I finally beat: The Secret of Monkey Island


Hello audience.

I’m a gamer. And I hadn’t beaten The Secret of Monkey Island.

That is, until it was released as a special edition on the PC, XBLA, and the iPhone. I picked it up for the xbox (because I’m an achievement whore), and I had not beaten one of the classics in both adventuring gaming, and gaming as a whole.

The first thing you would notice about “The Special Edition” are the graphics. They are pretty, vibrant, but artistically just do not sit right with most people who have watched over my shoulder. There is nothing technically wrong with them, and they don’t change the presentation of any of the scenes; you can swap between the new look and classic look at any time, even in the middle of a conversation. The animations are identical, as is the pacing of any cinematics or dialog. The painted art presentation was a stylistic choice, and just rubs most people the wrong way. I played most of the game with it enabled since it provided the voice overs for dialog and widescreen presentation, but I flipped over at least once every scene and every dialog to see the characters as they were originally intended. I never felt entirely at ease with the new style.

(Personally, I was a big fan of the Curse of Monkey Island (game 3)’s hand drawn style.)

The main reason I stayed with the new art style was so that the characters were voiced during the dialogs. While this may not match the original’s text presentation, I thought the voice cast and delivery were spot on. The talented cast delivered their lines with excellent comedic timing. Since most of the game is spent gathering clues by talking to people, or listening to Guybrush self-narrate his current actions, this was very important to get right and they nailed it.

I just looked up the credits, and apparently they got the same Guybrush they’ve had since Curse of Monkey Island. As is most of the rest of the cast.

The interface, as I knew it would, bit me in the ass. The original used the classic Scumm interface (as was accessible whenever in Classic mode). The new design had a different interface. It mapped the actions to one trigger (Look, Pick up, Pull Push, Talk) and the Inventory to the other trigger. Of course, if you pulled up the inventory, that would only let you Look at items by default. To use one you had to instead pull up the Actions menu, select Use, then pull up the inventory, select the Item to Use. This would dismiss the Inventory screen. If you intended to use the item on another inventory item, you would need to hit the trigger and bring it back. This could be avoided during general navigation and dialog since a default action was always assigned to one of the main controller face buttons. But much of the actual puzzle solving required Picking Up, pulling, or pushing items. It was fairly frustrating to use. It could have been avoided if they let you use the traditional Scumm system, or simply had a Pull and Hold mechanic to allow either or both menus to pop up on any particular item (in or out of the backpack). So close, yet so far.

These are the differences between the remake and original. The core game is still quite good though the first act tales a bit too long to complete. There are a couple of obtuse puzzles, but most can be solved without resorting to the built-in hint system.

If you like adventure gaming, or want to relive this classic, I highly recommend picking it up.