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 was required.
A remastered edition for PS4
, PS Vita
, PC, Mac, and Linux was released on January 27th, 2015. The PC version is available from Steam
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. By Year 3, he's not fooling anybody anymore.
- 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.
- The Alcoholic: Glottis literally drinks wine by the barrelful, running all the waiters ragged in the process.
- 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).
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Well, Olivia certainly does. She ends up romantically involved with three different men over the course of the game, all of whom are varying degrees of bad.
Manny: You have a really bad taste in men.
Olivia: No, I have a taste for really bad men. There's a difference.
- Apparently, Lola has a history of this, and it was her affection for one of Olivia's boyfriends, Maximino, that lead to her getting sprouted. Somewhat Justified when you think about it; since all the good boys went straight to heaven, there can't be very many to go around.
- Almost Dead Guy: Played straight and subverted.
- Always Save the Girl: Manny gives up a fairly comfortable life in Rubacava to save Meche. He later gives up an opportunity to walk right out of the Eighth Underworld for her as well, but by then, he's saving many, many more people besides her.
- Always Someone Better: Manny's relationship with Domino while working in the Department of Death.
- 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, Chepito being blue-green (though he justifies it by walking in the ocean for so long), and Hector being a sickly shade of yellow.
- Anachronism Stew: A completely Justified example: the game takes place in the afterlife, so people from many different time periods live there.
- Analogy Backfire: Domino's final moments were spent giving Manny a "Reason You Suck" Speech, culminating in him telling him "If you just adopt the proper attitude, just look what can happen to you!" He was referring to all the success he'd been basking in due to being Dangerously Genre Savvy, but the effect is lost because he says this just as he's about to be ground to pieces by a pair of crushers he hadn't been paying attention to.
- Anatomically Impossible Sex: Sex is never explicitly seen or spoken of in the game, but par for the course of it being a Film Noir, there is still plenty of moments with sensual themes, language, and subtext. It'd be a pretty big stretch to not assume that some kind of sex goes on in the afterlife, which is kind of a paradox since nobody in the afterlife has any genitalia. According to Tim Scafer, the the official Grim Fandango policy on sex is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
- And I Must Scream: One possible interpretation of what happens to a soul upon physical destruction of its skeletal "body", by sprouting or otherwise.
- A couple of commentaries in the remastered edition give a more benevolent interpretation: sprouting cause the soul to be reincarnated in the World of the Living. In this context, however, it's a punishment because you are forced to go through life once again instead of moving on.
- 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."
- A Simple Plan: The main plot of the game happens because two simple plans inadvertently came to a head:
- Hector Le Mans: Defraud deserving souls of their golden tickets to the Afterlife Express, sell fake tickets to rich people, (un)live in luxury while actually keeping all the golden tickets to balance out his many crimes and get him to the Ninth Underworld.
- Manuel Calavera: Steal a colleague's work order in order to break a slump and maybe work off his time in the Land of the Dead a little faster. In doing this, he accidentally unveils Hector's plan, and a four-year long chain of events is started that change The Land of the Dead forever.
- As You Know: Lampshaded humorously. The opening cutscene has Manny explain to a recently dead soul, and in turn, the audience, how the death system in this universe works. If you want more information after that, you can pester his boss's secretary, Eva, until she gives it to you. Eva then calls him out for being deliberately obtuse as a ruse to hit on her. (It's revealed she and Manny used to date.)
- 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.
- The Atoner: All dead souls who lead sinful lives have to pay off their debt in the afterlife one way or another. Manny in particular spends the first half of the story trying to track down and help Meche, who he accidentally, and not exclusively at his own fault, condemned to a fate that she didn't deserve.
- 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.
- Balcony Escape: Manny does this from his Department of Death office twice, once in Year One and once in Year Four.
- Bald Woman: With the unexplained exception of Eva (a wig, perhaps?), all skeletal characters in the story are bald. The women usually make up for it by wearing a Cool Hat.
- 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.
- Bear Hug: Glottis gives one to Manny before he leaves forever to the Ninth Underworld.
- 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.
- Betty and Veronica: Meche and Olivia, respectively. In this case, there is no Love Triangle, just contrast.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Meche's the sweetest gal you could ever hope to meet, but don't think she goes anywhere without an extra hidden bullet in her hat.
