at the island near the giant waterfall.
  • Cool Train: The Number Nine. Especially in its demon form, when it takes a trainload of impostors straight down to Hell.
  • The Coroner: Membrillo.
  • Cosmic Deadline: The fourth year chapter is notably more rushed than the rest - compared to the design document, several puzzles and scenes are just skipped. Remarkably, the issue of where Manny got a company ticket with all the upper management of his business being completely gone is never addressed.
  • Creator Cameo: The LucasArts man-holding-a-bow appears on the leftmost part of the Aztec relief.
  • Cyanide Pill: Sal has one that sprays Sproutella in a cloud.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: When confronting Big Bad Hector Le Mans, Manny attempts to illustrate his own Genre Savvy. Manny asks if this is the part where Le Mans tells Manny his plans and then proceeds to spell them out in elaborate detail. Losing patience, Hector replies "No," shoots Manny and says this is the part where he dies painfully.
  • Deader than Dead: In the Eighth Underworld you can survive being pulled apart and losing limbs (or your head), but it seems to require extreme willpower; more the more parts you lose. There are ways to die again, however; they mostly involve having one's skeletal "body" completely destroyed, by being smashed, ground up, consumed by flowers (in-game called being "sprouted"), crushed and similar. Nobody knows where you go after that, but you're effectively forever denied entry into the Ninth Underworld.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Manny names a whole ship after Lola. In a darkly-humorous subversion of how these things normally go, he fails to save the ship, too.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Manny's pretty good at it.
    • Looking at his office door:
      Manny: Wasn't too long ago the name on that door was "Supply Closet."
    • After Glottis installed hydraulic stilts on the Bonewagon:
      Manny: What a relief. I was getting concerned that our transportation wasn't ostentatious enough.
    • Looking at a boobytrapped Bonewagon:
      Manny: Soon to be known as "the Blownwagon".
      Glottis: Hey! That's not funny!
    • Confronting Hector Le Mans:
      Hector Le Mans: Oh Manny... so cynical... What happened to you, Manny, that caused you to lose your sense of hope, your love of life?
      Manny: I died.
    • Most of the characters in the game have their moments, given the nature of, well, being dead. They usually get a bit of snark in while Manny is playing Mr. Exposition by Breaking the Fourth Wall for the player.
      Manny: (Looking at Eva) It's my boss's secretary, Eva.
      Eva: It's my boss's whipping boy, Manny.
      • Or this one:
      Manny: (Looking at Dockmaster Velasco) That Dockmaster Velasco is one salty old bag of rope.
      Velasco: (laughs) You should see his wife!
  • Defensive Failure: When Meche takes Manny as hostage to make Domino free them, she ends up threatening him with her gun, but he knows he has nothing to fear because she is too good to shoot him. And he is right, despite her protesting.
  • Dem Bones: Every human soul takes this form in death. Contrasted with the briefly-seen living humans... well, you have to see it, but the dead are more relatable. They also gain "breast-bones" (the women) and "belly-bones" (the fat). That's because they're not skeletons per se, but calaca dolls.
    • On the other hand, when Meche takes off her stockings, the shape of her legs is visibly outlined by the fabric, yet only much thinner bones are revealed. Perhaps they don't grow "breast-bones" or "belly-bones", but actually still have a physical body of sorts that can give shape to their clothing, yet is entirely invisible.
    • Oddly, Meche's lower leg appears to consist of only one bone rather than the normal two (tibia and fibula), although this impression might just be due to the camera angle or an oversight.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Taken to the extreme; trying to use, give, examine or pick up pretty much any person/object/item leads to Manny making a humorous comment:
    (Try to pick up Naranja)
    Manny: No. No more picking up sailors for me.
    ("Use" stockings away from items/people)
    Manny: I would never wear these. There's a hole in them.
  • Dialogue Tree
  • Dirty Cop: Police Chief Bogen from Rubacava. He will refrain from raiding the town's gambling joints only if he wins every time, which is why Manny has a device for rigging the roulette tables in his office.
  • Dissimile:
    Glottis: Manny, until now we scraped along the ground like rats. But from now on, we soar! Like eagles. Like eagles on... POGO STICKS!
  • Dragged Off to Hell: The fate of Nick Virago and an entire trainload of souls riding on counterfeit tickets; the train turns into a DEMON and leaps off the track, taking them all into a fiery pit. When asked just what happened, the gatekeeper chillingly replies, "Your destiny...cannot be purchased."
