Quite a Treat
Monkey Island 2 is a really positive experience. The humor hits way more often than in the first game. I would describe it as being actually funny. Maybe not quite laugh-out-loud very much, but it’s much more charming and pleasant to play. The side characters are injected with more personality, and even Guybrush, who I didn’t care for at all in the first game, is now a likable, interesting protagonist. There are still moments where the humor doesn’t stick the landing, but it’s the consistency that makes the biggest difference.
Monkey Island 2 is framed by Guybrush Threepwood telling Elaine Marley, the governor and love interest from the first game, how he got into a compromising situation. It starts out with him looking for the legendary Big Whoop treasure, and eventually folds in Ghost Pirate LeChuck’s return and revenge. The story is everything that it needs to be, and it manages a much more even tone than the first game’s.
The presentation is better too. There was a noticeable bump in visual quality toward the end of Secret of Monkey Island, and that jump in color, character, and confidence carries throughout Monkey Island 2 in its entirety. The quality music returns, with a new feature. It retains the quality of composition from the first game, but adds in a system where each area has a certain core musical theme and then going into sub-areas adds and removes instrument sections. The effect helps make Monkey Island 2 feel like a really well-made cartoon, which is how this style of game feels at its best.
The design of the areas shows that same advance. In Secret of Monkey Island, there were a couple areas that seemed to exist solely to have you solve their puzzles once and then to act as little empty sets for you to walk through over and over and over until (if you’re anything like me) you just want to stop playing. In Monkey Island 2, each major area is packed with content and they’re much more smartly designed to be accessible, multi-functional, and artistically satisfying.
The puzzles in those areas are better, too. Even when I don’t get them myself, I can see where a person with more patience would have gotten them on their own. The structuring of the puzzles is interesting. The first game had sort of an embryonic form of this with the three pirate trials, but parallel puzzling really blossoms in Monkey Island 2. For instance, the second act is structured around collecting four pieces of a treasure map. There’s no set-in-stone order for solving the puzzles that net you the map pieces, so when you get stuck in one line of puzzling you can just shift to another one for a while and when you come back to the first it will be with fresh perspective. This design technique does wonders for keeping the game from stagnating. That and the humor are probably the biggest changes from the first game, and they both make a huge difference.
Everything is just better in LeChuck’s Revenge than it was in the first game. Graphics, puzzles, humor, even the characters. If you’re a person who revels in old-style adventure games, you’ll love this one. If you absolutely can’t put up with a lot of walking around and puzzling, go through it with a walkthrough to help the pacing work with you. Either way, Monkey Island 2 is quite a treat. Four stars.