Games for Lunch: The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
Release Date: July 15, 2009
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site
0:00 As I discussed in my review of the new Tales of Monkey Island, I've managed to avoid this series for years; nay, decades, despite mounds of hyperbolic praise from practically every gamer I know. Thus, the expectations (and the possibility for disappointment) have been set exceptionally high. If this isn't the funniest, best-designed game ever made, it is a TOTAL FAILURE!
0:01 A pixilated pirate walks out, looks at a map, digs at an X, opens a chest, and "WOW!" it's the LucasArts logo. Cute. Then a plain, empty title screen on a blue background. Not as cute. I like the jaunty xylophone music on the menu screen.
0:02 A dark, pixilated mountain shines in the distance. "Deep in the Caribbean ... The island of Melee." The opening credits scroll by as the mountain turns into a high-definition painting. The jaunty xylophone tune is now accompanied by a gentle flute. Catchy!
0:03 The credits finish with a seagull's caw. "Hi! My name's Guybrush Threepwood and I want to be a pirate," says the white-shirted pirate to a guy with a white beard standing by a fire. "You look more like a flooring inspector," he replies, in part. But he sends Guybrush (aka me) off to the Scumm Bar to find pirate leaders anyway."Part One: The Three Trials."
0:04 There's quite a disconnect between the extremely detailed HD graphics and the extremely small number of animation frames. It's like watching a Pixar movie through a zoetrope.
0:05 In control now, I move a cursor around and click the first thing I see, a poster with a woman on it. "Re-elect Governor Marley. When there's only one candidate, there's only one choice." Um, true?
0:06 In the Scumm Bar now. A pirate is swinging around on a chandelier. Others drink at tables. "Guybrush Threepwood? Ahahahahah. That's the stupidest name I ever heard," says the first pirate I run into. What's the pirate's name? "Mancomb Seepgood." Heh. Six minutes in and I've already gotten my first grin.
0:08 Still talking to the first pirate, the game freezes and an old 5-1/4" disc icon appears in the corner for a good 15 seconds. Wow ... I guess they didn't update everything.
0:09 I tap the back button on the controller to see the "old-school" version of the game. It's much more pixilated and much smaller. More charming, in a way, too. The limited frames of animation look fine in this context. Also, I got five Gamerscore points just for checking it out. Score!
0:10 Another pirate tells me of LeChuck, a pirate that fell in love with the Governor. Hey, I recognize that name from my Tales review! "She told him to drop dead. So he did! That's when things got reeeeeeally ugly!" He tried to find "The Secret of Monkey Island" to impress her. Hey, that's the name of the game! LeChuck still sails the seas, causing trouble ... that's why all the pirates are here drinking instead of out pirating. Pretty good voice-acting so far...
0:12 A nasty-looking dog with a bone says "Grrr" as I approach. I say "Grrr" back and get a "GRRRRRR!" for my troubles. OK then!
0:13 I try again with a "Woof!" in response to the dog and get a barked response that includes "LeChuck" and "Melee Island" in there. Odd...
0:15 A pirate with a big "Ask me about LOOM" button tells me about "the latest piece of fantasy storytelling from LucasArts' Brian Moriarty..." He keeps going on and on about it! "Beat the rush! Go out and buy LOOM today!" "Geeze, what an obvious sales pitch," I reply. "Sorry, but on some topics I just get carried away." How meta.
0:16 In the back room: "Important-looking pirates." They tell me about the three trials I have to pass to become a pirate: Master the sword ... and the art of thievery ... and the quest (aka "treasure huntery").
0:20 At my urging, the pirate captains talk my ears off about specifics of the three trials. "You're a bunch of foul-smelling, grog-swilling pigs," I say at one point. "To be a pirate, ye must also be a foul-smelling, grog-swilling pig." YARHARHAR!
0:24 I waste a few minutes trying to sneak past the cook and into the kitchen, as one of the pirates casually suggested. Easy enough ... just wait until he's in the other room and have a look-see. There's a piece of meat and a stew. Just outside, on the dock, there's a fish I can't pick up because a bird is pecking at it. Nothing else especially interesting. I've archived the information in my brain box for later use.