  • The Dragon: Domino Hurley.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: As if Lola's "sprouting" itself wasn't a tear jerker... Considering the reason she's been shot, she probably would've been still "alive" had she not given up on him:
    Oh, Manny, it's all my fault. Always falling for the wrong guys. You know, I even had a thing for you, once. But you were so hung up on that Meche woman, I figured I didn't have a chance...
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: More or less applies to just about any soul due to how the DOD works — i.e. if you were a saint, you get to skip the dangerous journey altogether and reach your final resting place in four minutes, but if not, you might have to walk, or even be sent to the Gate as a package. Or just get stuck in the Land of the Dead until you do something to redeem yourself, which is what happens to Manny.
  • Easing Into the Adventure: The game begins on a relatively normal day for Manny, with the first few puzzles largely serving to introduce important characters and explain the setting. It isn't until Manny resorts to hijacking a work order meant for his rival that the actual plot gets into gear.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first scene with Hector has him sprouting Don Copal without a second thought in a You Have Failed Me moment. This was presumably the fate of anyone he didn't like, if the Meadow is any indication. In fact, Hector shooting Manny could be less of a case of Genre Savviness and more of Hector using his default method of dealing with obstacles. Some of Domino's dialogue in Year 3 suggests the latter.
  • Everybody Smokes: Of course, since they're already dead, it doesn't do anything to them. The manual has the following footnote on one page:
    "For those who are disturbed by the amount of smoking in Grim Fandango, we offer two reasons: 1) we wanted to be true to the Film Noir atmosphere, and 2) everybody in the game who smokes is DEAD. Think about it."
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Not the plot in its entirety, but the individual chapters, each of which is clearly less than two days long, even counting the cutscenes.
  • Eye Scream: Use your scythe on the octopus.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Glottis, impressed by Velasco's speech, asks Manny if he could have an eyepatch. Manny proceeds to ask Velasco what's under it, since it can't be an eye.
    Velasco: Oh, well, when I was alive I had an eyepatch like this... this one's just for the phantom pain... And that one eye socket used to scream like a banshee when the trade winds blew, so I plugged her.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Sure, he was a jerk. Sure, he was already dead. But there's no denying that what happens to Domino is a nasty way to go.
  • Famous Last Words: In full keeping with Domino's Karmic Death:
    Domino: I can't believe you, Calavera! You're losing a fight, so you pick on one of my pets?! Why aren't you more like me, Manny? I've been trying to show you how but you don't listen! If you'd just adopt the proper attitude, just look what could happen to you!
  • Fantastic Light Source: The luminescent coral used by Chepito. Apparently it's mined and used to make tiny lightbulbs. The Land of the Dead is kind of an odd place.
  • Fat Bastard: The Big Bad. Impressive, since he's also a skeleton.
  • Fate Worse than Death: There are a number of unpleasant things that can happen to a soul in the Underworld, from being turned into a bone dam by demonic flaming beavers to being ground into powder to being "sprouted".
  • Femme Fatale: Olivia Ofrenda.
    Manny: You know, you have a really bad taste in men.
    Olivia: No, I have a taste for really bad men. There's a difference.
  • The Fifties: True to its Film Noir roots, the game is set in the 1950s - except with modern (circa 1998) conveniences like computers.
  • Film Noir: Tim Schafer said that the inspiration of the story was from 1944 film Double Indemnity.
  • Flipping the Bird: Implied in this exchange between Manny and the DOD's resident maintenance demon (who is very irritable):
    Manny: I'm still not getting any messages.
    The demon: I'm giving you one right now, but you can't see my hand.
  • Flower Motifs: One of the only ways to make someone Deader than Dead is to shoot them with a Sproutella gun that make flowers break apart and consume their bones. Membrillo the undertaker specifies to Manny that flowers are a negative symbol in the Land of the Dead, and Manny replies that from now on, he'll use balloons as gifts.
    • Genius Bonus: To the Aztecs, flowers were a metaphor for blood, as in the vital fluid of the living.
  • First-Person Smartass: Manny, obviously, in the classic hardboiled style.
  • Foreign Language Tirade: Toto Santos briefly slips into Hungarian on two occasions when Manny starts messing around with his fridge and Naranja's booze.
  • Foreshadowing: Many examples, but a particularly interesting one — because it masquerades as a Red Herring — is when Celso complains that there's no greater constant in nature than the treachery of women. Later, Manny is briefly led to believe that Meche isn't as saintly as she seems and got involved with his archnemesis Domino, which ultimately turns out not to be the case. What is actually being foreshadowed is a late-game plot twist where Olivia betrays Manny and Salvador, revealing that her latest boyfriend is Hector himself.
