I’ll cover the Special Edition of Secret of Monkey Island, AND the Original in this review as they are the same game; except the remake has better graphics, better music, better sound FX, and better voice acting. On top of this, you can switch between old and new version on the fly on the Special Edition.
I like the dabble in Point and Clicks, and some of them are our favourite games of all time, but Monkey Island is one I’ve had to keep coming back to several times in the last 20 odd years because I never actually managed to get off the first chapter.
So with a stubborn insistence I decided to finally cross Monkey Island off my “to do” list.
Being a Point and Click adventure game you can probably guess what you do here, but I guess I should elaborate. You move your cursor around the screen to “point” at things and then you “click” on said thing, you then solve puzzles with varying levels of annoying adventure game logic while immersing yourself in an engaging plot about pirates, cannibals, and used ship salesmen.
The puzzles are not *overly* obtuse, but there are a few that will only be solved by “trying to combine EVERY item with another item” or simple using a guide.
Puzzles such as “combine the yellow flower with the meat” aren’t especially hard, but there isn’t a reason for this being the solution. The yellow flower is easily miss-able as a foreground image, and the meat has already been “upgraded” assuming you knew to upgrade it… Again, this isn’t a “difficult” puzzle and it certainly isn’t *AS* obtuse when compared to other games, but it is Adventure Game logic, which can grate when you’re not fully accustomed to this style of game and will absolutely require a guide the first time you play it.
Unlike other Adventure Games it is almost impossible to die, so you are not punished for taking too long or being wrong, which allows you to do the required exploring. But that doesn’t mean you won’t fail on puzzles or get frustrated. Some puzzles require a quick set of commands; including the Acid Jug or Firing yourself from a cannonn bits, but with the overly clunky User Interface you will probably fail a few times simply because the controls really are atrocious.
Other puzzles require a lot of backwards and forwardsing, like in the starter town on Melee Island with the Swordsmith, but also when you finally reach Monkey Island where you have to keep faffing with the rowboat. It is a little ponderous, and can be a ballache when you inevitably miss things and have to retrace your steps. None of this is game breaking, but it does mean that the game design creaks a little under modern eyes.
Insult Based Sword Fighting
I love the Sword Fighting as it was a stroke of genius. You don’t need ultra fast reflexes to best your opponent, you need a razor sharp “wit”. The jokes are bad, but they are supposed to be. It means the jokes doesn’t suffer from Z or Duke Nukem dated humour issues and will make you chuckle at least once. And all those times your friends said that you fought like a dairy farmer suddenly make sense.
I guess my criticism of the insult based fighting is it is over REALLY quickly, once you have completed the Swordsmith quest you never get to sword fight again, which sucks. So make the most of the sword fighting while it lasts and if you’re attempting achievements/trophies on the Special Edition this is your only chance.
Monkey Island is a fantastic story, the writing is witty, chock full of humour, and the insult-sword fighting is genius. The problem is the game portion of the game doesn’t really stand up too well anymore. The UI is poor, the constant backwards and forwards drags a 2 hour game out to 4-5 hours, and some of the puzzles are a little archaic.
This isn’t to say Monkey Island isn’t worth a visit, as it really is. But beware the puzzles may annoy you if you’re not au fait with Puzzlers from the era, and the UI can be especially clunky. – Though surprisingly the OLD UI is easier to use than the Special Edition one.
And while the graphics are not as interesting or charming in the Special Edition I tended to play most of the game in the HD mode to get the voice acting and improved sounds.
Pros: You’re mother being a dairy farmer
Cons: controlling the cursor on world map is a pain (360 version)
Back in the day:
When the Secret of Monkey Island was originally released it obtained numerous low 90s scores, with particular praise lent to the art style, and humour. Though people complained it was a little overpriced due to the short length of the game.
The Special Edition also got low 90s scores.