Product Type: LucasArts PC games
Newest Review: ... characters. The characters have great personalities. They don't merely serve as instruments of the story to help Guybrush progress through... more
A bucketful of nostalgia and a bottle of rum!
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (PC)
Member Name: Renza_e
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (PC)
Date: 01/01/12, updated on 01/01/12 (43 review reads)
Advantages: Gorgeous graphics, colourful characters, funny dialogue, fun gameplay and a fabulous soundtrack!
Disadvantages: A seeming difficulty to combine inventory items in new version and the fact I never wanted it to end
The Monkey Island game series transports me back to a similarly innocent and cosy place. It summons up within me a warm nostalgia that goes beyond Pokemon cards, Tamagochis and any other tat that I accumulated during my 90s childhood. When I was a little girl, maybe about five or six years old, I remember sitting on my dad's knee watching him play the terribly grown up game of 'Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck's Revenge.' By today's standards the graphics were quite primitive and pixelated but even so it was pretty to look at. I was mesmerized by it, particularly its detailed close-ups of its characters and its interesting cut-scenes. Sometimes I would try to help my dad solve the puzzles but it was clear that it was above and beyond my five year old intellect. I therefore contented myself by letting my dad work out the game, watching the action play out and meeting all those weird and wonderful characters which Guybrush came across. Through Monkey Island I got to be close to my dad and I was introduced to a fantastical world of pirates and adventure.
'The Secret of Monkey Island' was released by Lucasarts in 1990 and received a positive response from gamers and critics alike. Within gaming history it was quite a breakthrough, particularly due to its humour and gameplay and it is quite often considered one of the best video games of its time, if not all time. I personally believe that Monkey Island's popularity is largely a generational thing, achieving cult-like status amongst small pockets of people around my age and above. I would hardly expect your average 21st gamer to have any clue about Guybrush and co. I was actually delighted to discover that my flatmate, about the same age as me, also shared an appreciation of the game and was the one who alerted me that a revamped special edition had been produced for the Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2. I was particularly interested about playing the Secret of Monkey Island, the first game of the Monkey Island series, as I'd never played it before (My dad only had the second of the series). It was therefore with much excitement and anticipation that I downloaded and began to play this game...
*~I'M GUYBRUSH THREEPWOOD, MIGHTY PIRATE!~*
Whilst I'd never played the first game, the game style and characters are instantly recognizable and I am quickly transported to my nostalgic 'happy place'. The story follows the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood who, in his quest to become a true swashbuckling pirate, becomes tied up in a whole other adventure. He falls for the beautiful and vivacious Elaine Marley, governor of Melee Island. However, not long after their meeting she is snatched away and kidnapped by the zombie pirate LeChuck. LeChuck harbours a sinister, unrequited love for Elaine and Guybrush must save Elaine from the clutches of this evil buccaneer...
I won't mention too much about the story as it is essentially what drives the whole game and if I give too much away I'll ruin it for you. The story itself is brilliant and provides the gamer with a modern twist (or to be precise, 1990 twist) on the romanticized stories of pirates. Set on fictionalized islands within the Caribbean, it is jam packed with 'piratey' and paranormal themes, as you come across fellow pirates, a voodoo queen and some other rather colourful characters.
The characters have great personalities. They don't merely serve as instruments of the story to help Guybrush progress through the game - they ARE the story. Guybrush himself plays the goofy underdog who, you can never really be convinced is a true pirate, but his lovable and quirky character means that you champion him all the way through. Elaine on the other hand is feisty, fiery and strong willed and although Guybrush feels the need to rescue her you do wonder if she really needs saving. Or maybe she does? LeChuck is a rather dastardly villain. Undead and formidable, he has managed to frighten pirates into joining circus troupes just to avoid sailing the Caribbean seas.
