Giant Bomb Review

27 Comments

The Secret of Monkey Island Review

4
  • XBGS

Nearly twenty years later, the humor and the puzzles of this seminal LucasArts adventure game still hold up, and the new production values help it feel fresh again.

Meet Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate.
LucasArts, which seems to have wised up to the value of its adventure game back catalog after spending far too long ignoring it, recently revived its farcical swashbuckling adventure series with the episodic Tales of Monkey Island. While this no doubt pleased plenty of grown folks with fond memories of insult duels and voodoo root beer, there are plenty more with no point of reference for genre conventions or the fiction of the Monkey Island series and the running gags and in-jokes that come with it. Both groups are served well by LucasArts' release of The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, a remake of the first game in the series that delivers modern production values without, ahem, monkeying with the goofy dialog trees, silly pirate talk, or loopy puzzle logic that defined the game in the first place. It's not without a few moments of awkwardness, but it's all minor stuff I found quite easy to forgive.

Set during a mythical and anachronistic age of pirates, The Secret of Monkey Island opens up with a young knavish fellow named Guybrush Threepwood rolling into the buccaneer-filled Melee Island and declaring his desire to become a full-fledged pirate. Three important-looking pirates at the local grog-hole send him off on a series of trials to test his worthiness, during which he gets caught up in a love triangle with the beautiful governor of Melee Island and her ghostly suitor, LeChuck. There is no shortage of silliness along the way, with the naive Guybrush forced to deal with bickering circus performers, a duplicitous sheriff, a shady treasure-map dealer, piranha poodles, an oily used boat salesman, and, of course, some monkeys.

The Secret of Monkey Island carries the usual adventure-game balance of dialog and puzzles, though when compared to more recent adventure games like the stuff Telltale's been doing, it's both more complex and more challenging. Its SCUMM engine roots give you a number of ways to interact with other characters, the environment, and inventory items, creating incredible versatility as well as lots of dead-ends to scour when you find yourself stuck. It's easy enough to hit the internet for walk-throughs, though the game does one better by having a hint system built right in. Simply hold the X button and the game will gently nudge you in the right direction. If that's not enough, each subsequent use of the hint system becomes more explicit, and eventually, big fat yellow arrows will pop up, telling you exactly where you need to go next. It's something that eliminates much of the frustration that's inherent to adventure games, though once you start using it, it can be hard to stop, and one of the great pleasures of adventure games is solving a puzzle that you thought was impossible.

If the new art doesn't suit you, this is always an option.
All of the graphics in this Special Edition have been completely redrawn with great detail, making the game much better suited for play on a nice big HDTV. Each screen is quite faithful to the layouts of the original, though the new art is a bit more stylized. While I don't love the overt foppishness that Guybrush's new physique implies, what's more bothersome is that, for all the detail found in every screen, it seems to maintain the same number of animation frames as the original, which can lead to some jerky looking movement. This Special Edition also takes all of the original control options off the screen, relegating them to contextual button presses and speedy submenus. It's definitely a change of pace, but it's something that I think makes the game far more suitable for a gamepad.

In addition to a lush new instrumentation on the soundtrack and some nice ambient sounds, all of the dialog is now spoken. Sometimes the voice work isn't a perfect fit--Stan the used-boat salesman sounds more like a game show host than anything--but some smart choices can also lead to jokes that simply didn't exist in the original. If, for whatever reason, you'd rather experience The Secret of Monkey Island as it originally looked and sounded, you can tap the Back button to toggle back and forth between the two versions on the fly, though I found this to be a fleeting novelty.

It's been long enough since I last played The Secret of Monkey Island that, despite the age of the source material, the experience still felt fresh. There are definitely moments where you can feel its age, and there's the distinct possibility that you remember The Secret of Monkey Island being funnier than it is, but this Special Edition is still a terrific way for both fans of the old point-and-click adventure games to revisit a classic, and for newcomers to get acquainted with it.
27 Comments
Posted by JJWeatherman

Sweet 4 stars.

Posted by Osphere

AW DAMN.  I was hoping for a first :(

Might check it out on XBLA.

Posted by ZombiePie

Yup this game is a lot of fun

Moderator
Posted by brocool

Going to buy it!

Posted by OwnlyUzinWonHan

Is this episodic as well, or the entire game?

Posted by tactis

Great game I loved it too

Posted by Seedofpower

Man you guys are pumping out the reviews, Im gonna wait until i got some extra cash to buy this.

