If you had access to a PC and an interest in gaming back in 1998, chances are you played Grim Fandango. Part of what is a largely lost genre of adventure games in these modern times, the game built up a cult following around the world.
A mix of adventure and puzzle-solving, Grim Fandango takes the player on the journey of the perpetually unfortunate Manuel “Manny” Calavera, a travel agent in the Land of the Dead. Manny escorts the recently departed to Eternal Rest.
If you were kind in life, you are rewarded with better travel packages – ranging from sports cars to the ultimate Number Nine – an express train that gets your soul to gate of the Ninth Underworld in four minutes flat.
There’s a lot more background to it, of course, but that’s a thesis for another day.
For those looking for a morsel of nostalgia, Grim Fandango was remastered and re-released in 2015 rekindling the irresistible blend of film noir, life metaphors and the Day of the Dead festival.
One of the key features of Grim Fandango is the game’s dialogue. Witty barbs that are sometimes a bit crude but always as sharp as Manny’s scythe, it has become a kind of digital comfort blanket in these troubled times.
That’s not because the remastered version is mind blowing in its gameplay, quite the opposite – it can be infuriatingly frustrating. But the game is a salient reminder that we’re all just travellers and what better way to dissect reality than through pixelated interactions?
Having recently started to play through Grim Fandango again, some of these quotes aren’t just perfect for poor Manny, but they’re bang on for life.
Grim Fandango: Classic quotes from the characters
“My computer gives me instant access to our database of deadbeats.” – Manny.
“This deck of cards is a little frayed around the edges. Then again, so am I, and I’ve got fewer suits.” – Manny.
Clown [while doing balloon animals]: I’m practicing.
Manny: Practicing what?
Clown: Wringing your neck, what does it look like?
Clown: My carpal tunnel syndrome is really acting up.
Manny: But you don’t have any… tendons.
Clown: Yeah, well you don’t have a tongue but that doesn’t seem to shut you up, now does it?
“My scythe–I like to keep it next to where my heart used to be.” – Manny
“I need better clients. I need a real saint. I need a lead on a rich, dead saint.” – Manny.
“You and your fancy suits and your nose holes way up in the air… Sticking your empty beer bottles down the message tubes, how fancy is that? Huh? Don’t you boys upstairs realize the tube switcher is a sophisticated and delicate piece of machinery?” – Tube-switcher guy.
“He doesn’t even HIDE his booze in a file cabinet. What kind of salesman is he?” – Manny.
“There’s nothing funny about being dead, comrade!” Gunnar.
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.
Antoinette is a recovering journalist, having written for Sports Illustrated, The Guardian, Daily Maverick and others. She has won multiple SAB Journalist of the Year awards, across a variety of categories. She thinks it’s strange writing about herself in the third person, unless she’s playing as herself in The Sims…which she’s been doing for over 20 years.