The Secret of Monkey Island marks the beginning of a distinguished adventure franchise held in high regard, and this Special Edition for the Xbox Live Arcade does nothing to tarnish that reputation. This is the same game that chronicles Guybrush Threepwood’s quest to become a mighty pirate and defeat the ghost pirate LeChuck with a new coat of paint.
The new visuals are sleek and stylish; they aren’t mind-blowing compared to other arcade offerings, but they fit with the weird and whimsical world of Monkey Island. There are some cool reflective water effects that’ll catch your eye straight away, and the environments have a real quality to them: it’s very vibrant and everything seems to glow. Monkey Island games since the original have employed voice actors to bring to life Guybrush’s witty one-liners, and they’re used to great effect here to give life to the
script. All the characters and their gags have an added dimension thanks to the voice work. But if you’d like to experience the original Secret of Monkey Island as it was, with no voices or blocky pirate faces, you can switch (on the fly!) between the Special Edition and original graphics.
Story- and script-wise everything holds up to the best of today’s standards and the visuals do a great job of bringing it into this generation, but the controls will seem awfully bulky to a gamer brought up on more modern titles. Whereas most games now have a context sensitive button to take care of multiple actions, you’ll need to select each command manually (like push or pull, pick up, look at, etc.) to interact with objects and the environment. There are some instances where you’ll be stumped only to find out you had the right idea but used the wrong action. Another thing about modern games is that they tend to have more logical solutions to puzzles than the sometimes random and other times trial-and-error ones you’ll find here. There’s a hints system that can be accessed by holding X that combats this, but there is an achievement as an incentive if you can make it through the whole game without one.
A pretty coat of paint, voice acting to an outstanding script, and achievements make the Special Edition of The Secret of Monkey Island a great introduction for newcomers to the franchise. The genius off-the-wall humour far outweigh the cons of a bulky control scheme and no mouse to navigate, and if you aren’t too liberal with the hints, it can last around ten hours. Monkey Island veterans will get a kick out of hearing the original script being voiced, but as is the case with all adventure games, should consider whether the additions make it worth another investment.