The assortment of characters Guybrush comes across throughout the game are an absolute joy. There is Stan. He sells second-hand boats to the pirates and has the persona of a pushy if good natured used car salesman. He's quite annoying but makes up for this with the humorous conversations he has with Guybrush as he tries to force his sales patter down his throat. Larger than life, I could always imagine someone like Jim Carrey playing him in a life action version of the game.
My favourite supporting character has to be the Voodoo Lady. Ever since I sat on my dad's lap and watched him play the game I have adored this creepy fortune teller. The Voodoo lady is an exotic and mysterious character who provides portents, offers Guybrush rather vague information and generally frightens the crap out of him...
*~HOLY MONKEY BLADDERS IT'S MONKEY ISLAND!~*
The characters, story and dialogue of this special edition version of this game are exactly the same as the original but it seems that everything else has been given the 21st century treatment.
One of the changes that is most striking are the revamped graphics. As I've suggested before the old style graphics of this game were really quite pretty for the technology available at the time. The attention to detail was great, the stars twinkled and there seemed to be so much life in those pixelated characters and backdrops. The revamped version takes these charming scenes and turns them into breathtaking pieces of art. I spent a good amount of my first ten minutes of the game ooo-ing and aaa-ing at the artwork. The skies not only still have those twinkly stars but now have swirley 'Van Gogh' clouds. There are also complex additions here and there like ships and other little things which the old gaming technology would have been unable to support. It's really very beautiful to look at and I must applaud those who redesigned the game. They have made it look quite stunning without departing too much from the original designs.
The best thing about this special edition is that by pushing 'F10' you can switch between the old version of the game and the new version and see just how different both versions are. Not only have the graphics changed but so have the sounds. When you speak to other characters you can not only view the lines of dialogue but you can actually hear them. They have brought in voice artists such as Dominic Armato as Guybrush who has worked on the newer Monkey Island games. His upbeat and distinctive voice really brings this character to life.
The gameplay of the Secret of Monkey Island remains very much the same. It is still a click and point adventure game with the same verb commands as before. You must use these commands upon characters and objects in order to solve the many puzzles you need to complete to progress through the game. I'd like to think that now I'm no longer five years old that I am now big and smart enough to work these puzzles out. However, the game can be quite challenging at times. Not so challenging as to force you to throw in the towel but challenging nonetheless. Each scenario which you come across forces you to think outside the box. Every conversation you have and every object you come across must be regarded as potentially useful. The game is all about being curious and inquisitive and taking into consideration things you may not have thought were important. After all, who ever thought a rubber chicken would have its uses?
In the new version, they have introduced a hints button to help you out when you really do get stuck. If you press 'h' it gives you a tip on what you need to do next. I sort of feared that this meant that the game had been dumbed down a bit but I would be a liar if I said I did not use that button at some point in the game. Whilst it gives you a great sense of achievement to work out the puzzles all by yourself, the hints button stops you from hitting your noggin against any palm trees when you do feel a little bit stuck.
Now it's is normally quite easy enough to use the verb buttons within the game. In the old version the verb menu and inventory are part of the screen. In the new version, they have got rid of this clutter so you can enjoy the full widescreen experience and only bring up these menus when you need to use them. This only caused one problem and that was when I was trying to combine items in the inventory. Screaming at my computer scream, I did have a small fit when, after several attempts I was unable to combine two items during a timed activity. It was only when I changed over to the old version with the old graphics that I found that I was able to do so. Apart from this niggle, the game play is generally smooth...
As with the original, you rely on working out the puzzles by having conversations with other characters and this gives rise to some fabulous tongue-in-cheek comedy. I even read somewhere they are credited with inventing the concept of humour in computer games. Certainly, right from the outset of the game, you are given a great big dose of funny. Walking into the Scumm bar towards the beginning the part one, you can choose to meet and converse with one particular pirate:
'What's your name?' he says.
''Ha! Guybrush Threepwood. That's the stupidest name I have ever heard.'
'What's your name?'
