Humor on the High Seas
The Secret of Monkey Island released in 1990 to unanimous praise. The mixture of humor, high production value, and complex puzzles made this game an instant classic, eventually spawning a bunch of sequels and creating a massive fan following. I’m happy to announce that the Special Edition version of this beloved game does a remarkable job of modernizing it while staying true to its old-school charm. Of course, an adventure game from 1990 – no matter how well it has been remade – will likely miss the mark with many contemporary gamers.
This is a very good game that is undoubtedly worth the $10 price tag. However, know that it was made for the throng of nostalgic fans of the series and point-and-click adventure buffs. If you are someone who becomes bored or frustrated easily by complex puzzles and loads of dialogue, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition will be lost on you.
Special Edition takes players to fictional Melee Island somewhere in the Caribbean. Taking on the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a naïve fellow trying to become the most revered and reviled pirate in the world, players will quickly find adventure (and dead ends). After dueling through insult sword fighting, thieving from the Governor’s mansion, and finding buried treasure, Guybrush finds himself in the midst of a love triangle. The kidnapping of Governess Elaine Marley at the hooks of her undead suitor, LeChuck, sends Threepwood, and his quirky crew, on a host of comical misadventures that are sure to please cerebral gamers.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a point-and-click adventure. Gameplay consists of walking around the various static environments, talking to the locals, finding, combining, and using essential implements, and making your way through the story by collecting clues and resolving puzzles. At no point will you be performing intricate button presses or leap from platform to platform. For fans of point-and-click adventure, know that this was one of the best examples of the genre in its heyday. Despite the modernization, whether on PC or the Xbox 360, the game still is an excellent model. For those of you who have never found point-and-click to be engaging, this latest remake of the masterpiece still won’t convince you.
The game controls every bit as well as it always has. Players can easily interact with the environment by accessing the verbs menu (actions menu) on the fly. Also, the most readily used actions will already be mapped to the object or person with which you want to interact. Best of all, a simple press of a button shifts the game from the sharp, hand-drawn, HD presentation to the pixelated sprites and classic backdrops that made the game shine nearly 20 years ago. I used this functionality incessantly; constantly comparing the old with the new. Additionally, switching to the old-school view lets players control the game as they always had by having the verb menu letter-boxed below the main screen. Whether using a mouse or an Xbox 360 controller, getting around Monkey Island is a breeze.
Perhaps the best aspect of this title has actually always been there: the humor. Fans of this series, Sam & Max, and Wallace & Gromit will definitely enjoy the subtle gaffs and in-jokes found throughout the game. Unexpectedly, many of the jokes are actually made funnier (or at least more accessible) by the addition of quality voice-work throughout. The original game had players deriving laughs by reading through screen after screen of dialogue, now players can simply sit back, make text selections, and listen to the funny.
Further improving the game is that of the lush musical score. Rather than abandoning the quality tunes of the original, LucasArts went back and simply made those same themes sound richer and rounder. Flipping back and forth between the original and re-mastered versions of the game really helps to hit this point home.
Likewise, visual presentation is also quite different this time around. Most players will really enjoy 1080p, hand-drawn, HD look the game now sports. The backgrounds and sky effects are especially beautiful. The only problem I had with the game’s fresh new look was that of its characters. Character animations aren’t nearly smooth enough, and their airbrushed visage isn’t as detailed and engaging as the old-school sprites are. In fact, the title’s characters look a bit too much like something you’d find in a Flash-based game. Regardless, the modernized production does keep the game sounding and looking fresh while incorporating the charm of the original.
Another boon to the game is that of the integrated hint system. LucasArts obviously realized that today’s gamers tend to be a bit on the impatient side. Besides, slogging through some of the game’s more challenging (obscure) puzzles can be frustrating progress halters. Now, with the press of a button, players can have access to ever-more-detailed hints to get them back on the right track. While I think this hint system is crucial for the casual sect, patient players will be better served by solving the game’s mindbenders on their own, as a lot more satisfaction will be derived from the experience.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a great starting point for new players to get a feel for the franchise and for tested veterans to experience the antics of Guybrush Threepwood in a whole new way. As is the case with nearly all point-and-click titles, adventure-puzzle buffs are the only gamers that need apply. Everyone else will likely find the magical world of Monkey Island to be little more than a parlor trick. Still, at only $10 (800 MS points), you’re getting a classic game and its spiffy remake for a bargain price.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The new hand-drawn look is great for bringing the environments to life, but the character animations and appearance aren’t anything special. 4.0 Control
The game controls very well whether you’re using a console controller or a mouse. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Jokes are often made funnier by the quality voice over work, and the musical themes are even richer this time around. 3.3 Play Value
The game only lasts about 5-6 hours, and many will find what’s on offer exceedingly dull. Still, point-and-click fans and puzzle-adventure buffs should really enjoy it. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.