If you grew up gaming in the late 80’s or early 90’s, there’s a good chance that you have played a point-and-click adventure game or two (or maybe more). The point-and-click genre is a favorite of many old-school gamers (myself included), and it’s not unwarranted. Not only did these games provide interesting puzzles and stories, many of them are downright hilarious, and games today would have a hard time standing up in the humor department. One of the most beloved adventure games is The Secret of Monkey Island, a hilarious adventure crafted by gaming veterans Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer (who created both Grim Fandango and Psychonauts). While LucasArts ceased production on graphical adventure games long ago, they released The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition in 2009, which sported new HD visuals, and voice acting. If you have never played The Secret of Monkey Island, don’t resist downloading this remake and discovering for yourself why gamers young and old cherish this game. If you played the game all those years ago, this version is still a great way to re-experience the story, and you will be pleased with the newly added voice-overs.
The game puts you in the shoes of Guybrush Threepwood, an aspiring pirate who is willing to do whatever it takes to become a buccaneer. He arrives on Melee Island looking for fame and fortune, but soon enough he finds himself having to rescue Governor Elaine Marley from the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. While I won’t divulge specific plot points or details, the game’s writing is simply top notch, and is without a doubt one of the funnier games ever made. There are plenty of laughs to be had, both from talking to various characters and simply exploring and clicking on items in the environment. While clicking around the environment, talking to NPCs, and solving puzzles by combining items in not-so-obvious ways was the only thing you could do in the original version, the special edition has a handful of additions that make the game more approachable for newer audiences. A hint function has been included, which will provide a clue on what to do next (clues are only given to you by clicking the H key, so gaming purists need not cry foul). This hint function is a welcome change, as even the best of gamers will need help at one point or another, as the game does have some difficult puzzles.
While technology has come a long way in terms of graphics, many gamers have become spoiled with polygon counts and high-res textures, and refuse to play anything that can be described with a number followed by the word “bit”. If you find yourself belonging to this particular group, you need not worry, as the developers have redone all the artwork, making the game seem completely new. While the graphics won’t ‘wow’ anyone, they have a very clean and polished look to them. While the new animations aren’t the smoothest, their look and feel is most likely a decision made by the developer, in an effort to match the original game. The new voice acting is one of my favorite additions, mostly because much of the cast from Curse of Monkey Island (the 3rd game in the series, which was the first to feature voice acting) has returned, and they hit every note perfectly. The original MIDI music has been redone digitally, and new background and ambient noises have been added, which helps to give the game more character.
If you are an old school gamer, and fancy visuals and voice acting aren’t your cup of tea, then you’ll be happy to know that you can toggle back and forth between the old and new visuals instantly, not unlike the upcoming Halo: Combat Evolved re-release. The old visuals are filled with that nostalgic charm, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself playing with the retro visuals on. Unfortunately, you cannot play the new voice acting and soundtrack with the old visuals, though this seems to have been a choice on the developer’s part, as they did not want to toy with the original game (I should add, the Special Edition of the second game, Monkey Island 2, was released in 2010, added the ability to play the voice acting with the original artwork, most likely due to demands from fans). This lack of customization is not a detriment to the game, but would have been a nice inclusion.
While the game doesn’t feature any over the top action or dynamic lighting and shadows, playing through this classic adventure will remind you of the simpler times, where games didn’t need to have blood and gore to grab our attentions and stimulate our minds. Whether you’re an inexperienced swabie or a veteran pirate king, you should definitely give this one a go.
Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the PC version, though it is available for all iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad), Mac, PlayStation Network, Steam, and Xbox Live Arcade
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