So much of the dialogue gives rise to a giggle and a meeting with some cannibals left me particularly tickled. After nabbing some of their fruit one of the cannibals greets Guybrush by saying 'Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see us?' I do love it when family entertainment drops in an adult reference that makes you giggle but swoops over the heads of any innocent child in the room (Spongebob Squarepants have been known to do it on occasion). The rest of the cannibals dialogue is just as funny if not quite as 'naughty' When Guybrush is locked up in a cabin waiting to become the cannibals next meal, their ringleader spends much of his time worried about the detrimental effects eating Guybrush will have on his health. 'Think of your arteries' he tells his man-eating friends, 'cannibals have to watch their saturated fats like everyone else.'
Some of the best comedy arises from the sword fights Guybrush engages in. Victory in a sword fight is not so much based on the use of the weapon but upon the insults traded between the two opponents. A pirate must gain the upper hand through their witty remarks rather than their skilful sword work and Guybrush must learn to hone his insults in order to become a great swashbuckler. The Monkey Island series has therefore become rather famous for the humorous insults and comebacks traded during its swordfights...
'You fight like a dairy farmer.'
'How appropriate, you fight like a cow.'
*~A SPOT OF 'PIRATE REGGAE'~*
Today I just need to hear the tinkle of Monkey Island's old 8-bit synthesiser theme tune for me to be overcome with childhood glee. The Monkey Island theme tune is distinctive and memorable. The best way to describe it is 'pirate reggae' and whoever wrote the original is truly a god among men.
The special edition of the game opens with this retro theme tune and old style backdrop of Melee Island before unveiling the new style backdrop with an updated soundtrack using real instruments. I adore the new theme tune, soundtrack and sounds within the game. There was only so much music and sound effects that the original game could support which means that the new version is a lot less quiet.
*~THAT'LL BE SIX PIECES OF EIGHT, SIR~*
Buying yourself a copy of this special edition of Monkey Island is really quite different to buying the game back in the early 90s. The original game was expensive and even once you had brought it home, it was several hours and about a hundred floppy disc installations later that you could finally get round to playing it (ok maybe a slight exaggeration there).
Today you can buy it and download it from a website called Steam and using the Steam software it probably takes about half an hour to download and install.
I bought the Monkey Island Special edition bundle with the first and second game for just £6.29 in the Steam holiday sale. I thought this was rather cheap for such a beautiful revamp of both games.
*~ONE OF THE BEST GAMES OF ALL TIME~*
This special edition update is an absolute dream for any old time fans of the Monkey Island series. With all the effort that has gone into this remake you can tell that those who worked on it hold a true love for the game. They have given it a glossy makeover whilst respecting every aspect of the original.
Even without its special edition update, the Secret of Monkey Island is one of the best computer games of all time. It has characters you really care about, funny dialogue and challenging puzzles that keep you entertained for hours. It's just a shame that it is the sort of game you almost don't want to end. This is why I took my time with the game, exhausting all of the humorous conversation lines and even then it only took me ten hours to finish. This left me wanting more and I can only be glad that there are four other Monkey Island games out there for me to devour.
I would like to think that this glossy update of this 1990 game may open up the Monkey Island series to a whole new generation of gamers, some of whom were not even born when this game was first released. Unlike some modern games, which often encourage kids to be mindless zombies, this is a game which dares the player to use their brain. And if the game is too difficult for some younger children, you can always team up with them to help them solve the problems.
I do find it a rather heart warming thought that just under 20 years after I sat on my dad's knee to watch him battle LeChuck, there could be another little kid perched on their mum or dad's knee as mesmerized by this pirate world as I was...
It is almost impossible to kill Guybrush which makes for easygoing game play - However, I say almost as there is one point where Guybrush is underwater and if you keep him there for more than 10 minutes you will have one dead wannabe pirate ;-)
*~ Thank you for reading my review :-) I hope you don't find it too long. It seems my passion for this game lead to another essay-length review~*
*~Also published on Ciao under username Renza - January 2012~*
Summary: A special revamp of a special game here to captivate the imaginations of a whole new generation of g