Review: The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (Xbox 360)July 23rd, 2009 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
Most gamers might have heard of the Monkey Island games, but a lot have probably never played them. Thankfully Lucasarts respectfully refueled their classic swashbuckling adventure title to deliver the same loveable and quirky thrills you enjoyed all those years ago. The Secret of Monkey Island, the first in the series, is just as funny, engrossing and loveable as before but several key additions make this one game you simply have to play.
The Secret of Monkey Island follows the tale of one Guybrush Threepwood, a bungled wannabe pirate who is determined to make a name for himself and become a legend. From performing tasks to prove yourself to the elite pirates or rescuing citizens from the ghost pirate LeChuck, the many locations you visit and characters you meet will give you plenty of time to truly enjoy what Monkey Island has to offer. The dialogue is still as funny as it was back in the early 90’s,and that’s saying a lot to how well the jokes and gameplay hold up to today’s much more cynical of gaming criticism.
Tim Schafer (notable funnyman responsible for such games as Psychonauts and the upcoming Brutal Legend) helped pen the Monkey Island games, so you will definitely find his branch of comedy within. Some particularly funny segments had Guybrush rushing a mug of grog (a foul, smelling beer that actually tears holes through the mug) to help a prisoner escape from his cell or watching cannibals argue over the disadvantages of eating humans that led to high cholesterol. Plus with the addition of insult sword fighting, which has you winning swordfights by lashing out insults, or the continued use of the “rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle” joke, there is surely something in Secret of Monkey Island that will have you howling with laughter at some point.
The Secret of Monkey Island came at the time when point and click adventure titles were just getting popular on the PC and this version is no exception. You use the right and left triggers to control the cursor on screen and move around. Using the cursor you guide Guybrush as he travels to different locations, interacts with people, or uses items. The right and left bumpers are used to issue commands to Guybrush, such as pick up, use, or pull. The layout of these commands is than associated with pressing the direction on the D Pad for the choice you want. While you can hotkey these commands as well, the D Pad never really works well to use all the time and players will generally find themselves using commands unintentionally.
Still, Secret of Monkey Island succeeds even with the minor control mishaps. Part of the fun of the game is finding (sometimes useless) items and figuring out why you need it and how to use it. Almost any item you come into contact with can help you later on your adventure, so it is always in your best interest to pick something up. Because the game remains the same as it did years ago, there are no objective points to direct you to the next spot for your adventure, but luckily Lucasarts has added a hint option that when pressed gives you an idea of the path for which you need to take. Holding down the hint button will only increase the hints until finally giving you the answer (in a rather sneering sort of way). Using most of the items successfully is as easy as figuring out common sense, like using a rope-gunpowder-hot pot to set up and light a cannon, while some tasks have you using breath mints to replace mint leaves and so on. The imaginative uses of all the items in the game really makes you think and wonder what every item can be used for.
While getting Secret of Monkey Island on the Xbox 360 is praise enough, the visuals are where the game really shines. Every character, location and object in the game has been redrawn and upgraded to full HD screens. Characters have crisper detail, water and clouds in the background move freely and the font and dialogue options are now easier to see and manage. You can even switch back to see what the game looked like all those years ago by pressing the select button, a brilliant idea that all future remakes should consider incorporating. Voice acting has also been added (something that wasn’t around when this game first came out) and Lucasarts even used the original actors who voiced the Curse of Monkey Island games to reprise their roles, so every character sounds as they should with no surprises woven into it.
With so many fans already on board and many gamers itching to see what all the fuss was about, Secret of Monkey Island never disappoints and delivers a remarkable revision of this classic adventure. The updated visuals and voice acting gives the game a present-day touch and with sharp writing that still holds up to today’s standards, The Secret of Monkey Island is as every bit as enjoyable as it was years ago and is a game that every gamer should definitely pick up and try.