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Edited by DeavonW

After coming straight off of Tales of Monkey Island, I felt this game was sorely lacking. I was astounded at the amount of useless misleading crap Guybrush can put in his pants that only tend to crowd the inventory and confuse me. No laughs here either. This game is riding sorely on nostalgia, charm, and its 10 dollar price, but in the end I was glad I bought it.

Posted by artofwar420

I've never played the original but back in the dizzay I did play some other point and click games, not as great as this though. So, I started playing it, it did take a bit to get used to the whole point and click thing, but once I hit an hour or so of playtime, I just plain enjoyed it, it is funny, maybe not LOL funny, but it is funny. It's a very fun game and it is definitely worth a look for newcomers.

Posted by Izick

A classic returns...

Posted by Nettacki

I'll get it off Steam when/if possible.

Posted by Doc_Zaius

I played the whole thing Old School, not a fan of the new art style.

Posted by Mace
@Nettacki: It is already available on Steam. It was released at the same time as the 360 version.

@anyone who has not bought the game yet: What are you waiting for?! Godand buy it!
Posted by garnsr
@DeavonW: Disagree.  I laughed as much as I remember laughing when I played it on Sega CD.
Posted by GeekDown

I was waiting for a review for this before I was going to buy it and now i'm off to the Marketplace.

Edited by MrKlorox

Worth $10, definitely. But the voice direction, save for a few notable veteran voices, is frail and bottom of the barrel awful.

Half of humor is the delivery. It seems nobody on the production team was aware of this.

Also, the strange framing of this game (black border around everything constantly) seems to allow my 16:10 monitor to auto-adjust the screen to appear like a proper full 16:9 image )small bars on top and bottom of screen). Now if I keep the setting like this and play a game with correct overscan and 16:9 framing, it fills up my (slightly taller) 16:10 monitor as if I were playing a game in that ratio. This makes me both sad that the HDMI port on my screen is busted forcing me into using a glitchy and washed out analog image, as well as glad I bought the 360 version instead of the PC version.

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Posted by Kimozabi

One problem I've found with this game is when the dialogue has to pause in order for the text to catch up in the original version. Text and voice are two different beasts and this games shows that their timing cannot match each other, which creates odd pauses in the voiced dialogue, messing up the timing. Also, the graphics aren't that good in various areas. If this game had been remade with Monkey Island 3-style graphics, it would've truely been dipped in awesomesauce.

Posted by samcotts

I bought it a few days ago and am loving it. Hilarious game.

Posted by Seppli

Oh boy - did I spend a lot of my time on this game back in the day. The game is a real nice trip down memory lane for me. Really worth the 800 Microsoft Points. Hopefully they will give the same treatment to other beloved Lucasarts classics!

Posted by Kohe321

I love the remake! Great review Ryan!

Posted by giyanks22

I'll definitely try this.

Posted by darkjester74
@OwnlyUzinWonHan: This is the complete game.

Great review Ryan!  On target as usual.  This game is great, an excellent choice for a remake, really brings me back to the golden age of adventure games.  I hope this is the start of a positive trend where similar remakes of LA classics are created.  I want to see Day of the Tentacle!!!  =D
Edited by Jimbo

I played a chunk of this over the weekend and I'm pretty impressed with what they've done, but I agree that the nostalgia is definitely the biggest draw here.  It's such a strange  -and pretty good- feeling dragging up memories from so long ago that you didn't even know you had.  I can always vaguely remember what I need to do to solve something, but not exactly ("Ok, I know I need to melt the lock with the grog.... wait, why are there five mugs?!").

I would say 'It isn't as funny as I remember', but honestly, I just don't think these adventure games were ever that funny.  Fun and charming for sure -which is good enough- but not lol funny.  There's a definite 'Pythonesque' edge to the humour here, which I admit has never really done anything for me, so your mileage may vary.

I think anybody that has fond memories of Monkey Island will get a kick out of it.  Newcomers to the genre are likely to be underwhelmed (and even irritated by a lot of the mechanics) and I feel they'd be far better served by Grim Fandango or Full Throttle as an introduction to adventure games.  Both play far better than Monkey Island and they still look stunning in their original forms.

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Posted by Media_Master

I'd get it...for psn...whenever that is.

Posted by Brackynews
Posted by RHCPfan24

I am going to get this momentarily. It looks like a damn fine game.

Posted by Dudacles

I'm going to buy this, having just discovered that the Monkey Island games are awesome.