- Big Damn Hero: Manny grows into one after a healthy dose of Character Development. Even when he's literally staring headlong into heaven's gates and given every right to walk in and never return to the Under World again, he still won't do it until everybody who's counting on him is finally safe.
- The Big Guy: Glottis the demon mechanic.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Glottis and Manny, respectively.
- Bittersweet Ending: Manny finally reaches the Ninth Underworld, yet has to leave behind his best friend Glottis as he goes into the unknown.
- Black Comedy: It was made by Tim Schafer, and takes place in a world filled with dead people. Did you really expect anything different?
- 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:
- 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. Funnily enough, Manny can actually call Nick out on this, and he replies by telling him that he's the one that's being pragmatic, not Hector. 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 of 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.
- Call Forward: Early on, still an apparently unsuccessful employee reaper, if Manny looks at posters with luxury sea cruise transportation offer, he mentions his competitiveness: he wouldn't be able to work on a ship without trying to become captain. As story progresses, he ends up cleaning floors in a shabby dinery. He's owning the place, overhauled into a classy club after the year-long Time Skip. Compounding the echo, he later has to weasel his way onto a ship, again mopping the floor as the screen pans into another "time skip" card. With him in charge, the thing at the very least looks better.
- Cave Mouth: The entrance to the Ninth Underworld, of all things.
- Celestial Bureaucracy: The Department of Death.
- Childless Dystopia: A very unique subversion - it's true that there are extremely few children in the Land of the Dead, but because Children Are Innocent, that's the way it's supposed to be. Manny is only seen meeting two children during his entire four-year journey, but the only reason they're there is because their tickets to heaven were stolen
- 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.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Olivia has a history of infidelity and, near the end of the game, betrays the LSA.
- 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.
- Conspicuous CG: All backgrounds in the game are painted in a 3D-looking style, but all the character models are actually 3D. It's a little distracting, especially now that it's over fifteen years old.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: Like Escape from Monkey Island after it, all items that can be picked up are easily discerned from the background.
- 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: Many, some of which are easy to miss. Upon observation of certain simple bed in the 2nd year, Manny's line implies that his cherished sleep comes with nightmares about spiders and beavers. Some puzzles from the in-universe previous year involved dealing with monster semblances of these two species.
- 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.
- Crap Sack World: Because of the way the Eight Underworld works, it's kind of inevitable that it ended up this way: all the best people skipped it completely and went straight into heaven, so as a result, its almost entirely populated with dishonest, corrupted low-lifes at best and dangerous, deadly criminals at worst. That said, the little of the land we do see seemed at least tolerable until Hector showed his ugly mug.
- Creator Cameo: The LucasArts man-holding-a-bow appears on the leftmost part of the Aztec relief.
- Creepy Souvenir: Hector LeMans' has a greenhouse in the middle of a massive meadow of flowers. It sounds pleasant to an outsider looking in, but by that point in the game, any player would know full well what the presence of flowers indicate in this game and how he got so many of them.
- Cruelty Is the Only Option: Like many an Adventure Game protagonist before him, Manny must do some pretty nasty things in order to eventually save the day. He's not as bad as Guybrush, but he's still somewhere in that ballpark.
- Cultural Translation: The Robert Frost balloon is changed to Captain Haddock in France.
- 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.
Manny: (Looking at Dockmaster Velasco) That Dockmaster Velasco is one salty old bag of rope.
Velasco: (laughs) You should see his wife!
- Dead to Begin With: The entire game takes place in the afterlife.
- 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 Determinator: One of Manny's best and most prominent qualities; for such a cynical, down-on-his-luck dead man, it's pretty admirable that not once during his four-year-long journey to help those he feels responsible for are his spirits broken, not even temporarily.
- 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:
- Dialogue Tree Many of the hidden achievements for the Remastered version require the player to ask characters certain things, or lead to funny dialogue options.
- Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Hector's entire plan is to literally scam his way through Heaven's gates.
- DVD Commentary: The Remastered version contains "commentary nodes" similar to games by Valve Software, where the player can hear Tim Schafer and company discussing the history and inspirations for the game.
- 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.
: Manny, until now we scraped along the ground like rats. But from now on, we soar!
Like eagles. Like eagles on... POGO STICKS!
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Soul Reaping is simply one of the many jobs you can be given in the Underworld in order to pay off your debt, so a vast majority them are perfectly normal people. Manny himself provides the page quote and treats his customers like any other charming and friendly salesman would.
- 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.
