The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

Back in the early 90’s one of Lucasarts’ most prominent titles (aside from Star Wars) was undoubtedly The Secret of Monkey Island. As technology improved and consoles took a more influential role as the primary gaming device, gamers latched onto exciting new genres and point and click adventures died a slow and painful death. However, after many reclusive years, they are now making a come back. Telltale games have had a huge role in re-invigorating the genre thanks to the success achieved with Sam and Max and are now releasing Tales of Monkey Island for PC and Wiiware ; a some-what spiritual successor to Escape from Monkey Island. Fortunately, for those who missed out on where it all started, theres The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition for XBLA and PSN

You play Guybrush Threepwood, a young man trying to become a “Mighty pirate”. To do this he must pass three seemingly simple tests which, typical of this genre, involve collecting various items that combine together to solve a set puzzle. Coupled with an imaginative, exciting story involving a ghost pirate seeking to marry the love of his life, an island full of cannibals and various other memorable characters, its unsurprising Monkey Island became such a huge success.

Instead of directly porting the original title (which you can see at any time when playing by pressing the Back button on the pad) the game has received an overhaul, replacing the original graphics with a vibrant,  cartoon appearance. The 2D style remains and its fortunate they opted not to use same 3D control as Escape from Monkey Island, something that was a major factor in the overall negative feedback for that particular title.

The music has been re-recorded and the atmosphere it creates plays a huge role in helping to set the unique and enjoyable backdrop. Speech has also been included for the first time, using many of the voice cast from later games. Whilst the script remains unchanged from the original, the addition of speech greatly enhances the delivery of the many jokes. This is still the same funny and witty Monkey Island, and its these traits which are a significant reason why it is so highly regarded.

The old SCUMM interface which was so synonymous with their games, has been carefully and intelligently transferred over to fit the Xbox controller. It feels a lot more streamlined and intuitive. Hovering the cursor (which you use to move and interact with Guybrush) over a door will suggest the  commonly expected interaction, such as “open” rather than “pick –up”. A hint system is also available for those who cant solve the puzzles; a first in this series and a welcome addition for ensuring players don’t give up early.

Unlikely as it seemed that Lucasarts would revisit or port over their older games, it was even more doubtful that such a huge amount of effort and care would be put into them. Theyve done a wonderful job in giving a brilliant, genre defining title a new lease of life. Those who played Monkey Island in the past can enjoy it over again, while those who didnt can now see how fantastic this game truly is.

Hopefully more titles from Lucasartss exquisite back catalogue will get similar treatment.