20 years on, still just as good
As a child I loved the Monkey island series, their humour and story always kept me coming back from more and I subsequently played through all four instalments. So naturally I was very interested in the 2009 revamp of the first in the series “The Secret of Monkey Island” and I am happy to say, it is excellent.
You play as the young Guybrush Threepwood who aspires to become a swash buckling pirate. The game is told in parts much like a book has chapters, the first starts with Guybrush on melee island where he is set tasks to become a pirate and unknowingly becomes a thorn in the side of the evil ghost pirate Le Chuck. Throughout the rest of the game you acquire a ship and travel to the fabled Monkey Island to foil Le Chuck’s plans.
The controls are of a true point and click game, you use either analog stick to move the curser around the screen which will highlight any objects that the player can interact with. You have nine ways to interact with an object; “look”, “use”, “pull”, “push”, “open”, “close”, “pick up”, “speak to”, and “give” which you select by holding a trigger down to bring the options up and selecting one with and analog stick. Its a little clunky but you soon get used to it. The “look” command provides you with an amusing description from Guybrush and more often than not provides a coded insight into the secret use of the item.
Often you will have to delve into Guybrush’s seemingly bottomless pockets to combine items for use in puzzles, whether thats as obvious as combining a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle with a cable or the more obscure. The puzzles themselves remain challenging through out and require a lot of thought, but never get seemingly impossible. Occasionally you will just stumble across the solution but there is a sense of real satisfaction when you complete a task that has been troubling you for a while by thinking out side of the box, which you nearly always have to do. If you do get stuck the remake has included a three level hint system, at any point you can hold a button down an a hint will pop up on screen. The first will be vague such as “you should distract these dogs with something” the second will be more detailed like “ maybe you could use this to do it?” the third will just tell you what to do “Use this with this to do this”. Its a good system that lets you get enough help to get you thinking on the right path without telling you exactly what to do if you don’t want it to.
You will spend a great deal of time navigating dialog trees, so its a good job that the characters are so enjoyable to interact with. You will meet a wide variety throughout, from men of low moral fibre to cholesterol conscious cannibals to Stan the salesman. If you take the time to talk to everyone you will be rewarded with qwerky and humorous dialogs that may well have been missed. All the characters have been voiced for this remake, and I’m glad to say that they have got most of the cast from the last two monkey island games back. While not all the voice work is as good as the writing its really nice to hear the characters voiced and brings something to the game that it lacked the first time around.
The art has been completely repainted and the style is much more reminiscent of the third game, with its cartoony style and bright colours. The music has also been rerecorded and sounds much clearer and a bit more colourful as well. If you aren’t a fan of the new style then you can always return to the original format with the press of the button, however this also turns off the voice acting. Even if you do like the new art and music you will find yourself flicking back and from between the styles just to see exactly how faithfully the iconic locations have been renovated. The animation remains primitive, but it doesn’t take away from the experience, in fact it provides just that little injection of nostalgia that completes the package nicely.
You can beat The Secret of Monkey Island in around 2 hours if you start out with a solution. However, if you take the time to think over the puzzles and talk to all the fleshed out characters you will have around 5 to 10 hours of play time to you depending on how easily you solve the puzzles. If you have $10 lying around I suggest you dive into The Secret of Monkey Island, you wont regret it.