ReiBred’s idol of the day… (March 5, 2008)

schafer.jpg…is Tim Schafer. Exclamation point.

My old friend Jeff Bonhag’s apartment—not his current one, the old one!—was a fantastic pit of debris, a kibble-littered expanse of the random refuse of modern man and some packing peanuts. It was always a lot of fun to go there and see what new sort of trash could be ground into the carpet, then go home to a nice clean bedroom a few hours later. Plus he had a deaf cat that would crawl around in the acoustic panel ceiling. Fun for all!

Except my copy of Grim Fandango. This Tim Schafer-designed classic is probably one of my favorite computer games of all time. Its potent mixture of noir attitude, Day of the Dead aesthetics and blades of precision humor, were certainly not unprecedented, manny.jpg because Tim Schafer had made other games before, and he was part of that class of game designers that included the likes of Ron “Monkey Island” Gilbert. But Grim Fandango was the special sauce for me. I liked the interface (none), the voice acting (good), the look and feel (glistening art deco and Mexican skeletons) and the puzzles (except the really dumb ones). And the story was superb. Thanks to Tim Schafer, the game’s primary writer.

In Grim Fandango you occupy the role of Manny Calavera, a travel-agent for the recently deceased, working off the sins of his life helping people make their four year journey across the Land of the Dead to the Ninth Underworld, psychonauts.jpgtheir final resting place. There are dames and gangsters and homages. And everyone smokes all the time—surprise, surprise, they’re all dead.

Just like smoking a cancer stick could kill you, kids, Jeff Bonhag’s floor killed my copy of this game. I lent it to him, then picked it up from the ruin during the final reckoning (Jeff sold his possessions to buy a motorcycle and left for the West). It sure wouldn’t play anymore. And I kind of miss it, like I miss my friends from middle school and the houses we lived in back then.

Fortunately Tim Schafer had the good sense to go and make other games, including Psychonauts. It’s about a summer camp for spoon-benders and mind-readers. One of the little kids in the game has tiny little arms and wears a tin-foil hat to keep from blowing up peoples’ heads! And the protagonist climbs into other peoples brains to clean up their psychic garbage! Wicked!

Click here to read an article at The Escapist about Grim Fandango‘s internet following…


  1. Posted March 5, 2008 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, man, we were totally discussing Day of the Tentacle on Tuesday. I can see the universe reflected in a single drop of water.

  2. obadiahstarbuck
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Have you played Psychonauts, man? I gotta confess, I only just started getting into recently. I spent about five hours with it last night and it’s unbelievable. The lung fish level was enormously satisfying. Or how about this humorous piece of dialog?

    Raz (little goggled kid in the screenshot): Lili! An evil madman is building a fleet of psycho-death tanks to take over the world, and we’re the only ones who can stop him!

    Lili: Oh my God! Let’s make out!

    Additional confession: I was also more of a Sierra man as a wee tot—and will argue the merits of Kings Quest 6 to the death—so I totally missed some of the early Lucas Arts games. Sam and Max brought me on board and the third Monkey Island game too (I know, I know. Ron Gilbert wasn’t even on that development team. I’m a heathen). I consider it my critical duty to catch up on all those original SCUMM games.

    Also, have you played Portal yet? Eric Wolpaw—who worked with Schafer on Psychonauts—wrote that game, and it’s fantastic and awesome and funny and sort of like witnessing God.

  3. Posted March 7, 2008 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    You’re way out of my league. The closest thing to a video game that I’ve played recently (aside from the frivolous flash things to which I’ve linked) is a Java implementation of Settlers of Catan. Well, I did play Garage Band once over at a friend’s place, and I’ve played some Wii with Andrew and Marty…
    I’m not sure: does this make me cool or boring? (Perhaps that is a false dichotomy.)

    I think my brother used to play Psychonauts. That piece of dialog sounds a lot like my life, though. At least, the second line does. Math TA, what can I say?

    And, also, when I was a lad, I really only played crappy games to pair with my crappy life.

  4. obadiahstarbuck
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    This upbringing may explain why your blog posts are so much more sophisticated and mature than mine…

  5. Posted March 7, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Yes…aged in shit like a fine wine.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] He used to scribe an Internet site called Old Man Murray, then got all fame-splattered helping Tim Schafer turn Psychonauts in a comedy gatling […]

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    […] latest (and greatest?) Idol of the Day. (Eh, probably not “greatest,” considering Tim Schafer, was Idol of the Day just last month. And don’t forget Tuxedo […]

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