    • Manny has no idea why Dom would have a glowing coral in his desk - and it doesn't become explained til late in Year 3.
  • For the Evulz: Manny loves to reveal himself oh-so-briefly to living people.
    Manny: Pssst. It's me, Death. I'll see you soon, okay?
  • Four-Fingered Hands
  • Four Is Death: Well, there are four chapters, and it's a journey through the afterlife.
  • French Jerk: Raoul the waiter.
    Glottis: Taking a little nap-pez-vous, are we?
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The elevator puzzle in Year 2, and, to a lesser extent, the conveyor belt puzzle in Year 3, are tied to the CPU speed, which makes solving them on modern computers impossible without patching the game.
    • It is possible to encounter a glitch in Year 4 where the game mistakenly recognizes the bottle of liquid nitrogen in Manny's inventory as empty right as you need to use it. Considering the circumstances of that event, this can be very, very frustrating.
  • Genki Girl: Lupe.
    Lupe: HI MANNY!
    • Manny even Lampshades:
      Manny: Uh-oh. Lupe's gotten into the sugar again.
  • Giant Squid: Well, a giant octopus. It rides around in a submarine and kidnaps people.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm/Percussive Prevention: In Year 2, Meche ruins Manny's chance of getting on board the ship she is leaving on by throwing a bottle at him. When the two are reunited a year later, Manny can't resist commenting on that:
    Manny: By the way, thanks for that bottle of champagne you sent me. It really hit the spot. (taps his head)
  • The Grim Reaper: It's one of many jobs the sinful are forced to take on to pay off moral debt.
  • Guide Dang It: For an adventure game, there is surprisingly little. Unlike something by Sierra it is physically impossible to move on without having everything you need to complete the game. However, the betting stub puzzle from Year 2 can frustrate even if you know what you have to do.
  • Guile Hero: Manny.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The demons of the Land of the Dead are "given one purpose, one skill, one desire", and are obsessed with their job to the point where they'll fall ill and die if barred from any means of doing it. Even though Glottis is not happy about being stuck in the DoD's garage as a mechanic, for him it was still better than nothing, which is why he gets very, very upset when he is fired.
  • Having a Heart: Membrillo's "old coroner joke".
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the end, Salvador.
  • Homage: To the Noir genre in general, naturally. But Year 2 has a very Casablanca feel to it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Hector's penchant for keeping trophies of his sprouted victims comes back to bite him when the water supply used to maintain them becomes the vehicle for his demise.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Domino Hurley and Hector LeMans will go on forever until you Take a Third Option.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Giant multicolored demon cats are the racehorses of choice in the Land of the Dead, for some reason.
  • Hot Paint Job: The Bonewagon and the SS Lola. The common element here is Glottis.
  • Human Mail: Effectively what Bruno is subjected to.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Glottis, while explaining why he can't just quit his job, says that "it's like I'm not happy unless I'm breathing in the thick, black, nauseating fumes". Manny responds with "Hmm... can't imagine" after a long drag of his cigarette.
  • I Can't Use These Things Together: Regularly lampshaded when various characters respond to Manny's commentary.
    Manny: "They're locked."
    Carla (from the other room): "They're LOCKERS!"

    Pugsy: "Duh..."
  • Ice-Cream Koan
    (Manny looks at the domino booby trap trapped in a frozen gel)
    Manny: A parade of bones, trapped in a suspended state... Kind of a metaphor for all of us if you really think —
    Glottis: JUST DEFUSE THE BOMB, MANNY!
  • Identification by Dental Records: the computer terminals at the Department of Death scan the user's teeth to give them access, which makes sense seeing as a person's chompers are one of the few identifying physical features one can carry over from the Land of the Living. This is used in a puzzle early on in the game, where Manny has to make a mold so that a local resistance group can make a replica of his teeth and access the Department of Death's computer network.
  • Impossibly Compact Folding: The scythes used by the DoD "travel agents". There's a pretty lengthy animation (complete with a bell tolling finale!) for its assembly or collapse whenever Manny uses his.
  • Informed Deformity: Celso's wife is ugly according to Manny. She looks like just any other female human soul except with a pair of lines on her face.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: They can find anyone based on just a photograph! And the bad guys engineer big talking messenger birds with human skull-heads.
