I finished year 2 of Grim Fandango last night (I played it over the course of three nights), and in several ways I didn’t like it as much as year 1.

I spent my first play session getting familiar with the environments; what this mostly meant was that I wandered all over the map, repeatedly. Typically, over the course of one wander, I would solve a few puzzles, which meant that the next time I wandered through the whole level, some other state had changed in some other area, giving me another puzzle to solve there.

By the end of the first play session, I’d gotten far enough that I knew what the three overarching puzzles were, that I’d made it at least a step or two along each of them, and I had a pretty good idea of what at least one later step was going to be in each of them.

My second play session was pretty frustrating. I managed to make a little bit more progress; but I was also starting to get stuck on the puzzles. And, at this point, the environment was getting in my way: I’d run into lots of situations where doing something in area 1 meant that now somebody would have appeared or act differently in area 2 on the other side of the map. So I constantly had this double-whammy of, on the one hand, feeling that I was probably stuck but, on the other hand, having to run all over the map just to make sure that I really did have to solve one of the puzzles that I was aware of, instead of needing to go find some newly-triggered event.

There were also a few red herrings that didn’t improve my mood – e.g. for all I knew, reading poetry was a necessary part of solving a puzzle. And there are a lot of areas that are nice in terms of scenery but useless in terms of gameplay. (E.g. the path to your club.) And there’s that elevator that it’s almost impossible to avoid running into. (Tip: you can hit escape to eliminate the cut scene there.) At some point, I accidentally noticed that hitting shift-keypad-5 teleports you to more or less the middle of most rooms; this can speed up your transit time, but there are at least two rooms (the morgue and the room with the aforementioned elevator) where doing that teleports you to a location that you can’t get out of, forcing you to reload from a saved game.

So on my third playthrough session, I hit gamefaqs early and often. Hmm, I’m trying to get the metal detector out of the cat pit? Let’s try the scythe – it waves around, but doesn’t pick up anything. Am I doing the right thing or not? No more messing around for five minutes experimenting, I’ll just look it up.

In fact, despite the fact that the puzzles in year two are a lot more coherent than in year one, I did a lot worse job of solving them on my own. Part of this is just that there are more puzzles. But part of it is that the puzzles in year 1 are much more localized, and the year 1 puzzles that make no sense at all (i.e. the petrified forest ones) are very localized indeed. The only year 1 situation where I remember running over portions of the map not being sure what to do was when I was trying to steal a good work order; having to do that once is okay (and indeed I managed to solve that puzzle myself), but having to do that all the time wasn’t as good for me. (Hmm, to what extent do I prefer having only one accessible puzzle at any given time? I’ll have to think about that more.)

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the environment, its coherence, the fact that the puzzles were integrated into the environment. But the actual puzzle solving was a bit of a downer.

Glottis really does look dashing in a white tuxedo, though.

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