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The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

Eduardo_Reboucas By:
GENRE Adventure 
E10+ Contains Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence, Suggestive Themes

What do these ratings mean?

Guybrush Threepwood?! That's the most ridiculous name I ever heard!

There are few games as influential as The Secret of Monkey Island, especially in the adventure game category. Its witty and inventive style were unique when it was first released in 1990, and set the bar for future humorous adventure titles - or any other title, for that matter. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition updates the classic SVGA graphics and adds full voice-overs, while retaining the original's presentation for nostalgia's - or purist's - sake.

click to enlargeMancomb Sheepgood Guybrush Threepwood arrives on Melée Island with the hopes of becoming a pirate, seeking the riches and fame of a lifetime of plundering. But what he ends up finding there is more than he bargained for, as a mysterious and dead pirate captain is threatening the local populace. It's up to Trapwool Threepwood to not only pass the trials to become a pirate, but also to end this tyranny. This new version of the game follows the script down to the line, showing how well the gags and humor survived these 19 years, as I still had laughs relearning the sword fighting insults and dealing with a certain used boat salesman. Okay, maybe I didn't enjoy talking to Stan again after all these years, because let's face it, the man is the most annoying character on this side of Porto Pollo.

Monkey Island was one of the first adventure games put out by LucasArts that started using an on-screen verb command box, similar to text adventures like Zork, but not as complex or random. You get a limited number of command combinations for Guybrush to interact with the environments, like push, pull, give, open, and close. There's also an inventory that stores items, which can be combined in order to complete puzzles, of which there are many.

You won't have to worry about dying or getting impossibly stuck in this game, as just about every necessary item or character is located in places you can visit repeatedly, which cuts down some of the stress of becoming stuck with only a thread of cat hair and some glue. The only particular time you can "die" is one of the unique circumstances that gives you an Achievement, and even so, it's a comical consequence to something that takes seconds to figure out and escape. It's easy to jump into Monkey Island even if you never played an old-school adventure game, due to how simply everything works in both game modes.

click to enlargeThe decision to bring back the first Monkey Island might seem jarring to many, especially the way the visuals have been reworked. Considering the series passed through a fair amount of visual re-imagining, going from SVGA sprites, to traditional 2D animation, to 3D cel shading. But in order to preserve the original's feel, LucasArts decided to redraw everything to fit as an overlay to the old game's places and characters, taking liberty to redesign some of the characters, including Guybrush - all the while retaining mostly the same frames of animation, giving the game a makeover that looks new but still acts the same.

The transition might seem jarring to purists and veterans of the original game, as some of the redesigns are strikingly different from before, but in the end, they fit well as a whole. And for those who shiver their timbers just thinking of this redesign needn't worry - with a touch of a button, the original look and sounds can be restored. The interface gets in the way at times, feeling overly clunky and complex, with directional pad shortcuts that don't help at all and that just make you wish you had a mouse at times. Luckily, the old-style presentation retains the same control scheme as before, with your analog stick acting as a true mouse clicking the on-screen buttons as it would on a computer in 1990.

Another part of this update worth mentioning is the return of the full cast of voice actors introduced in the third game of the Monkey Island saga, including  Dominic Darmato. The crew jumped back aboard and recorded lines of just about every character in the game - even for Scumm Bar's dog. The new voice acting is very well-done, especially that of Darmato's Guybrush, whose lines are done in various tones and emotions that fit the moment. There's also a narrator that sets the story between the panels and that humorously reads some of the documents you find in your travels. Returning as well is the series' original composer, Michael Land, who re-recorded all of the classic music for this new version. Once again, if you switch back to the original's presentation, you'll get the MIDI version of the tunes.

click to enlargeFor veterans of the original game who remember all the exploratory nooks and crannies required in order to complete it, there won't be anything standing in their way in completing this Special Edition, which could be seen as a letdown. For those who take the time to explore all the maps, talk to everyone, and simply take in the story, there's around 6 to 8 hours of game time. For those who are speedy and already know all the solutions, there's a special Achievement for beating the game in under 3 hours. In addition, the Special Edition rewards multiple attempts and alternative solutions that provide different outcomes to the game's ending sequence.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition comes highly recommended, whether or not you are a series aficionado like myself, or just a noob pirate. There's plenty to discover or relive in this little place in the Caribbean called Monkey Island, and we can only hope LucasArts takes this as a cue to rework all of their back catalog in the adventure game genre [Give me Grim Fandango! ~Ed]. Either way, make sure not to forget your chicken with a pulley in the middle, you'll need it!
B+ Revolution report card
  • It's Monkey Island!
  • The new voice acting is top-notch
  • Clever Achievements, reward exploration
  • New re-drawn graphics fit perfectly
  • Reworked interface is a tad awkward
  • Can't mix new sounds with old graphics
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    No member reviews for the game.

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Also known as: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition

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