  • Insurmountable Waist High Fence: Manny can't get to the Day of the Dead festival in El Marrow because of several performer huts blocking the road. There is a stack of crates on the side, but he doesn't want to climb it. In Year Two, Manny needs to get on a boat which is blocked by a chain-link fence, and blames his stubby legs for being the reason he was never good at the high jump.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Manny and Glottis.
  • Ironic Echo: "This compass in the handle will sure come in handy, too!" Okay, Celso was probably just being a jerk.
  • Is That the Best You Can Do?: One of the Big Bad's responses when you attempt to shoot him during the final showdown is "Is that your best?" Unfortunately, it is - there's another way to win to the battle.
  • It's All About Me: Domino, oh so very much.
    • Hector, too. He's not even really selling people Double N tickets. He's selling counterfeit ones and keeping the real ones for himself.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The game lampshades itself frequently, such as Manny asking what Velasco has under his eyepatch.
    Surly Clown: (twisting balloons) My carpal tunnel syndrome is really acting up.
    Manny: But... you don't have any tendons.
    Surly Clown: (annoyed) Yeah, well you don't have a tongue, but that doesn't seem to shut you up, now, does it?
  • Join or Die: This exchange between Manny and Eva.
    Manny: Any messages for me?
    Eva: One: join, or die!
    Eva: Again!
  • Karmic Death: Domino Hurley, Nick Virago, and Hector (see Hoist by His Own Petard).
    • All the people who get Hector's fake tickets ride the No. 9 all the way to the end...and then go straight to Hell.
  • Knows A Guy Who Knows A Guy: A conversation between two Thunderboys in Year 4.
  • La Résistance: The L.S.A.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Anyone who bought Double-N tickets that were not rightfully theirs, or tried to use the fake ones.
    The Gatekeeper: Your destiny... cannot be bought.
    • Foreshadowing: Manny tells Nick he'll get his for offing Lola. Guess who was on that Double-N train with a stolen ticket?
  • Leitmotif: "Manny and Meche". You can tell that Manny's "love is for the living" speech is mostly him being in denial just from the fact that it's accompanied by this track.
  • Let's Play:
    • Number one. Unfortunately, it lacks in witty commentary... but guess GF itself makes up for it.
    • Number two. Simply the entire game, presented in movie form, with no commentary whatsoever. It doesn't need any.
  • Lighthouse Point: An important one in Rubacava.
  • Literal Metaphor: Glottis's reaction to getting fired. "It's like they reached into my chest, and pulled out my heart, and threw it into the woods!" Uh... was it really neccessary to actually demonstrate that?
  • Locked in a Freezer: Manny and Meche end up locked in a vault at one point.
  • Logo Joke: LucasArts' Gold Guy turns into a skeleton in the intro.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Lupe's short theme that plays twice in the game is not on the soundtrack.
  • Loves Me Not: Hector does this near the end. It's really creepy, considering what flowers symbolize in this game...
  • Ludicrous Speed: Inverted with Glottis, who can die of speed withdrawal. Ridiculously high speed in this case is the only way to cure him.
  • Mad Scientist: The Florist.
  • Made of Explodium: Evidently, packing foam + magnesium fire extinguisher = huge explosion. Or rocket fuel.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: So, when is a skeleton soul considered "dead"? They are technically all dead, yet they can be "killed" again (the text in the sequences' titles even describes them as "dying"!). This gets a Lampshade Hanging: in the Petrified Forest, Manny and Glottis have to cross a barrier of soul bones, and Glottis says that he feels guilty about rolling on them. Manny replies they won't care because they're dead. Glottis reminds Manny is dead, and Glottis wouldn't want to roll over Manny. Manny says that's because they "are friends". There's obviously a distinction between "dead" as an inhabitant of the Eighth Underworld and "dead" as someone whose bone-soul-body has been completely destroyed.
    • Manny cannot inflate a deflated balloon because he doesn't "have the lungs for that", and yet, he is shown several times blowing smoke when smoking, and the Angelitos too blow on crystals when they are working.
    • The human souls are described as not needing to breathe (which is the reason why they can stay underwater indefinitely). And yet when Meche and Manny are locked in a vault-like area, she tells him to use up the oxygen in another room. Maybe she just wanted to get Manny out of her face.
  • Matchlight Danger Revelation: Chepito revealing the sea monsters. Subverted because, as he puts it, he is too bright for them — they won't follow him.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Calavera means skull, and refers to sugar treats made for the Day of the Dead as well as other associated art.
    • Salvador's name means "savior".
    • Domino ("God") Hurley — he who would overthrow ("hurl") God.
    • "Ofrenda" — "offering".
