Stopped monkeying around
It has been nearly 20 years since I have played an actual "point and click" adventure game. I have been dying for an old fashioned, old school adventure game to come around and satiate my growing hunger. The early 90's saw an emergence of adventure games to hit the market; everything from the Space Quest series, to Kings Quest all the way down the line to a particular set of games that not only garnered high praise from the industry but acquired one of the most hardcore and ferociously rabid fan bases out there: The Monkey Island series.
Fast forward to the first day of E3 2009 when LucasArts revealed a remake of The Secret of Monkey Island for the XBox 360 and PC. But that was not all. They also dropped a huge bombshell announcing that the kings of episodic adventuring, Telltale Games, were working on five new chapters in Guybrush’s life in the form of Tales of Monkey Island. We will look at Tales some other day, for now we will focus on The Secret of Monkey Island for the XBox 360. Strap on your cutlass, pick up your fancy swash-buckling hat and prepare to dive back into a series known for its wonderfully wacky sense humor!
Meet Guybrush Threepwood, a floundering wannabe pirate, hell-bent on saving "Governor" Elaine Marley. Through trials, tribulations, some cannibals and even rabid poodles, Mr. Threepwood eventually figures out that a ghost pirate named LeChuck is the one responsible for kidnapping the governor and is located on... wait for it... MONKEY ISLAND!
Without giving away too much of the storyline and spoiling it for all you people who haven't had the privilege of playing the original game, I'll get right to the nuts and bolts of the review. Mechanically, Monkey Island holds up extremely well. Through hard work and determination, LucasArts has successfully captured the laid back feeling of the original and comfortably transferred the mouse actions to the Xbox controller. Moving the cursor is done with the right analog stick, push A to move and pick things up, push B to look at objects and press the start button for quick pause. The right bumper brings up your inventory and the left bumper brings up your ‘actions’ table (push, pull, open etc.) You can pick up the control scheme within minutes and is really one of the easiest games to navigate.
From a graphical standpoint, Secret of Monkey Island won’t knock you off your feet. If you don't appreciate hand drawn backdrops, excellent sprite animations and a minor plethora of other nods and winks to the original game, then by all means press the back button and return to the original graphics straight from 1990! I actually found myself doing this quite often; it reminded me of a time when I was young and had no worries in the world. The nostalgic remnants and nuances that you pick up while playing with the original graphics turned on is simply fun and a great testament to just how well this game holds up in this day and age.
There is so much to like about The Secret of Monkey Island, that it is hard to find any fault with it. Yet, I do have one gripe with the game, the sound effects. They don't really 'pop' and lack substance. Cannons sound like toy guns, the sound of the ocean sounds ‘off’ and swords clashing sounds more like silverware dropping on the floor. There are some bright spots though. With full voice acting now accompanying the script, Monkey Island feels even richer and more vibrant than it did back in 1990 when it was first released. The musical score is also fantastically rendered and puts you in a Caribbean mindset of relaxation and content.
A Brush with greatness
With The Secret of Monkey Island – Special Edition, LucasArts has created an outstanding adventure game catering to both hardcore point and click fans, as well as those new to the genre. With easily mastered controls and an intuitive and streamlined inventory system, anyone can pick up the game and play to their hearts content. The game is graced with outstanding, hand drawn backdrops, quirky characters and an absolutely wonderful storyline.
This fantastic adventure leaves you wanting more, the characters are hard to let go after seeing the end titles and the setting alone will have you coming back time after time. With upcoming Monkey Island games rumored to be in the making, this wannabe pirate is screaming for more!
The Secret of Monkey Island returns in all its glory. You can even play the game with the original graphics!
The sound effects could have been a bit sharper.