- The Eeyore: Membrillo the coroner.
- Enter Solution Here: The betting stub puzzle.
- 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.
- Every Device Is A Swiss Army Knife: Manny's trusty scythe is used in dozens of puzzles, with a different usage almost every time.
- 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."
- Evil Lawyer Joke: You can make a few, but don't expact Nick to appreciate 'em.
- 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: How you defeat the giant 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:
- 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.
- Fantastic Noir
- Fantastic Racism: Demons are literally created with no other desire than to perform specific jobs for dead souls, to the point where they'll waste away out of misery if they're somehow barred from said job. Domino seems to think that having a demon for a friend is below him, but its unclear how widespread that mentality is.
- 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".
- Faux Affably Evil: Both the Big Bad and The Dragon of the story, in their own unique ways:
- Hector is a Dangerously Genre Savvy mastermind who doesn't hesitate to sprout his enemies in cold blood, to the point where he literally has a headquarters built atop a massive field of flowers. Despite this, we almost never see him break his calm, business-like persona, and he makes sure all his flowers are carefully attended to and cared for. It's not supposed to fool anybody, it's to amplify how utterly bereft of empathy he is.
- Domino, meanwhile, is an unbearably smug and selfish Jerk Ass who nevertheless seems to genuinely want to take Manny under his wing and teach him how to be as successful as he is. Considering his idea of "success", and the fact that he also won't hesitate to pull out a sproutella gun if he's not cooperating, this behavior becomes very, very infuriating.
- 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.
- Fission Mailed: Manny gets shot during the game's climax, but if you figure out a puzzle, you can save him.
- 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.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: Every time Manny opens up his scythe, you hear one.
- 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.
- Genius Bruiser: Glottis, despite his looks and his attitude, has borderline supernatural mechanic skills. He's not a bad pianist or singer either.
- Genre-Busting: Film Noir/Comedy/Adventure Game/Art Game/The Epic, with heavy influence from Central/South American mythology and culture.
- Genki Girl: Lupe.
- Gentle Giant: Glottis is huge, but unless it was threatening him or his friends, he wouldn't hurt a fly.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Mostly averted - the game has a well-exercised T rating, so most of the mature content is expected and acceptable. That said, one comment by Olivia does raise eyebrows even by those standards. (Keep in mind, Olivia is having an affair on her boyfriend with Nick):
Manny: Do you think Nick would hurt [Lola]?
Olivia: Only if he finds her, and, take it from me, Manny: he's not good at finding things.
- Giant Squid: Well, a giant octopus. It rides around in a submarine and kidnaps people.
- The Gods Must Be Lazy: Whoever the Powers That Be are, they do not appear concerned at all that Hector can corrupt the system of handing out proper rewards and punishments, and can outright take over the system later. The only rule they hold up is people who attempt to get into the Ninth Underworld under false pretenses will be punished, which does not help the saintly souls who were screwed over, especially all the ones Manny does not save himself.
- Gold Digger: This is probably the only reason Olivia is dating Maximino, considering her character and the fact that she clearly doesn't care about him in the slightest.
Manny: I'm thinking of buying this place.
Olivia: Really? I thought about buying yours for a while, but then I just decided to ask my boyfriend Max to buy it for me.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: In the Director's Commentary, Tim Schaefer remarked that "Thermonuclear Flaming Bone Beavers" would be a good name for a band.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: It's a noir, so Everybody Smokes, and since everybody's already dead, that isn't much of a problem. That said, a few of the characters follow the usual "what and how they smoke" rules: Olivia, like many a Femme Fatale, uses a long holder, and both The Dragon, Domino, and the owner of the betting track, Maximino, are Cigar Chompers. Interestingly enough, the Big Bad, Hector, is one of the very few characters who isn't seen smoking.
- Gratuitous Spanish: Manny and Salvador, frequently. Downplayed, however, since they usually reserve it for greetings, addressing people, or for exclamation, as opposed to peppering it through their conversations at random. Apparently, they were all ad libbed.
- 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. Considering the fact that he's a professional salesman, it makes sense.
- Ha Ha Ha No: Manny's reaction if you use the "Pick Up" command on a swimming-pool full of used cat litter.
- 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".
- Hate Sink: You will feel an urge to cheer when Domino and Nick, finally get their just desserts.
- Hello, Sailor!: You can say this to Velasco just to fool around with him. He doesn't find it funny.
