Lucasarts has brought back one of their all-time classics to Xbox 360, and Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge - Special Edition is by absolutely no means whatsoever a simple port of a well-remembered genre classic. This is a ground-up complete recreation of the game - the same story and characters and settings of the original, but completely
redone in high definition with improvements in interface,
newly re-recorded music of the original MIDI cues, and
original voice cast from Monkey Island sequels brought back
over a decade later to add voices to characters that we
never heard speak until later games in the series were made.
One of the things I lamented a little when consoles began to be the dominant mainstream of gaming versus pc, was that a great genre of game - the graphic adventure game - seemed to be losing ground. Puzzle-based, visually striking and
usually well-written, they were interactive entertainment
akin to a movie but requiring shrewd reasoning and detective skill on the part of players - the best ones had really great stories, and to get more of that story you had to solve the puzzle you were presently confronted with and then move on. Lucasarts in the late eighties and early nineties were the king publisher of graphic adventure games - long before Myst got printed on a CD ROM, they had been responsible for games that had been not only challenging and visually well-crafted (on early era PCs) but were ridiculously funny and quotable. Grim Fandango, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and Full Throttle were especially memorable, but none are more fondly remembered by gamers than the Monkey Island series.
Monkey Island 2 (Ill use this title for a little brevity
from here on) was one of the higher-reviewed and most
favorite of gamers in its day. The game, like its sequels,
features the adventures of a pleasantly-mannered but quick-
witted pirate wannabe named Guybrush Threepwood, who in the
first game defeated the dread pirate Le Chuck, and opens the present game with a campfire recollection of that tale.
Monkey Island 2 begins with Guybrush stranded on Scabb
Island attemption to charter a ship and get off the island.
To do this he has to outwit Le Chucks old first mate, Largo LaGrande, the big guy on Scabb Island and not very well liked by most of its inhabitants. From there, the story takes off with Guybrush trying to defeat an evil pirate AGAIN, (no hints here!), find the treasure of Big Whoop and at the same time win the love of Elaine Marley, governess of Booty Island.
What makes Monkey Island such a popular series is that at no point does it ever deviate from the silly humor and clever writing that is the backbone of the game. Guybrush defeats enemies not with button mashing or special movies, but with things like fencing mashes won with the most scathing and cleverest insult, spitting contests, and other silliness. Hes not really a lover more than a fighter (since hes perpetually in pursuit of Elaine) but hes more of a likeable goof with aspirations of being a feared pirate ( of the Tri-Island area of the Caribbean) that generally gets by with being smarter than the thugs he encounters. The Monkey Island games were, in fact, largely inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean (I promise Ill only reference it once!) ride at Disneyland - so the humor and tone do reflect the films as well.
Where a theme park ride generally only gets a spruced up
coat of paint and some daily maintenance, though, Monkey
Island 2 gets some serious treatment. All of the artwork in
the game has been completely redone but with faithful
referencing to the original backgrounds. The point-and-click interface has been updated to allow control-stick
maneuvering of Guybrush through the world, and a button-
panel of contextual commands has been upgraded with a simple radial-wheel where a simple pull of the right trigger will let you look at things, interact with objects, pick up items, or start a dialogue (and youll want to talk to everyone - EVERYONE - in the game. One conversation with a bartender involves a lengthy philisophical discussion on whether a woodchuck should chuck wood even if it could chuck and would chuck wood. I can barely type it without
The Special Edition also has a feature where at any point
during play you can, with a button press, toggle into the
original PC edition of the game from twenty years ago, and I found myself doing this often, comparing the high definition art of the present day with the VGA-resolution graphics of PCs two decades prior. The game was still artfully done and well crafted in its original incarnation, so with a foundation that is so solid, the new Special Edition is a game worth owning.
Novices to graphic adventure games or gamers who havent
played through Monkey Island 2 in its original incarnation
may find some of the puzzles challenging - the games were
meant to give players a solid 20-30 hours of game time, so
some of the puzzles are not necessarily intuitive. Theyll
require a lot of exploration, collection of odd items
seemingly unrelated to the task at hand, and patience. The
point is the satisfaction of solving the present challenge,
being rewarded with more story, more dialogue, and of course moving ahead in the game. Players are rewarded by spending time getting to know an environment, its characters, the problems and hand and how to solve them. But with extras like an included directors commentary featuring the creators of the game discussing its crafting, inspirations, and history, Monkey Island 2 is still a satisfying experience for players new to the game and for nostalgiaic fans revisiting this game today. Graphic adventure games are back, and you wont play a better one - or a funnier one - than Monkey Island 2.