The Secret of Monkey Island
First posted on 14 March 1998. Last updated on 14 December 2009.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
Released in 2009, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a remake by LucasArts of The Secret of Monkey Island originally released in 1990. It includes both the original classic version of the game and a re-mastered version that holds true to the game's original style. A toggle is added to switch back and forth anytime during gameplay between the original and the high-resolution frame-for-frame remake. The old version of the game is functionally identical to the original, while the new version adds voice acting (featuring Dominic Armato, the voice of Guybrush Threepwood in the later Monkey Island games), a newly orchestrated musical score, and a simplified interface that avoids crowding the screen with the verb coin menu.
Whenever a list of best computer games of all time is created, rather few old titles pop up. The adventure games from the Monkey Island series always appear on such a list. The series has been a legend among adventure gamers since the release of The Secret of Monkey Island. Ron Gilbert, the creator of the series and the designer of this first game, has achieved a position akin to that of a demigod in the world of adventure games. Exactly what is the magic that attracts gamers again and again to see the misadventures of Guybrush Threepwood? Let us find out! Shiver me timbers and all that, mates, 'cause Guybrush is here!
Guybrush, our antihero, arrives on Island of Mêlée to become a pirate. He finds out that all pirates on the island are too afraid to even sail because of an evil ghost pirate named LeChuck. Still, Guybrush starts his pirate initiation known as The Three Trials. Just when he finally masters the arts of thievery, sword fighting and treasure hunting, he hears that LeChuck has kidnapped the beautiful governor Elaine Marley whom he plans to marry. Guybrush, as any good hero is destined to do, now must find a way to the legendary Monkey Island and rescue Elaine.
The Secret of Monkey Island is released in 1990. While it may spot a dated look now, this is not necessarily a negative. The graphics are quite pretty even by today's standard. Sure, they are pixelated, but who cares? Character animations are lively, and backgrounds are beautiful looking. The atmosphere is great, from the calm night scenes on Mêlée Island to the hot jungle climate on Monkey Island. There are 2 (actually 3) versions of the game released—the original Floppy Disk version in either 16 (EGA) or 256 (VGA) colors and the CD-ROM version. The interface in the CD-ROM version has been upgraded to the one used in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, in which the inventory objects are now visible as pictures and not as word descriptions as in the original.
The music in The Secret of Monkey Island is great. The tunes are ones that sticks in your head for weeks. The theme song of Monkey Island is simply a legend! The sound quality in the original version is not so good if you do not own a Roland soundcard (you just cannot do miracles with an AdLib soundcard). The CD-ROM version includes a fabulous CD audio soundtrack with new songs that are not heard in the original version. The CD can even be played in an ordinary CD music player. The CD-ROM version is available as part of the Monkey Island Madness CD in The LucasArts Archives Vol. III collection.
The legendary SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) game engine works without a fault. The graphics are fast and screen scrolling is smooth. The interface is a familiar one. You choose among the verbs to be used with a bar in the lower part of the screen. All objects have a default verb, which is activated with a right click. For example, when moving the cursor on a door, the interface automatically chooses "open" when you right click. The original version has 12 verbs that include some verbs which are very rarely used, such as "turn on" or "turn off". In the CD-ROM version, the interface is changed to use only 9 verbs.
One of the greatest elements in this game is its nonlinear nature. For example, you can complete The Three Trials in any order you want. If you get stuck on one of them, you can always try another. There is always something to do or explore. The puzzles in this game are brilliant. They are designed in a manner that all puzzles in adventure games should strive. They are so well made that when you finally find the solution to them you have to hit your head against the wall thinking "Why did I not figure that out in the first place?". The answers to the puzzles are always, more or less, logical. You cannot get stuck in the game just because you miss an object or a clue. Guybrush cannot die except for one place, so you can try everything!
Interaction with other game characters is a priority in the gameplay. You will the previously used boats salesman, vegetarian cannibals, and many other hilarious personalities. Guybrush talks a lot and always has something to comment about everything. It is obvious that the design team has had a lot of fun writing the dialogs for Guybrush and other characters. This game also features one of the most memorable game moments in computer adventure gaming history—the legendary insult sword fight, where you have to verbally insult your opponents in order to beat them. The highlight of this game is definitely its humor. In fact, The Secret of Monkey Island is credited for inventing the concept of humor in computer games. The dialogs are really funny. I find myself amused even after playing this game many times over. As usual, Max the rabbit makes a cameo appearance in this game.
The Secret of Monkey Island is an excellent game in all aspects. It has a clever storyline, great character design, funny dialogs, good graphics, and beautiful music. A novel based on the Monkey Island series, written by Christopher Gerrard, is even available! Another testimonial to the popularity of this title is seen in the fact that the game has been translated in 5 languages—English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The Secret of Monkey Island stands as one of the legendary computer adventure games ever created. It is really funny, well written, and very entertaining. It is a first class adventure. If you do not own The Secret of Monkey Island, turn your monitor off now and hurry to your nearest game store and buy this game! You are missing a lot every second!