- 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.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Manny keeps everything he needs in the pockets of his suit, including things like a fire extinguisher and his folded-up scyhthe. One explanation could be that he's tucking them into his ribs.
- Averted once: you can't put a mug of hot coffee into your inventory, and even when you're done using it, you still have to put it down in order to climb a ladder.
- 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 Reach It: Occasionally. For example, Manny can't take the bottle of alcohol he finds in Toto's tattoo parlor because he "has enough booze at home". Manny, weren't you planning on leaving town in a few hours or something?
- 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!"
- 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!
- Iconic Item: Manny's scythe. He likes to keep it next to where his heart used to be.
- 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.
- Immune to Drugs: Like most Film Noir stories, Everybody Smokes. Unlike most Film Noir stories, it doesn't do anything bad to the characters since everybody is already dead. The manual humorously points this out.
- 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?:
- Domino will mock Manny's inferior scythe fighting techniques. It's better used on the octopus.
- 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 Amused Me: It's quite obvious that Olivia doesn't care at all about either Maximino or Nick (her boyfriend and the man she's cheating on him with, respectively), despite the former being clearly in love with her. She just dates them because she's a Gold Digger in the former category and enjoys the thrill of courting dangerous men in the latter.
- 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's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: The game is based on Central/South American mythology, and all the gameplay takes place during four consecutive Dia de los Muertos.
- 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?
- I Will Wait for You: Manny becomes a rare male example in Year 2, where he waits in the town of Rubacava for Meche to pass through. Subverted, since the two of them aren't lovers by that point in the story, although Manny's She Is Not My Girlfriend attitude isn't convincing anybody, not even the other characters.
- Join or Die: This exchange between Manny and Eva.
Manny: Any messages for me?
Eva: One: join, or die!
- Just Between You and Me: This is what Manny anticipates when he confronts Hector in his greenhouse. He was wrong.
- Karmic Death: Domino Hurley, Nick Virago, Olivia Ofrenda and Hector Le Mans (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.
- Kissing Discretion Shot: The very last thing Manny and Meche do before ascending into the Ninth Underworld.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Even by a dead man's standards, Manny starts the game out with a very cynical and sarcastic attitude towards the world, to the point where even after establishing himself as an enemy against evil, he still claims he's only doing it to help himself. As the story progresses, however, Character Development causes both his actions and his attitude to improve.
- Knows A Guy Who Knows A Guy: A conversation between two Thunderboys in Year 4.
- La Résistance: The L.S.A.
- Large Ham: Glottis, who once got so worked up over getting fired that he ripped out his heart and chucked it into the woods, causing him to pass out.
- 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.
- 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...
- Love Triangle: A really messy one that borders on Love Dodecahedron happens in Year 2: Lola the photography girl is in love with the owner of the cat track, Maximino. Maximino has a girlfriend named Olivia that he's in love with, but the feeling is not mutual. Olivia is having a secret relationship with Nick, Maximino's lawyer, that everybody but Maximino seems to know about. Lola tries to reveal this relationship to prove Olivia isn't good for Max, which leads to her getting sprouted by Nick. Amazingly, as far as plot is concerned, this whole debacle happens just to play an indirect part in a puzzle where Manny gets a set of Sea Bee tools. Then it's revealed in Year 4 that Olivia is in a relationship with the Big Bad, Hector, and it's unclear how long it's been going on; for all we know, it could have been from the very beginning.
- 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.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Using the "BLAM" Easter Egg causes Manny to spontaneously explode into individual polygons, then merge back together with a mildly concerned "Ouch".
- When it's revealed that Salvador has been torn to shreds until there's nothing left but his head, all he lets is a polite "Hola, Manuel."
- 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. Also, Manuel is a variant of Emmanuel, and while Manny isn't exactly a Messianic Archetype, he does eventually save countless souls from an eternity away from heaven.
- Mercedes — "merciful".
- Salvador — "savior".
- Domino ("God") Hurley — he who would overthrow ("hurl") God.
- Ofrenda — "offering".
- Hector — "to hold, to possess"
- 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.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Nick sprouts Lola when she tries to reveal his secret relationship with Olivia to Olivia's boyfriend, Maximino.
- 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 in the Department of Death 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."
- Naughty Nun: Referenced, but subverted, in a comment made by Domino:
Manny: So, how'd you do at the poisoning?
