Escape from Monkey Island Review

Screenshot of StarBuccaneers in Escape from Monkey Island
In typical Monkey Island fashion, contemporary brands are parodied

Quick Info
Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: Lucasfilm/Disney
Release Date: 9 Nov 2000
Time played: 21 hours

The Final Monkey Island by Lucasarts

With the publishing of this review, Choicest Games finally has a review of every Monkey Island game. Originally, the impetus for playing this was to see if I could have every Monkey Island game reviewed prior to the release of the most recent entry, Return to Monkey Island, but that didn't happen since it took longer than I anticipated to finish Escape. Part of the reason it took a while was because I was a little rusty but another reason was that I was originally waiting for opportunities to play the game with my daughter, and those opportunities were hard to come by.

Anyway, it's done now, so how did Escape from Monkey Island come to be? Well, the game is actually the final Monkey Island game made by Lucasarts and was published in the dying days of the golden era of point 'n' click adventures (the late 80s to late 90s). As 3D console games were all the rage by this stage, this is the first Monkey Island game to use a 3D engine and it wasn't only released on PC and Mac, but the PlayStation 2 as well.

The game sees the return of a familiar cast of characters with the obvious inclusions of Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine Marley and LeChuck. Characters from earlier Monkey Island games also make a reappearance including Carla and Otis from the original Monkey Island, Murray the demonic skull from Curse of Monkey Island and Stan who is now selling time-shares instead of used ships, coffins or life insurance. Unlike other entries in the series, the antagonist isn't LeChuck but an Australian real-estate tycoon called Ozzie Mandrill. Ozzie is set on ridding the Caribbean of all of its pirates so he can develop the region into one giant (and most importantly profitable) tourist trap. It's up to Guybrush to foil his plans.

Screenshot of first scene with Guybrush tied up on the mast in Escape from Monkey Island
Low-poly graphics and tank controls are the norm

Built for Consoles

Low-poly 3D games have always existed but with the introduction of fifth-generation consoles in the mid-90s such as the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64, publishers thought the market were frothing at the mouth for 3D graphics. While this is true, to a degree, I feel that the push to 3D suited some genres better than others. Yet, traditional point ‘n' click adventure developers like Lucasarts and Sierra both dipped their toes into creating 3D adventure games. Sierra released King's Quest: Mask of Eternity and Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire in 1998 and Gabriel Knight 3 in 1999. Lucasarts released Grim Fandango in 1998, so there were a few 3D adventure games being released in the late 90s but it wasn't long after that both Sierra and Lucasarts would cease developing adventure games.

While those who grew up playing games in the late 90s and early 2000s probably have fond memories of these low-poly games, I'm not a fan: I feel that by sticking to 2D graphics, games like Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Curse of Monkey Island have aged well. Escape from Monkey Island is in my opinion the ugliest of the Monkey Island games and this is no offence to the artists, they did the best they could with the primitive tools and hardware.

2D graphics wasn't the only casualty as publishers pushed for games onto consoles: the mouse-driven interface was also sacrificed. "Tank controls" were introduced, where you controlled the character relative to the position of the player, not the camera (hence the name). Trying to navigate your way around the game with a keyboard is cumbersome as you're always trying to face the right direction and adjust your distance to interact with the right object, things that would be so much simpler to do if you were able to use a mouse.

Screenshot of Guybrush Threepwood and Ozzie Mandrill in his mansion
How appropriate you fight like an Australian real estate developer...

Moon Logic to the Max

Adventure games from the 80s and 90s were infamous for their "moon logic", puzzles with ridiculous solutions that are impossible for most people to figure out without a call to a hint line (yes, this was a thing back in the day) or a walkthrough. While the Monkey Island series was not immune to this, I found Escape from Monkey Island to be one of the worst offenders in the series. I eventually had to resort to the Universal Hint System (UHS) to nudge me in the right direction and often I wouldn't need to in a Lucasarts adventure game: that's something usually left for the fiendishly unforgiving Sierra adventure games.

Screenshot of Guybrush Threepwood on a Monkey Island beach
Wouldn't be a Monkey Island game without the eponymous island

Buggy and Rushed

The ending to this game feels rushed and as you approach the end, you may encounter bugs that will require the restoration of an earlier save game (never thought you'd need to do that in a Lucasarts adventure, hey?). In a couple of instances, my game soft locked while I was on Monkey Island so I'd recommend if it ever seems like you're stuck for a long time during this part to search online to see if it's the result of a bug.

Also, there was a period in the late 90s and early 2000s where the games were developed in a particular way making them difficult to run on modern operating systems. Escape from Monkey Island is one of these games but fortunately it's only the cinematics that don't work and you can still hear the audio. An easy fix that worked for me was adding "-gl -w -16" to the start-up parameters for the game.

But Wait, It's Not All Bad!

I've been quite negative in my review of this game so far, but at its core, the game is still a Monkey Island game and the many returning characters, trademark zany humour and fantastic soundtrack means I was willing to tolerate all the issues I had in order to experience another adventure with Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate. The game might not be my favourite in the series but it's still an entertaining pirate adventure.


Escape from Monkey Island is probably the weakest entry in the Monkey Island series with average graphics, cumbersome controls, bugs and a bit too much moon logic for my liking, but it's still a Monkey Island game meaning you'll stick around for its trademark humour, a whole bunch of returning characters and an excellent soundtrack.

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