It’s pretty hard to sum up my Summer thus far (yes, Summer) in one blog. Well, to be honest, I tried in a few different ways but it just wasn’t to be. As a result of finishing school and being done with study at last, I have way too much time on my hands and a bunch of games to go through. To say it’s been overwhelming would be an understatement, but either way the truth of the matter is that I wouldn’t be able to fit everything I’ve been playing into one digestible blog post if I tried. No short summaries of everything that’s been going on since I’ll skip over too many things of note - instead, I’ll try and pick one game at a time to post about and see if that works.
Now, being an ex-schoolie who hasn’t bothered to go out and find himself a job, I’m naturally a bit poor at the moment. The blockbusters of the year are a bit outside my price range, particularly at the Australian rates. So I’ve skipped over Dragon Age, Modern Warfare, Uncharted and the like for now, instead opting for a few cheaper titles, either old, second-hand games or titles from Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service. The first of these titles? The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.
It only took me twenty odd years, but I think I’ve come to the realisation at last that it's a pretty damn good game. It’s short – I picked it up last Friday (read: Christmas night after receiving some Microsoft Points) and finished it Sunday morning with roughly seven hours on my game’s clock. Then I went through again in a speedrun to pick up the remaining gamerscore for the title while exploring a few of the alternate dialogue options.
The game’s writing is still amazing today, and I’m sure it still will be when I pull the game out again in another ten years’ time. It’s really the definition of a classic, the way the humour of the script is so timeless and can transcend cultures almost twenty years apart. The game is littered with breaking of the fourth wall, tongue in cheek innuendo and other various laugh-out-loud moments which fill it with a really unique charm. Often a common concept or icon will be twisted around in some bizarre way, which in most cases led me to first ogle at the screen in bewilderment before choking up in laughter. Take sword fighting with native pirates, for example. In any other game, the focus would be on performing that string of successive slashes against your adversary. In Monkey Island, it’s all about what happens between each blow that decides who wins. When your foe shouts “You fight like a dairy farmer!” in your face, a quick response of “How appropriate! You fight like a cow!” will catch him off guard and swing the battle in your favour. It’s moments like these that you just have to tip your hat to the developers of the game at the ingenuity of the events within.
The Special Edition of Monkey Island on the Xbox Live Arcade offers a few new additions to the game which help to smooth the overall experience today. The game comes with fully updated graphics for those who can’t stand the look of the pixelated original, but allows you to switch between the classic and updated graphics at will by pressing the back button on your controller. I personally stuck with the classic visuals for the majority of my adventure since I became used to the menus faster and just felt that the old graphics had a certain charm that suited the rest of the game better. The seamlessness of the switching between the two different visual styles became useful in some cases where it was hard to see some of the objects in the background, though.
Another new addition I was thankful for in the Special Edition was the inclusion of a considerate hint system preventing me from spoiling myself with an online walkthrough in a couple of situations when I became a little confused with what to do. Holding X in the Special Edition will give the player a short and vague hint of what to do, first to gently nudge the player in the right direction before giving them more detailed directions if necessary with subsequent presses of the button. It’s a simple yet really nice feature that avoids outright spoiling the solutions to the challenges you come across during the game, and I’m grateful for that.
The music, I’ll admit, is fantastic. While the redone tunes for the Special Edition were sometimes smoother sounding on the ears, I didn’t really mind listening to either version’s music – the real appeal came from the infectiously catchy melodies themselves. Whether it be the title screen’s tune, or LeChuck’s theme or the tune of the Scumm Bar, I found it incredibly hard not to hum along with the music as I played. I felt the voice work of the Special Edition occasionally didn’t really fit the characters, but this was easily rectified by switching to the classic text-only version so it wasn’t too much of a worry.
I’ll try not to go into any more specifics on so to avoid spoiling the game for anyone else who has yet to play through it. All I’ll say is that even if you’re like me and have gone this long without having experienced the game, this is a true classic that everyone should at least try out at one point or another.