Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

And here's the second Monkey Island game review I promised...

Sound (5/5)
Most sound effects are the same although there has been some inclusion of extra ambient noises to give the game a bit more atmosphere. Also the most important addition is this time around, Monkey Island can be enjoyed with voice acting, and not just any voice actors: they actually managed to get voice actors that worked on previous Monkey Island games including Dominic Armato (Guybrush Threepwood) and Alexandra Boyd (Elaine Marley). Voice acting is excellent and helps to bring this classic to life.

Music (5/5)
Michael Land has returned to jazz up the original soundtrack with the introduction of live instruments and it really shows. I just hope they’ll release a soundtrack for this game because it is simply that good.


Monkey Island Special Edition Gameplay Video

Graphics (3/5)
All of the original graphics in the game have been updated to a higher resolution while still retaining the same artistic style. This was most likely done on purpose to make hot-switching between the original Secret of Monkey Island and the Special Edition as seamless as possible. Unfortunately this means the animations haven’t quite improved as the artwork has been simply replaced the existing sprites and Guybrush’s movement looks a bit wooden when compared to more recent adventure games.

Plot (4/5)
For those of you who have watched Pirates of the Caribbean (and who hasn’t) you’ll notice quite a few parallels between the Monkey Island series and the movies: zombie pirates, ghost ships, a young hero who wants to become a pirate, a voodoo priestess, a beautiful governor’s daughter, etc. What the younger generation might not know is that Monkey Island was around quite a bit before the movies came out (and even Ron Gilbert himself has mentioned how he wouldn’t be surprised if Disney borrowed some ideas).

Anyway, the plot revolves around the main character that you control with the unfortunate name of Guybrush Threepwood. At the beginning of the game, he has recently arrived on Melee Island and his goal in life is to be a mighty pirate. Through his adventures he meets Governor Elaine Marley and Guybrush falls immediately in love with her. However it’s not long before Elaine is abducted and it’s up to Guybrush to go rescue her.

Overall the plot could be considered a parody of pirate stories in general and characters often break the fourth wall. The game is great if you love this sort of humour and the only criticism I could make is that some in-jokes will go over people’s heads mainly because they were never around to experience adventure gaming in its heyday (e.g. Lucasarts poking fun at Sierra adventure game death scenes, Loom product placement, etc.).

Gameplay(4/5)
The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition works just like any point 'n' click adventure game. Interaction with objects and characters on screen is achieved by pointing and clicking with the mouse, you're able to store objects in an inventory, and you use verbs in order to indicate what you wish to do with an object… "Wait, using verbs to interact with objects?" you may ask.

Yes, in older adventure games you actually had to specify what you wanted to do with objects. As the years went by, the number of verbs or actions you could perform started to decrease until you got to adventure games like nowadays where sometimes you'd have no choice on what to do with an object since clicking on it will automatically pick the most appropriate action. Monkey Island on the other hand had a whopping NINE verbs to play with and they've still retained them for the special edition. In order to access the verbs though, you need to open up another menu which means you’ve got an extra click to perform if you want to do anything. Fortunately, hotkeys have been assigned to the verbs and I found myself using these more often (provided I remembered, there are nine verbs after all)!

The hot-switching feature that allows you to switch between the old and new versions of the game in real-time is a nice feature but most of the time, it’s just a gimmick. There were only particular parts in the game that I would check back to the original to either see how far the game has come or how some animations or jokes have changed (e.g. music pausing for dramatic effect when insulting Important Looking Pirates, Carla doing exercises outside her cabin, etc.).

Replayability (4/5)
On one hand adventure games aren’t very replayable (once you've finished it, it's not going to be any different the second time around) however, this is a special breed – this is Monkey Island (actually there is a way to make the end slightly differently, but I won’t spoilt it :))! The hilarious plot, dialogue, and situations you’ll find yourself in makes the game worth replaying, a several times at least.

Polish(5/5)
I haven’t noticed any bugs in the game whatsoever and the interface is clean and easy to use.

Overall - 88%
A great way for the younger generation of gamers to discover the charm of classic adventure games.

If you want to get the game, you can purchase it online off Steam.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mark for a fantastic review on the re-release of "The Secret of Monkey Island".

    A few of us older gamers would really appreciate this game, as it re-vamps the old 8-bit graphics to more modern standards. No longer do you have to guess what that blob of pixilated squares are trying to depict. The world of quality adventure games such as this had been missing from the gaming world for a long time.

    I sincerely hope, and pray, that the gaming developers out there can see how a well told, well planned story can be enjoyed. I enjoy my first person shooters, and role playing games, but adventure games such as "The Secret of Monkey Island" will always be a classic. I would love to see more classic adventure games re-vamped and re-released.

    For those of you, who aren't quite as old as some of us, you'll probably be thinking "adventure games... ppft... what's the fuss?"... Well, I would highly recommend that you give this a go, and I'm sure you'll enjoy a great story played, out with some very clever comedy thrown in the mix.

    What you got to lose? In this day, where games usually costs us $50-100... The Secret of Monkey Island only costs $10... what a bargain! :)

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