vidiot's The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Hating Secret of Monkey Island is like hating having a good time.

It’s possible to not like The Secret Monkey Island.

It’s also possible to not like good things in general.

I’ve always wondered what makes old games age well. What tangible component that a game could have, mechanically or from a presentation standpoint that allows a gamer to pick up a game, ten, or in this case twenty years later and still enjoy it.

My conclusion is that it’s a combination of things, entirely dependent of the game and in many cases the time period that the game was made. The chance discovery that a certain aspect of a game, does something that years later reaches your modern expectations. Or seeing something, that with the knowledge of the context of it’s time period associated with it: Shocks you in a manner of both delight and sadness as you realize you have missed the proper time period to play the game. 

The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition has the chance opportunities both of these qualities. It’s also has solid puzzle adventure gameplay to boot. Unless you haven’t been entirely jaded by pure twitch gaming sprees: Incorporating balding space marines, battalion of aliens, while carjacking vehicles and listening to the latest licensed popular music. The probability of enjoying Secret of Monkey Island today is still quite high.

The defying quality of Secret of Monkey Island is its writing. If you could walk away with one lasting impression from Secret, it’s the concept that good writing is good writing, no manner what the circumstances. While modern games struggle trying to find humor, Secret of Monkey Island does humor so eloquently. It that it makes you wonder why we, in the modern world have such a difficulty trying to achieve it. Most can be pointed over the fact that is a strict classic puzzle adventure game, where the dialog and story is a driving factor.

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I would like a simpler concept that creators Ron Gilbert, Tim Shaffer, and Dave Grossman simply understood what was funny. Something that I find is pretty rare among game developers today.

Secret of is a classic point and click puzzle adventure. Players control Guybrush Threepwood, a character that appears on with the wishes to become a pirate. His journey, that involves ghost pirates, pirate trials, attractive governesses, cannibal’s concerned about calories, and of course, three headed monkeys, is something that any gamer with an interest of story and simply having a good laugh should enjoy and should experience themselves.

For only ten bucks, you get the original game as it appeared almost twenty years ago. You also get an HD version of the game, that does more right than it get’s wrong. In the new HD version backgrounds are entirely hand painted, dialog entirely voiced, and the music completely orchestrated.

With the hit of a single button, you can flip between both versions and everything will synch up.

Try and wrap your head around that for a second. Give the concept a good swirl in your head.

The music has now live instruments, all of which synch perfectly with the original compositions.

The aspect ratio and resolutions of both games are of course, entirely different. Switching back and forth between a game that was originally designed to run on your old Dos machine, to a game that runs on your 16:9 1080p display, flawlessly, is a great joy.

The artistic style of the update has been contested in debate by opinionated fans online. While I don’t agree with most of the complaints, (GuyBrush has been a skinny tall character for over a decade, I believe it is time to get over it.) his strange hair-do is the only issue that I can agree on as…odd…But even that is such a small annoyance it’s difficult to break my overall opinion of the new style.

Some new gamers might not like the fact the new drawn characters have the same amount of frames as the original animation. This results on what may appear as jerky animation. This limit makes sense logistically, for switching back and forth from the original and new versions. If you were annoyed by the frame limits in Super Street Fighter II HD, your probably going to be annoyed again here.

Again, for me at least, this doesn’t break the game aesthetically at all.

And even if you don’t like any of the issues or problems you may perceive with the new version, you could always revert to the original sprites. Problem solved.

Secret of uses an old mechanic of selecting different verbs in conjunction of inventory items and objects to interact with in it’s game world. While walking, opening and looking at different objects have been streamlined in this new version, the game does have difficulty translating a competent substitute in presenting these mechanics to a game controller. You can use the D-Pad to call up certain actions, but the amount of verbs far outnumbers the amount of directions you can press. This requires you to bring up two different dialog boxes, instead of one that resided on the bottom of your screen containing both verbs and inventory in the original version. This makes one puzzle in particular incredibly more jarring that it needs to be.

There’s also no option to skip individual lines of dialog. There is a lot of dialog in Secret of Monkey Island, and the ability to quickly skip through it at your own pace is very annoying. This is one of the only rare aspects that I thought really awkwardly detracted from this games release. Instead you have the option of skipping big scenes with the “Y” button, but what qualifies as a big scene to you, and a big scene for the game might be different. Regardless, it’s an option that was in the original version and is not in this one, and thus it’s only real huge negative point that I can really point out for this release.

Aside from that, and a few issues regarding bringing an adventure game like this to a console controller, finding problems and getting upset with a game like this would be just a list of non-game breaking nitpicks. Or simply not enjoying the genre of puzzle-adventure games in general, in which: One would wonder why you are playing the game in the first place? It’s difficult to find something truly horrible that Secret or its remake does. 

Again, the game is still hilarious as it was today. The game has great fun breaking the forth wall with its absurdity. When a huge disclaimer fills the screen telling you that the attack dogs you just poisoned are asleep, and not dead, and that no animals were harmed in the production of this game. You will get a good idea of what I’m talking about. Or that sword fighting is entirely based on insulting the people your fighting and matching insults with proper sarcastic responses. It’s even smart enough to make fun of it’s own mechanics in one scene in the governors mansion that I wish not to spoil for new comers. The list just goes on and on.

The game I’m guessing will last a good five to six hours for newcomers, perhaps even more. The puzzles are genius, involving items of asinine quality in situations, that are in retrospect: quite practical. Some times the absurdity can become a bit overbearing, or the pixel hunts for items and locations to find a bit difficult. That’s why the Special Edition has a completely competent hint system built in, that works wonders for newcomers who might have a difficulty finding what to use their “Rubber-chicken-with-a-pully-in-the-middle” with.

Achievements have been added to the game, requiring multiple playthroughs. It’s an easy 200 pts/#S Rank to obtain, some of which are actually surprisingly creative considering the games confines of not being built for achievements. All of the achievements are secret…because the game is The Secret of Monkey Island…

The level of quality of this game stands up today. I’m happy that Lucas Arts is having a Square-Enix revelation that the franchises that they have been sitting on for decades, can be revived in phenomenal ways. I hope that this newfound experience, and success, will result in a bigger investment of the back catalog of games that made Lucas Arts successful in the first place.

This new version is a game I can highly recommend to fans of the original and newcomers alike. It’s difficult to find attractable ways for new gamers to enjoy older titles: This is one of them.

Games like this, and titles Bionic Commando: Rearmed, are games that we should point to as standards for our opinions of future remakes to come.  

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