  • Medium Blending: The Land of the Living segment resembles a weird photo collage.
  • Mega Neko: In Rubacava, there is a "cat track" that is just like a horse racing course, except the horses are replaced by giant cats. Of multiple colors. And they have a large swimming pool filled with cat litter. And huge cans of gelatinous mystery meat to feed them.
  • Metal Detector Puzzle:
    • Near the endgame, the player is required to find Salvador Limones' buried body in a field of flowers by using a Number 9 Ticket which is magnetically drawn to him.
    • An earlier one in Rubacava, where you have to find a metal detector in a giant pool of kitty litter.
    • An even earlier one in the Petrified Forest, where you have to use a road sign that magically points the way to Rubacava to find a hidden trap door.
  • Missing Floor: In Maximino's club.
  • Mood Whiplash: The upbeat Johnny Thunder sequence comes right after some pretty heavy sequences, and feels a little out of place initially.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: A few of the puzzles require observing characters or hearing specific bits of dialogue in order to make any sense. One example is the domino boobytrap puzzle, where the clue is Manny saying that Glottis is so nervous he looks like he's going to be sick. Just why simply asking him to go bring that barrel from the Blue Casket was not an option is anyone's guess. Oh, and the "Liquid Nitrogen — Not to be used on bone" comment gets a whole new meaning in the process.
  • Mundane Utility: Manny's scythe is used for a vast number of puzzles, but he only uses it properly (i.e. reaping) twice; freeing Bruno, and cutting the flowers hiding Salvador's body.
  • Mysterious Past: Manny won't tell anybody what he did to become a reaper, and claims he doesn't know or remember. He is not unique in this. It seems no one is supposed to reveal.
    Eva: What I did back in the fat days is none of your business. You know the rules.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: "I'm Calavera. Manny Calavera."
  • Nausea Fuelinvoked: Actually part of a puzzle.
    Manny: (to Glottis) So, what is that stuff they pack canned hams in, anyway?
    (cue Glottis retching)
  • Never Live It Downinvoked:
    Manny: It's my ex-boss' ex-secretary Eva!
    Eva: You're never going to let me forget that secretary thing, are you?
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The "alligator-infested sewers" urban legend shows up for a puzzle which requires getting past a huge albino 'gator.
  • Nice Hat: All the female souls wear hats (considering they don't have hair). Lola has an especially nice hat: a top hat in the shape of a stack of buildings.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Female souls have bulges on their chests despite technically being skeletons. Then again, they're based more on calaca figurines than on actual skeletons, and one character also manages to be noticeably fat, so...
  • Noodle Incident: The office Christmas party. Apparently, he got drunk and punched someone he hated. Like every good Christmas Party ever.
  • Now You Tell Me: A particularly harsh one for Manny after climbing a steep mountain.
    Manuel: GONDOLAS?! I knew we should have checked this side of the mountain before we walked up!
  • NPC Amnesia: Subverted if you try to go through the security checkpoint after causing Carla to throw away her metal detector.
    Carla: Sir, if you will, please, place all of your belongings on the security desk... and then jump out the damn window!
  • Oddly Small Organization: Of the Department of Death workers we only ever see four souls counting Manny, plus two demons. Presumably, everybody else was at home or visiting the Land of the Living at the time.
    • The LSA literally consist of two people (Salvador and Eva) at first. (It expands greatly.)
  • Oh Crap: At the start of Year 3, the SS Lola is boarded by assassins. Glottis pulls Manny into the engine room, shuts the door and says that they're safe there. Cue one of the assassins behind the door mentioning explosives. Glottis's face after that line is a perfect (and hilarious) illustration of this trope.
  • Once per Episode: Manny has a habit of falling into the Sea of Lament at least once per year, which Captain Velasco notices the second time it happens.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: Played with. Trying to access Domino's computer results in Manny guessing key words as the password. It isn't "GOLDEN BOY", "MR. D", "DOMMY", "ARROGANT FRAUD", "BOXING", "GREED", "VANITY", or "SLEAZE".
    Manny: Whew. I was scared it might be "EVA."
    Domino: (offscreen) Get away from my computer, Manny.
  • Poirot Speak: Manny, being from Central/South America, occasionally dips into Spanish mid conversation for every other word. In Year 4, Manny even exclaims "¡Ay chihuahua!" twice in one scene.
    Roulette Croupier: Mesdames et Messieurs, faites vos jeux s'il vous plaît. Ladies and Gentlemen, please place your bets.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Hector (see Bond Villain Stupidity above) and Domino, who covers up the theft of tickets from good people by keeping the good people in question enslaved in his own lightbulb factory, earning himself extra income at the same time.
