sunnuntai 13. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)

Genre(s): Adventure
Released: 1990
Available on: Amiga, Atari ST, CDTV, MAC, PC, Sega-CD
Developer(s): Lucasfilm Games
Publisher(s): LucasArts
Players: 1

Every once in a while, it's nice to return to a familiar, warm place and exchange greetings with a an old favourite from the dark past. It's been some time since I've last played the very original The Secret of Monkey Island. Even the one I currently have's not technically the first version of the game, but the VGA version which was released some months after the original one, so it's sort of a re-issue with no changes to the core gameplay, just a slightly enhanced look. Written by Lucasfilm's dream team of Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer, The Secret of Monkey Island is perhaps the most important point 'n' click adventure game of all time. It's not the best game in the series, it's a little rough around the edges, but it's capital nonetheless.

A tale of swordplay, thievery and, uhh... treasure huntery!

A young man named Guybrush Threepwood washes up on the shore of Melée Island. Besides the ambition to intentionally annoy everyone he sees, he has a burning desire to become a pirate, one way or another. While he trains to become a pirate in his own unorthodox ways, a dreaded ghost pirate by the name of LeChuck stalks the island's beautiful governor Elaine Marley with the intention of stealing her hand in marriage. When Guybrush himself falls in love with Elaine, he inevitably becomes a target of the most feared undead pirate of the Caribbean.

The graphics still look awesome in their own way, and back at that time, the game had more motion, visual depth and diversity than any adventure game that preceded it. Objects are well highlighted, and there's very little in terms of total obscurity which would make hot spots hard to make out from the background. The music is absolutely classic stuff - the kind that sticks so bad that you'll have trouble sleeping. The Monkey Island theme song is one of my all-time favourites.

The SCUMM Bar. Like a second home to the
most foul, dirty, grog-swilling pirate bastards
you've ever seen. I love this place.
The very first lines in this game tell of its true nature. The Secret of Monkey Island is almost non-stop, timeless hilarity from the beginning to the end. If you appreciate surreal humour, you'll know you're playing the right game when you find the nightwatch of Melée Island to be blind as a bat, or that grog is actually potent enough to melt solid steel. No, it's not all in the dialogue. Humour is what makes the whole game, including its puzzles. Even the most difficult questions might have ridiculously easy answers; you'll just need to think about the dumbest thing you can possibly do, and it usually works! Take Guybrush's legendary drowning scene, for example. This is the only spot in the game in which you can actually die, but since Guybrush can hold his breath for 10 minutes, you have exactly that long to try to figure the puzzle out. OK, so you're tied to a statue by your leg. There are all sorts of tools to cut the rope with, scattered around the ocean floor, but of course, just beyond your reach; they repeated this joke in The Curse of Monkey Island as an even better version. Anyway, all you need to do is pick up the statue and climb back onto the pier. Like I said, simple answers to the most difficult problems!

The Secret of Monkey Island introduced yet another, extremely comfortable version of SCUMM that went on to be used in several games, with pretty minor changes, including Monkey Island 2. There are 12 verbs - 10 in the CD version - which you can combine with anything in your inventory, or anything in the playfield. The list of commands takes up a lot of fine space on the screen, but ultimately it isn't very distracting.

Not many guys meet the woman of their dreams
by robbing her house.
The Secret of Monkey Island is not a perfect game. First of all, it has an irritating "minigame" called insult swordfighting. It's an initially funny chapter in the game in which you need to challenge pirates roaming around the island, to learn insults and appropriate comebacks to them, 'cause a good swordfighter's tongue needs to be as sharp as the tip of his cutlass. So, the primary agenda is to become a better insulter than the reigning sword master of Melée Island, it's a part of Guybrush's "training program". Learning all of the insults, especially the comebacks, takes unnecessarily long and the whole chapter repeats itself. Besides the swordfighting bit, there are a few other phases in the game which I don't particularly like. I absolutely hate the purely dialogue-based puzzle in which you have to bargain with Stan, and I'm not a big fan of the whole chapter that takes place on Monkey Island. It's full of tedious backtracking, and I think even the puzzles are not on the same level as they've been up to that point.

Although being dumb in a clever way will most likely help you in conquering The Secret of Monkey Island, it is by no means an easy game. I actually consider it to be the most difficult Monkey Island game, due to its fair share of complex and delicate puzzles. It might not be absolutely perfect of its kind like its first sequel is, but it is a classic game which every gamer needs to experience at least once, in my humble opinion. It redefined adventure, and made it one of the most important game genres of the 90's.

Graphics : 9.2
Sound : 9.0
Playability : 8.7
Challenge : 9.3
Overall : 8.9


GameRankings: 81.25% (PC), 63.33% (Sega-CD)

World of Monkey Island has an extensive list of all of the game's numerous references to pop culture.

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