The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Developer: LucasArts
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, iPhone
Release Date:  July 2009 (Wii, iPhone), September 2011 (PC, PS3, Xbox),

Who remembers point and click adventures? That true staple of fantasy video gaming that was so vibrant in the 90s. You don’t see so many of them around anymore, which is a real shame. Off the top of my head, I could probably name about 20 first person shooters that have been released in the past year, all of which have grey and brown as the predominant colours, but not a single point and click with this kind of vibrant colour and personality.

It takes a special kind of person to enjoy this kind of point and click adventure. Not “he just put a spoon in his ear” special, but special in that you have to possess a sense of humour that employs root beer with exorcism properties and rubber chickens with pulleys in the middle. I have played a few point and clicks, and the best by a landslide has always been at least one of the games from the Monkey Island series.

The Set up:
Washed up on the island of Meleè, Guybrush Threepwood, our hero, is overcome with the desire to become a pirate. Along the way, he will trade farmyard based insults with fellow pirates, fall in love with the Governor while stealing from her conservatory and get beaten up by the Ghost Pirate LeChuck. And all this is now available in upscaled remastered graphics! Grog and Scumm has never looked so real!

As a lover and veteran of this game in its original form, having received it along with a copy of Lemmings and a Tesco value equivalent to Buzz Lightyear (Larry Spaceface) for christmas ’97, it is going to be very very difficult for me not to get nostalgic about this game, so I’ll do the bad bits first.

It’s kind of short.

Now on to the good bits! Monkey Island is the definitive Point and Click adventure! It did something that wouldn’t be achieved again for another 13 with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, and made pirates cool again. Guybrush is one of the most likeable protagonists you will ever see in a video game and comes out with bust-your-gut laughing one liners that are still funny now, 21 years after release at the time of writing.

The puzzles are well-integrated into the story, with the first half of the game focussing just on your becoming a pirate (which is done by mastering the arts of swordplay, thievery and treasure huntery), and the latter half an elaborate rescue mission. Modern gamers may deem it a little too difficult. Luckily, as those clever fellows at Lucasarts are clearly aware, it is figuring these puzzles out yourself that affords a great sense of satisfaction, and have added a hint system to the remastered version in order to discourage checking online walkthroughs on how to clear the entire game.

The puzzles rarely feel unfair either, with only one or two appearing too random to figure out yourself. And it is divided up nicely into four chapters, each with different settings to feast your eyes upon. The best thing is, the more stuck you get, the more you are certainly guaranteed to laugh, as the quirky little details abound in this game. There are more than one Indiana Jones or Star Wars references hidden throughout the game, and you’ll probably feel particularly smug if you notice them.

The remastered version allows you to switch between the classic mode and the upscaled version at the touch of a button. Whereas it’s nice to hear what many of the characters actually might sound like (voice acting being another addition to the package), I found myself continuously switching between the two. If I play Monkey Island again anytime soon, it will almost surely be in the retro mode, as the art design here seems preferable to the cartoony version. However, this may be a factor of my warm and fuzzy nostalgia, and will probably not apply to everyone.

Overall:

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is an absolute bargain for the casual gamer. It is available for about ten euro, whatever platform you buy it on, although for €15 you can purchase this and it’s sequel too, an option you would be FOOLISH not to take advantage of. For this minimal price, you are getting:

  • An incredibly memorable adventure
  • A slew of humourous witticisms and visual gags from some of the greatest minds in video gaming history
  • A lesson in sword fighting and pirate insulting
  • Information on how to grow a beard for the sequel
  • A pirate with a funny name

Having played it originally on the PC, I would say this is probably the best platform, but it only works with Steam which I’ve found a nightmare to use. It is equally enjoyable on consoles, only ever so slightly harder to control. This is a game that oozes charm and some of the best retro gameplay you can get. If this sounds appealing, and you like a game that can genuinely make you laugh, then here is a good way to spend the next couple of weeks.

Awful Rating: 9/10

That’s the second biggest monkey head I’ve ever seen!” – Guybrush Threepwood

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • I did a year-long course in Journalism a few years back. I quickly discovered that the years workload could easily be achieved within the space of two weeks. So, a great deal of time was spent playing PC games while I was there. I mention this because this is the last place I remember having my copy of Monkey Island. If anyone reading this ever happens to wander into room 14D in Enniscorthy Vocational College, please check the CD drive on the second computer from the back and see if my game is still there.
  • Everything I know about Captain Crunch cereal and pyrotechnics, I learned from this game.
  • Dial up internet was still very much alive when I was playing this game, so there were no hints whatsoever when playing it. Many’s the time I would call out, that I had figured something out, the most interesting example I can remember being: “I’ve got it! You use the gopher repellant to get the carrot cake!”
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