  • Puzzle Boss: It's an Adventure Game; what other kind is there? There are only two bosses in total, anyway.
  • Rebel Leader: Sal Limones.
  • Rerouted From Heaven: Big Bad Hector is stealing tickets to the Number Nine express, a luxury train that takes the most virtuous souls directly to the next underworld, and selling them to people who don't deserve them. However, the tickets he's selling are counterfeit, he's hoarding the real ones for himself in a desperate bid to balance out a life of evil.
  • Road Apples: In Rubacava, Manny finds a pool filled with dirty cat litter. Giant cat litter. Manny says that it is "tempting" to jump in the dirty litter, and he will explode in a long burst of laughter if you try to have him pick up some of it.
  • Running Gag: It's never explained how Manny manages to do so well between chapters:
    • At the end of Chapter 1, he's mopping the floor in a cheap diner; at the beginning of Chapter 2 (one year later), he's transformed it into a fancy gambling joint.
    • At the end of Chapter 2, he's mopping the deck on a ship; at the beginning of Chapter 3 (one year later), he's captain.
    • The lengthy trek between Chapters 3 and 4 goes unexplained as well; the group apparently used sled-dogs, but that's all the insight we get.
      • To be fair, Manny is an unusually shrewd businessman in a business that involves making people do what he wants.
    • Manny somehow manages to end up dunked in the drink every year on the Day of the Dead (at the Rubacava docks in 3 of the 4 years). This is actually pointed out by Captain Velasco, who asks Manny if it's "going to be an annual thing".
    • The tool that sees the most use in the game, Manny's scythe, is used in an ingenious number of ways - but only once to actually reap a dead soul. It sees more use as a circuit component than as a blade. He uses the scythe the way scythes were designed to be used - to cut plants - just once: to reveal Sal's body.
    • No.36 - The Rusty Anchor. It starts out as a puzzle element in Year 2, but goes way beyond that.
      • Showing the paper with those words to Glottis makes him sing an appropriately-themed song.
      • Showing the same paper to Olivia reveals that she has a poem about it.
      • Showing it to Terry causes him to mention a bar by that name.
      • Showing it to Toto Santos results in him finding an appropriate tattoo design in his portfolio. He also points out all of the things mentioned above before doing it.
      • There's also a cat at the race track that goes by the name "Rusty Anchor".
      • Examine one of the ship's anchors in Year 3: Manny will say "Nice chrome job by Glottis, but it's really just an old rusty anchor..." and (in a surprised voice) "It says, 'Inspected by No. 36'".
      • When Chepito sings random gibberish while working, one of his lines is "...oh, rusty anchor...".
  • Sanity Slippage: All florists in the afterlife. Flowers were their passion during their living days, but now they're considered horrific and a Fate Worse than Death. The contradiction literally drives them insane.
  • Sassy Secretary: Eva.
    Manny: Any messages for me?
    Eva: No, calls stopped coming for you the day you left. They're still sending you that lingerie catalog, though.
  • Scenery Porn: While the characters and items are three dimensional and fairly basic models, every background and scenery object (i.e. tables, chairs, and other minor details) is a very detailed image.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: The tunnels in the Petrified Forest clearing. Glottis takes notice the first time you try driving into one.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl:
    Glottis: There was this one high-pitched whine it was making — really grating noise, you know? And I searched and searched, but I couldn't find the source of the noise, until we pulled in here.
    Velasco: Was it the blower?
    Glottis: No, it was Manny screaming in the back like a cat tied to a cruise missile.
  • Secret Underground Passage: One that leads out of El Marrow.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: Membrillo, the tall, dour coroner in Rubacava, believes that the Land of Eternal Rest does not exist, and that all the denizens of the Land of the Dead are actually in Hell, condemned to this half-life for all eternity. For this reason, he won't complete his journey and leave the Land of the Dead, trapping himself forever.
  • Shout-Out: In contrast with other LucasArts adventure games, Grim Fandango has a remarkably very low amount of shout outs, but there are still some:
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: In a moment that subverts Just Between You and Me, Bond Villain Stupidity and Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
    Manny: Is this where you tell me all about your secret plan, Hector? How you stole Double N tickets from innocent souls, pretended to sell them but secretly hoarded them all to yourself in a desperate attempt to get out of the Land of the Dead?
    Hector: No.
    (BLAM!)
