adrenaline's The Secret of Monkey Island (PC) review

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

 The Special Edition of the original Monkey Island isn't a perfect upgrade, but it's a very accessible one that adds full voice acting, redone music, revamped graphics that are mostly quite attractive, and a robust hint system that helpfully nudges you in the right direction before it hits you over the head with the solution. I've only ever played a few minutes of the original game, so this was a nice way to experience a classic adventure in a friendlier way.

The game itself holds up for the most part. A few puzzles are a bit obscure, but that's pretty much par for the course in this genre, and a lot of them make up for it with the humor behind their cartoon logic. The writing itself is funny too, not exactly laugh-out-loud stuff in a lot of cases but consistently clever and unique even today. Sometimes the voice acting adds to the humor, although at others it actually detracts, either because it's really not necessary for the joke or the actor isn't right for the part. Whoever did the casting for Stan clearly never saw a used car commercial in their life. The key to a game like this is its storyline, because it has to keep you moving forward and informing you on how you need to proceed, and they do a good job of giving you a suitably adventurous quest while allowing room for the comedy and other important things. I have a few little issues, like how the game's first and most significant goal is never officially finished, but for the most part it's a competent homage to and send up of classic pulp adventures at the same time.

Oddly enough the weakest part of the game is the new interface. At any time you can press a key to switch to the original version of the game, which is only an interesting addition until you realize it's practically required for certain time-sensitive puzzles. Since they devote the entire screen to the pretty new visuals, you only have two basic commands available to you at any time without arduously scrolling through available actions or pressing buttons to call up some menus. The original game has everything on a single screen, and when the 19 year old version of the game you're upgrading has a superior inventory system you might consider rethinking it a bit. When it becomes an issue, you can call up the old version temporarily to quickly solve a puzzle, so it doesn't end up being a big deal, it's just a really weird way around the issue.

It's mostly a small annoyance in a game that's more enjoyable for the experience than the gameplay. I would have liked some more insult sword fighting or a more involved climax, but overall it's a fun, very cute game. The sequel is already getting the Special Edition treatment, and I'll be keeping my eye open for it, whether they fix the interface or not.

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