Once upon a time it was The Monkey Island series that set the standard for the adventure genres and its hay days in the early 90's. Lucasarts have now re-issued the game of the series with improved graphics, a new control scheme to fit the Xbox 360 controller, re-recorded music and sound effects, and voices have been added to all the characters.
But first a small introduction for those who are not familiar with The Secret Monkey Island. It's a classic point and click game where you pick up objects in your surroundings and use them to solve puzzles and advance the plot. There are only four occasions during the entire game where you are under any kind of time pressure, the rest of the adventure can be enjoyed at your own pace. It is with one funny exception not possible to die or get stuck.
We are somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. Guybrush Threepwood wants to be a pirate more than anything and to accomplish this he has to steal, go treasure hunting and not least win duels where the best insults determines who triumphs. During these escapades he stumbles across the beautiful Elaine Marley and ghost pirate LeChuck, and he is cast into an adventure on the mysterious Monkey Island.
The story is well written and the dialogue is of the highest calibre. I urge you to save the most likely answer for last during the conversations in order to enjoy all the little extras. It is obvious that legends Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman truly excelled when they wrote the dialogue and came up with the puzzles. It is also a nice surprise to see how well the humour and story hold up today. To my relief none of the story or dialogue had been altered.
And while that remains the same the graphics have been altered. The artists have focused more on adding details to liven up the backgrounds than changing to much of the settings. This also makes life easier as the objects stand out more and much of the frustrating hunt for that special pixel is avoided.
When it comes to the characters it seems the artists have been given free rein to do whatever they want. Instead of the realistic appearance of the original character they have opted for something more akin to Czech cartoons. I feel as though this change actually robs the characters of some of their charm and personality.
The voice acting also leaves a lot to be desired. That said, Dominic Armato, who lent his voice to the two latest games in the Monkey Island series does a fabulous job as does some of the supporting cast. But most of the lines are delivered with poor timing and with such a degree of overacting that they ruin some of the comedy.
The music and the sound effects, however, are just as they should be. The original MIDI-tracks have been recorded with proper instruments, and the primitive sound effects have been replaced with more realistic sounds. The background effects are what really takes the cake as they elevate the atmosphere throughout the adventure. This is especially apparent in the jungle areas.
If you are like me, a hopeless nostalgic who enjoys the old graphics, worn out sound effects and lack of voices, Lucasarts have come up with the perfect solution. A simple push of the back button you can switch between the original game and the remake.
The Secret of Monkey Island is an important piece of gaming history, and everyone should play it. If the new version can help introduce a new generation of gamers to the series I am all for it. And even though I know all the puzzles by heart I return to Monkey Island time and time again. And so should you!
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