0:25 As I leave the bar, the scene cuts away: "Meanwhile ... Deep beneath Monkey Island, the ghost pirate LeChuck's ship lies anchored in a river of lava!" "Ah, there's nothing like the hot winds of hell blowing in your face. ... it's days like this that make you glad to be dead." I can't quite place the voice of LeChuck's skeleton assistant, but it's familiar. Yakko Warner, perhaps? I love his nervous demeanor, anyway. Oh, and LeChuck vows to handle Guybrush and his interest in pirating "personally." A-gulp!
0:26 A guy on the street asks me if I have a cousin named Sven. "What is that, some sort of code?" "Of course it's a code, you idiot!" Heh. He's got a rare, one-of-a-kind map to sell, but it's 100 pieces of eight, which I apparently don't have. Add another one to the ol' to-do list!
0:29 I look into the first door I see on this thoroughfare. It's the voodoo lady! Another character I recognize from Tales! Wow, I feel like I'm in on the joke now! She senses my name before I speak. "Lucky guess. Half the people I know are named Guybrush." LOL. She tells me I'm going to captain a ship. I'm going to be inside a giant monkey. I'll "see things better left unseen, hear things better left unheard, learn things better left unlearned." Then she disappears in a flash of light. "Yipes!" Indeed.
0:33 I think "Cat knuckles? How barbaric!" may become one of my new catchphrases.
0:34 "Ye olde rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle-shoppe. Serving your rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle needs for over 50 years!" Heh. Too bad it's closed.
0:36 I shoot the breeze with a trio of shifty-looking pirates on the corner. They're at turns evasive, sarcastic, troubled and historical. Also, they're trying to start a circus troupe. O... K. I convince them to give me some minutes from a PTA meeting and two pieces of eight. SCORE!
0:39 In the next area, some loud "pssts" from the alley, followed by "Hey. Come over here!" When I go down the alley, someone sneaks up on me. "You know, bad things could happen to a person in a dark, deserted alley like this one ... and at this time of night, no one would be around to see it!" I decide to play it cocky. "Bad things happen to people who sneak up on other people from behind!" Day-ummm! He's the sheriff, Fester Shinecup. Tells me it's a bad time to visit, dangerous, etc. Well, that was pointless.
0:41 Funny ... when I switch to "classic" mode, there's a charming lo-fi soundtrack. In the modern version, just crickets in the background. I prefer the old days.
0:42 In a shop, where the shopkeeper calls me fancy-pants. He knows where the swordmaster's secret hideout is, and hikes over to find out if I'm allowed to find it. "AND DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!" he says as he leaves. Sounds like an invite to touch stuff to me!
0:44 I pick up the Slashmaster: "When you want a sword as sharp as your wit!" Well, that was easy. Also, a Digmaster: "The only shovel for serious treasure hunting enthusiasts."
0:45 I ring the bell. The shopkeeper comes back, and tells me the swordmaster said to jump in a lake. I make the mistake of asking about the sword and shovel, which cost 100 and 75 pieces of eight apiece. Whoops. Guess I have to put them back.
0:47 I ask the shopkeeper to go ask after the swordmaster again and, surprisingly, he complies. I try to steal the sword/shovel like a good pirate should, but as I' m sneaking out he comes back through the back. "A-ha! Caught ya, ya little thief." I knew it couldn't be that easy. I give up ... for now.
0:50 Into a boring, empty church and out again just as quick. Then to a prisoner in a small cell. "You gotta get me out of here! I'm a victim of society!" "Not to mention halitosis. Yech!" I can't figure out a way to free him now, but I'm sure I'll be back.
0:52 At the end of a long, windy mountain road, the Governor's mansion is guarded by what the game calls "Vicious piranha puppies!" I loved their last album!
0:54 Back to the voodoo lady's house, I get the bright idea to take the chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle that's sitting on a table. Not sure what good it'll do, but hey, if it can be picked up, I'll pick it up, that's my motto.
0:56 Back to the bar, because there's nothing better to do. Maybe I can get that fish?
0:59 Ah HA! Walking around on the dock outside the kitchen, I find I can step on a plank to scatter the bird long enough to pick up the fish. Also, if I drop the meat in the stew, it becomes stewed meat! Maybe that'll get rid of the dogs? I sure hope so...
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? It's been an hour and I'm not yet hopelessly stuck, which is a VERY good sign for an adventure game. Also, I've had at least half a dozen chuckles in the hour, which is a pretty good rate for most games.
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