Monkey Island 2: Special Edition – Look behind you, a game review!
The Monkey Island franchise follows the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, a pirate wannabe. He previously defeated the evil ghost-pirate LeChuck, and (sort of) wooed the lovely Elaine Marley, governor of Scabb Island. Of course, LeChuck is alive again, and Elaine is unimpressed with him.
It’s up to the player to help guide Guybrush through the point-and-click adventure puzzle game, combining items, stealing things, and trying to talk their way out of situations. The movements in game is dictated by clicking to where you want to move to. The main premise is item collection, combination and word puzzles. There is also insult sword-fighting, which plays combat off as a verbal sport rather than a physical sport. It’s incredibly witty, and fits perfectly into the world of Monkey Island.
The writing and musical score really set this game apart from most other P&C adventure games, and remains a cult classic to this day.
- Monkey Island 2: Special Edition revitalized an old game in a visually/musically appealing way. The new music and spoken dialogue really added to the overall experience. I had a demo of the game when it was 8-bit and the dialog wasn’t spoken, which bored me very quickly. This might not be an issue for gamers who prefer the originals due to nostalgia, but I missed the opportunity to develop such nostalgia.
- The characters, dialogue and sheer wittiness of some of the jokes. Monkey Island (and a lot of Lucas Arts’ products) are still so emphatically applauded for their writing, and their ability to create likeable, original characters. Guybrush Threepwood and Manny Calavera are both perfect examples of this brand identity. I felt that the Special Edition really helped add that extra bit of character to Guybrush (and others). Some lines had a very short pause before/after they were spoken, but that was a minor issue for myself.
- The puzzles themselves were more often than not intelligently designed, and flowed quite well. There aren’t any real faults that I can denote (except of course the few I list below). I felt that the hint system would be incredibly helpful to the casual gamer, or someone who was playing more for the humour of the series than the mental challenge. There are achievements/trophies for not using the hint system at all, something that adds an extra challenge for those who want it.
- The right-click system for item interaction was so much easier than the predecessor’s attempt (the Verb system, with CTRL as the options menu for possible interactions). Once I worked it out, I found puzzles were much easier to navigate. Occasionally it would stick, or re-select something I wasn’t intending on, but that was the fault of my mouse’s shoddy track system. The Open/Close/Pull/Push options were also interesting to play with, though they were less used than the Talk/Use/Pick Up options.
- Guybrush in a pink dress, nonplussed. (A tribute to just how incredibly secure in his sexuality Guybrush is, as he stands in the doorway cock-hipped and smiling).
- A small inconsistency in terms of naming on Steam. Most other Money Island games are referred to “The […] of Monkey Island”, while this is titled Monkey Island 2: Special Edition. It’d be better branding if they kept the naming consistent, like most other franchises like The Elder Scrolls series, and how they maintain the initial “The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall/Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim”. It just makes for easier navigation through your library.
- Audio commentary didn’t pause gameplay, so the player can miss dialogue/information if they chose to listen to it. This could deter people from listening to it at all. The commentary was repeated in some areas (IE: the pop-up continued to appear, even though it was the same information). This was annoying rather than game-inhibiting.
- During “The Largo Embargo”, Largo will come back to his room at random intervals. This gives the player very little time to collect the required items (as Monkey Island is known for looking/using/trying to pick up everything in order to hear Guybrush’s quips). In order to go back into the room you have to wander between locations, trying to reset Largo. It’s a waste of time. A potential way to improve this would be to signal Largo’s arrival with the sound of walking, or yelling, and the ability to hide in the room. It would make it much more engaging if there’s the opportunity to hide, especially when such an action is taken by Guybrush later in the chapter. The changing frame in the corner obviously provides cover, but you’re unable to make use of it.
- There was a section where two skeletons sung and danced. The joke lost value as it went for too long, and definitely fell into “annoying” rather than “funny” category.
I couldn’t fault this game much beyond the annoyance of the audio-commentary being clumsily played over the game, or the annoying Largo puzzle mentioned above. It’s definitely good for those who enjoyed the original, and those who never got the chance to play it when it first came out. As you can play either mode, there’s nostalgia for those who want it, and pretty art for others.
Overall Rating: 9/10