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The Secret of Monkey Island 2: Special Edition Preview

Chris_Hudak By:
GENRE Adventure 
RP What do these ratings mean?

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of SCUMM™.

Remakes, plat-ports, and 'special editions' of previously-released video games are as often cause for eye-rolling as they are for hand-clapping. But every now and then, there's a title that has earned its place in the hearts and minds of gamers—one especially worthy of a complete dry-dock refit. And if it happens to be part of a genre still so criminally underrepresented as the pirate-centric game, so much the better.

click to enlargeWhen LucasArts announced an off-site, Game Developers Conference reveal at San Francisco's famed Tonga Room—all thematic tiki-torches, thatched roofs, artificial indoor rain-squalls. and a free-standing ship's wheel visible upon entrance—it didn't take a million monkeys at their keyboards to suss out what was up: The (second) second coming of Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™, to a DLC-friendly platform near you this summer.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck's Revenge is a thorough presentational overhaul of the lauded second game in the Monkey Island series, originally released in 1991. The Monkey Island games have since become synonymous with quirky, humorous, richly-illustrated, and self-referential point-and-click adventuring, and have become something of a wellspring for ranks of game/geek-culture enthusiasts. Original game creators Tim Schaefer and Ron Gilbert were both on hand at the Tonga Room to give us the gist of what MI2: SE has in store for us.

For those readers who haven't had the pleasure—and for those who have, here's a poke. Monkey Island 2 tells the goofily-swashbuckling tale of the can-do, personable, well-meaning, lovably-hapless, and oft-inept wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood, adrift in a comical, animated, fictional Caribbean in search of the mythical treasure Big Whoop (and constantly athwart the hawse of the bumblingly-evil undead pirate LeChuck). The Monkey Island franchise is still the inspirational watermark for games that present a player with a puzzle-based challenge, the objects, and opportunities to tackle that challenge—and more often than not, some completely bent, humorous, topsy-turvy answer to said puzzle that almost certainly flies in the face of the first most 'obvious' solution. It also pioneered the art of 'insult sword-fighting', which would, if globally adopted, surely liven up the duller, more pointless patches of internationally-televised Olympic Games around the world.

click to enlargeMI2: SE invites gamers to “play it again for the first time” with a bandolier of now-obligatory Special Edition features. The first and most obvious is the hi-def, hand-drawn artwork that re-imagines the classic game's visuals in a more contemporary style. Perhaps even more important is the thorough voiceover treatment, featuring the original Monkey Island cast. LucasArts also promises a scene-for-scene 'hot swap' function that lets old-grog sticklers constantly toggle between and compare the fancy new Special presentation with the 'classic' mode at any point during the game. In fact, you can simply play the old game straight through, if you so desire. It might not seem like a big deal at first mention... but have you actually tried running one of those beloved, floppy-era games on your buff-ass contemporary rig recently?

More to the point, the Special Edition's completely new features include a 'direct control' scheme, perhaps more to the liking of today's gamers, that lets players move Guybrush about in real-time as opposed to the classic game's creaky, conventional point-and-click functionality. In terms of net effect, however, it's still strictly six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other. Even more in line with the pervasive nostalgic spirit of this polished-brass re-release is a new in-game 'commentary' feature, where you'll get direct audio bits from the original MI creators on selected segments of the game.

And finally, for true deep-geek, scurvy-SCUMM ™ aficionado, the Special Edition will offer a complete re-mastered orchestral version of the original game's musical score, for the delight of would-be seafarers of all rank and stripes. Jack Aubrey would approve, and perhaps even perform it. Jack Sparrow would almost certainly dance to it... at least until he fell down.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2 Special Edition
has its course set for the iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in the summer of 2010.

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