Why’s the rum gone?
The Secret of Monkey Island tells the swashbuckling tale of Guybrush Threepwood, a young man on a journey to become a pirate. The game starts with Guybrush arriving on Mêlée Island, somewhere in the Caribbean, and setting out to make a name for himself as a mighty pirate (which he often already claims himself to be). He crosses paths with numerous colorful characters, one of which being the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. Unsurprisingly, LeChuck spends most of his time planning and executing nefarious plans.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a faithful reincarnation of the original title (released in 1990) with enhanced graphics, music, and sound effects and voice acting not present in first release. Three of the voice actors from the series’ most recent release (The Curse of Monkey Island) reprise their roles as three of the main characters.
Other than a few minor adjustments, the game itself plays out almost identically to the original version. The interface has been streamlined, with the verb table and inventory that originally occupied the lower half of the screen being relegated to pop up menus. A hint system has also been added to help make the game less frustrating (more on this later). Fans of the original game will feel right at home, and newcomers shouldn’t have any problems. At the press of a button you can also switch (on the fly) between the updated version of the game and the original version in all its low resolution glory. It’s not exactly necessary, but does serve as a neat trick that lets you see what has been done to update the game.
At its core, The Secret of Monkey Island is a point and click adventure game, along the same vein as most of the LucasArts games released in the late 80s and early 90s. There is no time limit (excepting a few puzzles), so you can relax and play at a leisurely pace. It’s also impossible to die or get yourself stuck in a situation you can’t get out of, so you don’t have to worry about saving yourself into a corner. Most of your time as Guybrush is spent collecting, combining, and using various items to solve puzzles and interacting with the expansive cast of characters. There are a total of nine verbs that allow you to interact with items, other characters, and the environment, giving you a wide range of ways to experiment. If you take the time to explore and try different combinations of interactions you’ll be rewarded with Easter eggs (not literally) and humorous reactions from either Guybrush or other characters.
The previously mentioned hint system is a welcome addition to the game. If you find yourself stuck or wondering what to do next you can hit the hint button to receive a nudge in the right direction. If you’re still having trouble you can press it again to get an even more direct clue. Press the button a third time and the game explicitly states what you need to do and a large green arrow appears onscreen pointing you to exactly where you need to be. Considering that a few of the puzzles would be near impossible to solve without at least a little outside help, the hint system is a welcome addition. It’s easy to abuse, though, and I recommend at least putting a little effort into solving the puzzle yourself before resorting to the hint button.
The visuals offer a mixed bag. The environments and characters look gorgeous in high definition, but the animations are clunky and awkward looking. It doesn’t detract much from the experience, but it’s worth mentioning.
Pleasant pirate-themed music serves as an excellent backdrop to the game. The music in the classic version was well done, and the update does a great job of retaining the same quality and feel.
After playing some of the games released within the past couple of years, the characters and dialogue in The Secret of Monkey Island are a breath of fresh air. At times subtly humorous and occasionally laugh out loud hilarious, conversing with other characters is a blast. From Guybrush himself to the Fettuccini Brothers to the Men of Low Moral Fiber – every single character in the game is expertly voiced and superbly written. Whether you’re hurling insults at other pirates to win sword fights or haggling with Stan the Used Boat Salesman over the price of a vessel, conversations never feel like a chore. In other games I often find myself just clicking through conversation trees just to get what I need and leave. I never even considered doing this in Monkey Island, and would instead extend conversations as long as possible in order to hear most of the dialogue. I cannot praise the writers enough.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition can be found for $9.99 on the PC through Steam or Direct2Drive, or for 800 MS points on the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Arcade. The game offers an amazing experience for such a low price, and should not be overlooked by anyone who is even remotely interested.
Almost no replay value
If you are a fan of adventure games, or even slightly interested, I strongly recommend buying this game. At only $10, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a steal.
Final Score (out of 10):