I think it was a great idea for Grim Fandango to split its story up into four segments — “years” here — as it lends a sense of progression through the game and provides a nice big shift from one setting to the next. So as the Year One was all about Manny’s job in the city, Year Two sees him becoming a successful casino operator in a Casablanca-type town.
It’s a much bigger area with plenty of confusing connections, and getting to know the layout was easily my least favorite part of this year. My most favorite element was the character of Lupe, Manny’s coatcheck girl. She is this slightly hyper, over-enthusiastic, and utterly organized girl who makes every scene with her a laugh riot. She’s not manic, which is how writers usually go with these kinds of characters, but instead she’s very, very devoted to her systems.
At the start of this year, Manny — who has been waiting to see if Meche will come through — briefly spots her. She’s boarding a boat with Dominic and lobs a bottle at Manny’s head when he tries to board. For some reason, this doesn’t dissuade him from his quest to get to her, so the whole segment is him trying to figure out some way to get a berth on another outgoing vessel.
Let me say that the Meche connection is probably the most tenuous narrative thread of the game so far. Manny’s had all of ONE conversation with her which was mostly an interview about her past, and the second she disappears he’s deeply smitten and feels responsible for her going on the journey alone. I think that whole part happened too fast, and as a result, I’m not really buying his infatuation or compulsive need to go after her. Especially after she deliberately brains him with a bottle?
Getting on that ship is a horribly complicated affair, of course. It takes a whole lot of untangling to get the three things Manny needs: a union card, a sailor out of the way, and his former driver Glottis to give up his gambling ways. To accomplish this, Manny has to run all over the place inciting a riot, fixing casino tables, conducting a vault heist, scooping through kitty litter, avoiding the authorities, drugging people, and so on.
Fortunately, the scene and characters here are all so well-done that I didn’t mind all the busy work and backtracking. It’s in this segment that the film noir influence of Grim Fandango is heavily pronounced, as pretty much everything is Humphrey Bogart incarnate.
A few of the puzzles had very nonsensical solutions, but eventually I got there. Seeing Glottis as a soused gambler was pretty funny, and there is a lawyer who’s so slimy and smarmy that I was applauding how much the game made me hate him.
Also, there’s a security guard who is rather bonkers for her job and has a few very funny bits, including detonating a cigarette case that she suspects is a bomb.
One of my only complaints here, aside from the getting lost thing, is that one female character is introduced right before she’s killed (spoiler), yet apparently we’re supposed to care about her. That was odd, I thought. When the audience has no connection with characters, they don’t really mind if they get sprouted.
Eventually, through a lot of trickery, deceit, and outright lying, Manny obtains his berth and sets sail for the next port. Once again, he starts the year as a lowly worker mopping the deck… and ends it as the captain of a souped-up vessel (courtesy of the ever-tinkering Glottis).