Domino: Well, it turns out Sister Calabaza had a... secret passion.
- Nausea Fuel: 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 Down:
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 several characters also manage 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.
- Opposites Attract: At the beginning of the story Manny is cynical, bitter, and morally-flexible, while Meche is kind, selfless and warm-hearted. That said, Character Development on both ends helps even out their personalities by the time the story is over.
- Our Demons Are Different: Very different - they're essentially giant, multi-colored, more-intelligent house elves. The only real connection they have to traditional demons is the fact that they exist in the afterlife and usually have animalistic features such as ears, snouts, and sharp teeth.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: The DOD computers have very basic visuals. Of course, the game might take place around the 50s, so it could be advanced for its time.
- 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.
- 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...".
- Sacrificial Lamb: Don Copal, Manny's boss is a rare Asshole Victim example. Nobody was sad to see him go, but the cold-blooded nature of his sprouting still serves a very effective Establishing Character Moment for Hector.
- 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.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: When he has nothing better to do, Glottis will sit on the Bone Wagon and pretend to drive it by doing this.
- 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 Ninth Underworld 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.
- Sewer Gator: One of the puzzles in year 4 is finding a way to get around a huge albino gator that is blocking the way to Bowlsley's sewer hideout.
: I don't see how Sal
, with all his crazy conspiracy theories, forgot to mention to me that there were alligators in the sewers.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Manny, whenever he's not in his Grim Reaper getup. Admit it, it looks good on him◊.
- She's Got Legs: A memorable scene in Year 3 involves Meche taking off her stockings in full frame. Since she's a skeleton, this is a rare In-Universe only example of this trope (unless you're into that kind of thing), and mainly serves to show Manny's denial of having feelings towards her weakening.
- She's Not My Girlfriend: According to Manny near the beginning of the story, "Love is for the living". You keep telling yourself that, Man...
- 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: 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.
- Sixth Ranger Traitor: Olivia, after joining Manny and the rest of the LSA.
- 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. That said...
- Smoking Is Not Cool: ... Meche chain-smoking in Year 3 after working for Domino for over a year is shown as a sign that she's no longer the same.
- Smug Snake: Domino Hurley.
- Soft-Spoken Sadist: Hector has a rough, ugly voice, but he very rarely raises it.
- Stealth Pun:
- "The deadbolt is set. But with what?" A skeleton key, perhaps?
- The unorganized 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 Powers That Be: Referred to word-for-word by Manny during the opening cutscene. Whoever they are, they decide what fate you deserve when you die.
- 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.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Being taller than Manny isn't much of an accomplishment - this is the same guy who has to wear boosters on his shoes in order to be a properly imposing Grim Reaper. The height difference between him and Meche isn't much, but it'd be a lot more if not for his elongated head.
- 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.
- At the end, in a way, Manny and Meche.
- Top-Heavy Guy: Manny, while not muscular, has a very stocky torso and extremely tiny legs.
- 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 Neutral: 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: Post-Time Skip 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 Can Rule Together: In Year 3, Domino is so convinced that Manny has no other option than to start working for him that he doesn't even bother to give him the lecture. That punch he gave him might as well have been a presumptious "You're hired".
- 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?: The ultimate fate of many, many characters in the story is left completely unknown to the audience. Unless we explicitly saw them "dying" or making their way into heaven, it is completely up to you what happened to a large majority of the minor characters and even a few of the secondary ones. Given the nature of the story and setting, however, this can't have been unintentional and was probably the best choice.
- 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.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Averted. Hector doesn't hesitate with his gun when he needs to deal with enemies, making sure to do his Evil Gloating only after they're dead. During the climax, Manny gets shot because he was anticipating this trope to take place.
- Wicked Cultured: Hector Le Mans - always keeps a calm, business-like persona about him, has enough money to live and dress like a king, owns a well-kept greenhouse of flowers, will shoot you point-blank if he decides you're in the way of his plans.
- Winged Humanoid: A pair of child souls enslaved by Domino. It's unclear exactly why they have wings; perhaps simply all child souls do.
- World of Snark: Possibly the most Justified example in history: Everybody's dead.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Using a counterfeit or stolen Double-N ticket will backfire spectacularly on you once you're at Heaven's gates.
- 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, Manny's boss, Don, is killed this way.
- 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.
- Hector invokes this with Don Copal. He also orders Manny killed, but the latter escapes before it can be done.