    Hector: This is where you writhe around in excruciating pain for about an hour because that idiot Bowsley ran off with the fast-acting sproutella. That slow stuff will sprout you, but it's going to take a long time, I'm sorry to say.
  • Sinister Scythe: The DOD Reapers use them.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Manny does this to a sailor in order to prevent him from showing up for work. Interestingly, while this does knock him out, just having him unconscious doesn't accomplish the goal, requiring some extra plotting.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Many characters smoke in the game for the Film Noir feel. The manual says that the game doesn't promote smoking, though, since the characters are already dead.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • "The deadbolt is set. But with what?" A skeleton key, perhaps?
    • The unorganize worker bees on the Rubacava docks. They're, of course, Seabees.
    • Glottis has but one purpose, a solitary reason, for being summoned: to drive or ride some manner of transportation at high speeds. He's a speed demon.
    • The title. "Grim Fandango". That would be a "Danse Macabre", wouldn't it?
    • The entire concept of sprouting. When you're sprouted, you're pushing up daises (or marigolds or tulips.)
  • Still Got It: Manny says this near the end of the game after talking Celso into buying Double-N tickets.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: This is justified for Manny and the other human souls, as they are dead and don't need to breathe, so they can stay underwater forever. Glottis does have lungs though, and he even points this out when he and Manny are stuck underwater. Manny handwaves this by saying: "You survived without a heart, you can live without air for a while."
    • Subsequent observations of Glottis let us know how he's holding up: "Still not blue", "A little blue around the eyes". Eventually, Glottis emerges of his own accord... because his skin was getting pruney.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Manny first asks Glottis if he could be his chauffeur, Glottis lights up exclaiming "Oh!", then immediately stamps down his enthusiasm, quickly denying, "No! No no no no no no no..."
  • Take Your Time: An odd case. By the point when Manny starts looking for the key Lola supposedly left for him in Year 2, she has already been shot. However, no matter how long it takes you to actually find her, she will stay conscious long enough to get a few last words before turning into flowers and blowing away.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Toto Santos in Year 4.
  • Third Act Misunderstanding: And how! When Manny finally finds Meche, Domino apparently already told her the story about Manny hijacking her file when it wasn't intended for him. As a result, she refuses to trust Manny, who, by that point, underwent enough Character Development to stop caring about his job altogether (and even stopped pretending that he isn't in love with her). This culminates in Meche attempting to take Manny hostage, only to have Domino confirm that Manny really doesn't work for him and lock her in a vault.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Late into Year 4, Hector almost manages to hire the disguised Manny back into the DOD, something that didn't result in him turning into a flower patch only because Manny didn't bother to shoot him right away. Keep in mind that earlier that same day Hector scolded Bowlsley the florist for accidentally hiring an LSA spy as his assistant ("Haven't you ever heard of a background check?").
  • This Is Not a Drill: Near the start of Year 3, Manny (as the captain of the SS Lola) says this while trying to get response from his crew, after being informed that a group of assassins is trying to get on board. He's a bit too late by then.
  • This Is the Part Where...: When confronting Hector in his greenhouse, Manny says "Is this where you tell me all about your secret plan, Hector?", and then proceeds to describe said plan himself. Hector replies "No," and shoots him.
  • The Three Trials: Year 2 revolves around this, being the only chapter set in a single expansive location. Manny needs a Maritime union membership, tools for Glottis, and to prevent a sailor from showing up so he can take over his job.
  • Time Skip: Three of them. The game has four chapters, each a year apart, each on the Mexican Day of the Dead — when most of the dead celebrate by visiting the Land of the Living. No one seems to notice that important, (after)life-changing things happen to Manny on the same holiday four years in a row: First skip, he finds what he's looking for exactly one year after he started looking; then two different lengthy treks take exactly one year each.
  • Title Drop: One of Olivia's poems, which seems to be based on Procol Harum's song A Whiter Shade of Pale.
  • Together in Death: A variation - in Year 1, Celso Flores, one of Manny's clients, is looking for his wife, who died around the same time as he did. By Year 4, the two are reunited, though this comes with a dose of Fridge Horror as Manny ends up talking them into buying Hector's fake Double-N tickets.
    • Not too much horror. Celso must have been an absolute scumbug since Manny feels the walking stick was too good for him. As for his wife, she's no innocent flower either, hinted strongly as a Gold Digger with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows part of the death scenes of Don and Lola.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: A non-romantic variant with Manny leaving Glottis, who can't follow him into the Ninth Underworld.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-Universe at Olivia's club, Manny can spout anything to the point of nonsense, and the crowd will love it provided they know you're a member of the LSA.
