Andrew Bryant, Mighty Pirate™, returns to the Caribbean to tackle a ne… Hey, wait a minute!
Game Title: The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
Format Reviewed: PC (also on XBLA)
Price: £6.99/800 MS Points
It’s hard to objectively review remakes of cult and personal favourites. On one hand, I am trying to look at a part of my formative gaming years (Monkey Island was my first proper, adult PC game) without fawning over why the subject at hand was/wasn’t special to me. On the other hand, it’s hard not to be over critical of any changes that have been made to make the game appeal to a new market who deserve to see the game as it was.
LucasArts have tackled the problem head on with The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition – presented as essentially a HD remake of the seminal original entry in the series. The gameplay remains unchanged (apart from the move from a purely verb-driven interface to a semi-automatic interface that suits controllers) with the sole focus being on bringing the aural and visual components of the experience kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
The 256-colour pixel art and functional backdrops have been replaced (or not – see later) with lovely hand-painted backdrops and recreations of the character art (augmented by 3D effects) to bring the series in line with the change in style from the third game onwards. The voice cast from said sequel also contribute, including Earl Boen (who carries LeChuck’s ‘yarrs’ better than Adam Harrington in Tales).
Whilst a small innocent bit of charm of the original games is lost by giving Guybrush silly, weird hair and by voicing the whole game, the fact that the cast is 100% official means it fits nicely into Monkey canon. Still, if it really offends you, the whole original game, in 101% pure SCUMM-o-vision, is hidden behind a simple button press, which is pretty helpful when the interface decides to get in the way of playing!
The genius of the original SCUMM interface before they started messing around with full-screen displays and hiding verbs and the inventory (circa Sam & Max: Hit the Road) was that the game was fun too experiment with… Telling the character to turn off dogs, pick up fire hydrants and talk to themselves was part of the exploratory DNA of the game as you strived to catch the developers out – something the Discworld games failed at badly (‘That doesn’t work’) and something the delicious Time, Gentlemen Please got so right.
The verb table is there, but the fact it is hidden means the average gamer is unlikely to use it and therefore missing a crucial part of the original experience. It’s in no way a problem of this release specifically, rather a symptomatic (and entirely unexpected) destruction of the whole genre as the streamlining removes a dimension to the challenge. That said, it does present a problem for the game when quick reactions are needed (the grog mug) or you need to use non-standard verbs for a puzzle (the shopkeepers safe), but the retro mode is there to save the day.
As mentioned earlier, some of the graphics are an acquired taste and certain animation such as walking and sword-fighting can be fairly hit and miss (presumably a side-effect of the effort to sync up both the HD and under-the-hood original) but it’s only noticeable in some circumstances.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a top class remake, baptising the unwashed masses and inducting them into what a true adventure game was about, before Telltale’s 3-puzzle bite-sized morsels burst onto the scene. At this price (and with the added bonus of the original game hidden under the surface) it’s a steal and totally worth the admission price.
Also, if you all buy it, we might get both Monkey Island 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge: Special Edition and Day of the Tentacle: Special Edition, which we do want. You hear me LEC?!