When thinking about what I wanted to first write about, I realized I had a wide range of selection as to what I could talk about. Sure, there’s plenty of the obvious ones – XBOX 360, for example, has a slew of stuff to talk about. What I ended up deciding – and one of my fellow PCR bloggers joked I ought to do – is a review about a game from my childhood.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this is a pop culture blog, Trace, and those things ought to be reviewing new things! Well, fear not, dear readers, because I assure you this thing is new.
One of the most recent releases to the XBOX Live is a revamping of The Secret of Monkey Island. Now, to those of you who either weren’t fans of computer games back in the early nineties or are too young to have even know its existence, the name will likely not ring a bell to you. However, to properly explain the newly remastered version, I think I’ll start by giving the back story of the original.
The year was 1990. Computer gaming was really starting to pick up its steam as computers themselves were able to produce better results in terms of graphics, sounds, and gameplay mechanics themselves. A few years earlier to that year, a budding company named LucasArts (Yes, that Lucas) started churning out point-and-click adventure games. The genre itself was always very unique among the crop of games out for the Macintosh and PC. Players are encouraged to explore and interact with their environment, oftentimes making people think out of the box to solve its puzzles. The player also is allowed to choose dialogue throughout th games, and oftentimes the choices that are needed to be made effect the game itself. One of the company’s most famous creations was The Secret of Monkey Island, created by Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer (of Psychonauts fame) and Dave Grossman.
The game itself is a quirky point and click adventure type, following the exploits of a wannabe pirate named Guybrush Threepwood. He comes to Mêlée Island™ to seek his fortune. He’s come at a bad time, however, as he finds most pirates are terrified of going to sea because the ghost pirate LeChuck has been terrorizing them. Undeterred by this, Guybrush sets out to do the three tasks given to him to become a true pirate. Throughout his adventures, he meets a crazy cast of characters, ranging from a man named Meathook, who has, appropriately, hooks for hands, to The Voodoo Lady, a mysterious fortuneteller who eventually helps guide Guybrush in his quest. The game of course leads to the eventual rivalry of Threepwood and LeChuck over the beautiful Governor Elaine Marley. I’ll leave it to you all to play and see how that ends up.
The game would be average at best if not for the brilliant writing. Every little bit of dialogue is worth reading, if only because most of it is hilarious. It is not hard to see how much effort was put into the script, and it really shines above everything else. Threepwood especially is an extremely likeable and witty protagonist, and by the end of the game it’ll be likely you’ll be cheering him on. The controls of the game are also stellar, with a simple interface that is easy to learn and navigate. Even though some of the obstacles in your way are hard to get past and take a lot of thinking, the game never becomes the type to be completely impossible and frustrating. Overall, it was a solid game for its time.
Recently, XBOX Live has come out with a remastered version of this game. I’m always pretty wary about playing these types of things, especially when the original game had so much to it that made it special – it’s hard to believe it can be recreated. Still, I bought it if only because I’m a big fan, and wasn’t disappointed. This special edition houses almost all upgrades to the original. The art is crisp and smooth without losing the feel of the original art for the game. Most of the dialogue is intact, and the changes are so slight only the most hardcore fans would notice it. The biggest addition to this version is voice acting, which I feel adds another dimension to the gameplay itself. I was happy to hear they actually pulled Dominic Armato into the project, who voiced Threepwood in two of the games in the series, to reprise the role of the unlikely pirate. The rest of the voice cast is fairly solid, making it, in my opinion, the best part of this version. What is really nice is that in case you can’t quite get into the new version or want a bit of nostalgia, the game also gives you the option of switching between the original and the remastered version with a click of a button on your controller. You can even switch while conversations are going on.
The one draw back to this game is the interface. While it is still fairly easy to navigate, new fans may be prone to only doing what command the game suggests. This can lead to some missed dialogue that, whiile not needed to be seen to beat the game, really does add to the overall fun. I’d recommend any new player to definitely check out the controller set-up before you begin, so you know how to switch between the various actions you can do. I will commend the newer version for, despite its flaws, making a fairly easy to use system using just the XBOX controller. Besides that, I think they did a pretty great job, and you can see a lot of care and effort went into the making of it.
Overall, I definitely recommend this game, for both new and old fans of the series. For ten bucks – 800 XBOX Live points – you’re paying for a good few hours of laughs at a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s the sort of game anyone, casual and hardcore gamers alike, can sit and have a good time with. It’s a pretty rare feat, if you ask me. Besides, come on, who doesn’t want to play a pirate, am I right? (Ninja fans need not apply.)
It is also a very good game to play if you want to experience the point and click format. It seems there has been a slight resurgence in that kind of gameplay, largely thanks to the Telltale Games company, who, unsurprisingly, is comprised of old LucaArts members. It’s interesting to note that this company actually has been churning out sequels to a lot of the LucasArts most famous games. To date, they are responsible for numerous games in the Sam and Max series, and most recently has even put out a new game in the Monkey Island series as well. I haven’t played the Monkey Island game yet, but having played all the Sam and Max ones, I will say they do a fairly good job with it. While not quite up to the humor of its predecessors, they still hold much of the humor the original games had. I do not doubt this is the same can be said for the Monkey Island game they just made. If you’re interested, head over to the Telltale Games website to check out their work.
Now, here’s hoping now they continue to remaster these old games so a new generation of fans can enjoy them. I know I’m crossing my fingers.