  • True Companions: Manny and Glottis.
  • True Neutralinvoked: The Gatekeeper.
    The Gatekeeper: The gate opens, the gate closes. It does not help.
  • Try Everything: There's one puzzle in Year Two which maddeningly requires you figure out what to do with a slip of paper reading "Rusty Anchor". The only solution is to show it to everyone in the city to figure out what it means - and this being a Tim Schafer game, everyone has a unique answer, up to and including a catchy little piano ballad (see below).
    • Additionally, this applies to the scythe; while several puzzles require the unorthodox use of the scythe, only two require it being used normally (i.e. to reap a soul early on, and to later cut a plant).
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: The elevator puzzle in Year 2 is unsolvable on modern computers without patching the game or slowing down the processor speed. Through excessive experimentation, it is also possible to end up in Year 3 without the scythe, which, being Manny's main tool, is used in quite a few puzzles there.
  • Vice City: Rubacava to some extent. Also El Marrow/Nuevo Marrow in Year 4.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: The first post SCUMM LucasArts adventure. The transition was traumatic to the genre. The 3D graphics were still crude next to crafted and detailed sprites. Grim Fandango suffers from the loss of mouse control, almost total removal of features such as item combination and just moving across the map becomes tedious. All-in-all it was Gamespot game of the year, but it sold so poorly it became a Genre-Killer in the minds of video game producers.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Show the kids the Bust-All, or "the bone saw". Go on.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Happens as part of the domino booby trap puzzle.
  • We All Die Someday: As Membrillo puts it, "We may have years, we may have hours, but sooner of later, we push up flowers".
  • Weird Currency: It originates from morality and the money people are buried with. It's never entirely clarified how it works.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lupe kind of just vanishes into the ether after Manny gets the police to raid his casino.
  • What the Hell, Hero??
    Domino: I don't believe you Calavera, you're losing a fight so you pick on one of my pets?!
  • What You Are in the Dark: When Manny approaches the Tunnel to the Ninth Underworld, he wrestles with temptation. He could actually walk through the Tunnel — forget everything and just leave this world and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. After all, he did make the four year trek as any Lost Soul must. However, he passes up freedom because he has to be a Big Damn Hero and save everyone.
  • Where It All Began: Near the end of the game, Manny returns to El Marrow in order to recover the Double-N tickets. Things get ridiculous when he disguises himself to get closer to the Big Bad, who then proceeds to offer Manny his old job. In his old office.
  • Who Are You Calling Names?:
    Manny: Aw, they look just like little Johnny Thunders.
    Thunder Boy: Who are you calling little?
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough: Manny gives Membrillo the undertaker a metal detector to help identify "corpses" better, and Membrillo comments he could find a belt buckle with initials. Manny laughs, asking who the heck would keep his initials on his belt buckle, only for Membrillo to point to his own belt buckle, causing an awkward silence.
  • Winged Humanoid: A pair of child souls enslaved by Domino. It's unclear exactly why they have wings; perhaps simply all child souls do.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Near the end of the game, Manny manages to recover a suitcase of stolen Double-N tickets and almost succeeds in getting Meche on the train so she could deliver these tickets to their owners. Then, one of Hector's mutant ravens attacks Meche, and everything goes downhill from there.
  • You! Exclamation: From Chepito and Bruno, both aimed at Manny.
  • You Have Failed Me: In the first year, your boss Don's death.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A peculiar, naturally enforced variant. Demons like Glottis are created to maintain various machines vital to the infrastructure of the Land of the Dead that human souls can't fulfil (since their stays are supposed to be temporary). They each have one specific function and desire. Any spirit of the land that is no longer able to do the job which it was created for will slowly weaken and then die. The Maintenance Demon is able to avoid this by basically making a vague connection between maintenance and his new job as a bodyguard. Glottis himself was created "TO DRIVE!," but since he wasn't allowed to drive anything, being an auto-mechanic was close enough. He comes close when he's barred from even that for an entire year.


The Curse of Monkey IslandCreator/Lucas ArtsEscape from Monkey Island
Grandia IIIFantasy Video GamesGrim Grimoire
GrandiaVideo Games of the 1990sGunstar Heroes
Hack N SlashCreator/Double Fine    
Grand Theft Auto VPlay Station 4 Guilty Gear
Grief SyndromeIBM Personal ComputerGround Control
Grand Theft Auto ClassicTeen RatingGuitar Hero

alternative title(s): Grim Fandango
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
115926
36