Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

They didn''t even lose the spirit of the original box art
They didn''t even lose the spirit of the original box art

LucasArts have been in overdrive lately attempting to get an adventure genre revival happening. It’s a much loved genre that has been sadly missed during it’s long, though some may say necessary, absence. But now, with the re-release of so many LucasArts classics like Loom and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on Steam, furthered by the old IPs getting new life from the crew over at Telltale, you could say that adventure is really re-emerging on the gaming market.

No better time then to make everyone nostalgia as hard as they can with the re-release of what most people would agree was the greatest adventure title of all time: The Secret of Monkey Island.

Ron Gilbert’s original masterpiece was truly a milestone in computer entertainment. A game full of challenge, humour, memorable PC speaker music (now there’s a feat you don’t see often) and just a fantastic experience for gamers everywhere. I feel a little bit sorry for those people who will be discovering the game for the first time with the release of the Special Edition, simply because they have missed out on discovering this game with the rest of the world.

However, for those people who haven’t played the game before, let’s re-cap. You take the role of Guybrush Threepwood, wanna-be pirate with a tremendous lung capacity. In The Secret of Monkey Island you have to prove yourself worthy of being a pirate by passing the three pirate trials: master the sword, the art of thievery and treasure huntin’, ya sea urchin. Along the way you meet Governer Elaine Marley, fall in love, then have to chase her down and discover the secret of mysterious Monkey Island. If anyone wants to fill me in on the secret, by the way, leave a comment, I’m not sure I ever worked that part of the game out. But it’s the textbook tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy concocts voodoo navigation potion from cereal packets, boy gets girl back again using enchanted root beer. Can’t beat the classics!

The new look Scumm(tm) Bar
The new look Scumm(tm) Bar

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition brings the original game to the current gen, updating it’s graphics, art style and voice acting for the new generation of gamers. The original backdrops and sprites have all been recreated by hand, and they look gorgeous. But far and away the greatest feature this game offers is the ability to switch between the new version and the old version seamlessly with the press of a button. This is why this game is such a triumph, not only for the older generation of gamers, but for the new also.

Want to see what Melee Island looked like before it got the makeover? Single press of a button. Want to compare the up close portraits of the pirates at the bar? Single press of a button. Want old blue-outline LeChuck over new blue aura LeChuck? Single press of a button. It’s so beautiful it’ll make you want to cry into your grog.

The only criticism I have of the version swapping feature is that they included the CD-Rom version of the original, rather than the PC speakered, text inventoried VGA-DOS original. For some reason the PC speaker sound enveloped the spirit of the original to me, so I was a little saddened to hear the MIDI start flowing. Also, using this version, players will never get to experience the fun of the hollow stump in the forest, although how you could make an “Insert Disk” reference these days would be beyond me (maybe a missing driver?).

GROG! GROG! GROG!
GROG! GROG! GROG!

PC Speaker aside, the updated sound score is fantastic. The new full-band music sounds great, even soothing at points, and the voice work is top notch. Dominic Armato plays Guybrush as he was always meant to sound, with a solid combination of confidence and confusion. The sword-fighting sections of the game have been double-taped for success and failure, too. If Guybrush can’t think of the right witty retort to a pirate’s insult, his voice loses all the confidence you’ll recognise in a correct response. To be frank, just to be able to hear the shop-keeper say “Ahoy there, fancy pants” is worth the price of admission in itself, and that’s no lie.

Speaking of price of admission, this game will set you back 800 points on Xbox Live, or around $10 or so, depending on your country. LucasArts have made a smart move here. With the number of copies they’re undoubtably going to sell, they’re going to make a decent profit out of this, while individual gamers certainly don’t mind coughing up $10 to own the updated version of one of the all time classics. For those still unsure, there’s little doubt this will be in a Deal of the Week at some point, so you could always camp out until then, but seriously, you feel like you’ve got your money’s worth, easily.

LucasArts stays true to Guybrush''s theory this time around
LucasArts stays true to Guybrush''s theory this time around

A couple of quick down sides: Again, this is an adventure game, so you’re not going to have the replayability of many other games. Given that the team who made Special Edition haven’t changed a single thing about the gameplay (and good thing too), anyone who has played the game before already knows how to finish it, and this will cut down your play time. Every now and again, you’ll notice that the updated graphics might not layer perfectly. Finally, since the updated game runs at the same speed at the original version, some of the longer voice acted conversations can move a little slowly with multiple pauses (where the original is waiting to change lines). Play the game with the captions on, and you won’t feel this as much.

For anyone who hasn’t played before, or just needs a little help, there is also a three stage hint system that goes from reminding you what you’re up to, all the way up to pointing you directly where you need to go. I’d be surprised if anyone truly needed this feature, but it was a nice addition none the less.

In the end, it’s Monkey Island, and you’re going to love it for all the same reasons you love the original. I doubt anyone could find anything to be seriously unhappy about with this release. It’s nostalgic, respectful of it’s roots, and really just a great tribute to a game that will always hold a special place in many gamers’ hearts. Oh, listen to me gush!

The verdict:

Good! Great! Tre magnific! Words of approval!
Good! Great! Tre magnific! Words of approval!

Pros: This is a no-brainer. Everyone should play this game. Gorgeous artwork, fantastic score and voice acting, and seamless version swapping. That’s really the highlight for me. Version swapping was a brilliant move that just continues to show that LucasArts knows what their fans are after.

Cons: Nothing major. A few little graphical glitches might crop up in the updated version, but that would be about it. Would have been even better if they’d used the original DOS version for comparison.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5. If you haven’t heard me gush on enough yet, well I don’t know what would convince you to buy this game. Just trust me. You want it, and you should get it. Now. Go on. Hurry up. No excuses! The more people buy this, the better our chance of LeChuck’s Revenge: Special Edition!

Leave a Reply

Name: (required)

Email Address: (required)

Website: