More fun that a barrel of... nah, too cliché.
Guybrush Threepwood.Who can't love that bumbling, wimpy, wannabe pirate, whose greatest skill is running about the Caribbean, doing pointless tasks and going on wild goose chases, all the while unbelievably thwarting the evil Ghost/Zombie/Demon Pirate LeChuck?
LucasArts, the folks behind such adventure classics as Sam & Max and Day of the Tentacle, have brought forth the next Monkey Island game, Escape from Monkey Island. Although it is an excellent game with laugh-out-loud humor and terrific graphics, there are a few small monkey wrenches in the machinery (hehe, couldn't help myself).
After three games, Guybrush has finally been able to take Elaine's hand in marriage. After their 3 month honeymoon, they return to their home on Melee Island to find that most of the populace have been driven away by some Australian land developer. Elaine has also been declared dead, a man named Charles L. Charles (hmmm) is vying for the new governership, and Guybrush is framed for robbery. To make a long story short, pandemonium has broken out like a teenager going through puberty.
Unlike the previous games, EMI is in the now standard 3D-characters-on-2D-backgrounds format. The characters look quite good, with very smooth models and lively animations. Coupled with the backgrounds, things look surprisingly cartoony. Plus, there is plenty of FMV to move the story along.
However, the FMV looks like it was rendered in software mode, at least with some of the minor characters (Extras. They don't get any respect.) And you never get to see LeChuck in all his gory... err, glory.
Some have voiced concerns about the control scheme. Well, it turns out you don't have much to fear. If you played the fantastic Grim Fandango, you already have a good feel for the controls. Using the keyboard, you can move forward/backward or turn left/right in much the same way as theResident Evil style of game. As you pass by items, actions appear at the bottom of the screen. There is a button to look at stuff and a button to execute the action. If you have several actions available, you can choose between them. It takes a little time to get used to, but once you do it works fine.
Of course, the meat of the game is the humor and puzzles. EMI is a bit of a stylistic change from previous Monkey Island games. Without giving anything away, let's just say that the plotline is bigger and sillier than ever before. The game is absolutely hilarious at points and even I, your stone-faced game reviewer, cracked up out loud a few times.
Puzzles make up the crux of most adventure games, and the best ones are those that make sense in retrospect. Good thing that this is true for most of the puzzles in EMI (even if some use amazingly twisted logic). Like always, there are a few puzzles that will push your capacity for obtuse logic to the limits. But these are few and far between, so you won't be driven completely insane by frustration.
The voice of Guybrush Threepwood, Dominic Armato, is back. For those of you who haven't heard him, his voice perfectly matches the character of Guybrush Threepwood: Geeky, clueless, and altogether silly (no offense.) The voice acting for the other characters is also well done, especially Elaine's voice (you can just hear her frustration with Guybrush). My only complaint is that Murray didn't get as many lines this time around.
The music is also done very well, with a Caribbean sounding beat (and various anachronisms when appropriate).
Despite the terrific production values, there is one problem I ran into a bit too often: bugs. Yup, even in this game the ugly critters show up. However, none of the bugs are of the game or computer crashing variety.
The first occurred when I tried to pick something up and there was someone in the way (Sorry for the vagueness. Some people are verrrry sensitive about me giving away plot points and puzzles.) Our hero just kept walking toward the object in question, never getting there, and with no way to stop trying to pick up the dang object.
The other, more sinister bug was a situation in which the game forgot (literally!) about a previous action, which prevented me from being able to finish the game. While these are only two bugs, both required me to revert to a previous saved game, which is the adventure gamer's nightmare.
So what's the final verdict? Escape from Monkey Island is a terrifically funny, beautiful and great sounding game. A few bugs may mar the experience at points, but they don't hamper the fun. This makes a terrific addition to any adventure fan's collection. And if you've never played an adventure game in your life (oh sad, sad, soul), you still may want to take a look.