The Secret of Monkey Island Review by: play4funThe Secret of Monkey Island (SCD) Review Anyone wanted to cry like a little kid losing his favorite toy when Disney announced the shutdown of LucasArts? I know I did. This company was known for their video games relating to their movie franchise, like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. One genre that this company excelled on back in the day was Point-and-Click Adventure games. Some of their notable games included Maniac Mansion, Sam and Max, and LOOM, and even though LucasArts is gone, its legacy continues on. Some former employees of the company formed Telltale Games, which is a publisher currently known for their episodic adventure games. They continued the simple adventure game concept as well as creating the recently acclaimed Walking Dead game.
Among the games that LucasArts created back in the day, there was one game that arguably defined the company as the King of Adventure Games in the 90s. That game is The Secret of Monkey Island
. Many of my friends started off playing computer games because of this gem. It really sets the standard of what it takes to make a great story-oriented adventure game. Even though this game is set for computers, it has been ported to the SEGA CD, which is what I will be reviewing in this article.
Looks Old-Fashioned, but Has the Charm
What some modern gamers might notice about this game is how old it looks, but during that time, it was praised for the innovation of how it looked. The graphics look great for its time. The type of detail and shading that was implemented in the game is impressive with the type of technology that they used. There are limitations to how good the graphics can be. The faces of the characters can seem simple when seen from a far distance and there are some areas of background that can seem pixelated from the edges. There are also limitations to the amount of colors that can be used in the program. Nevertheless, these minor drawbacks are nothing compared to the great innovation that the design team created.
The composition of the music is atmospheric and moody in the game. It brings out the pirate/treasure hunting theme to the player. The programmers don't just have one regular theme that continues playing throughout the game, but for each different location, there is a set song that is appropriately playing for each background, sometimes jolly, sometimes spooky. No matter what location your character is in, the game sets the mood perfectly. The thing that's missing (and something that might turn modern gamers away) is that there is no dialogue audio in the game, but subtitle-like text. We get so used to actually listening to conversations and dialogue in many of our games today that the lack of voice acting might cause us to (sometimes) incorrectly deem the game to be boring. Maybe the creators' high emphasis on story in this game actually wants us to imagine how the characters sound like as we play the game...Then again, maybe it's due to the lack of data space to put all the dialogue recordings into the game.
Simple Concept, Many Possibilities
This is not a complicated game whatsoever. You don't shoot or build things, you don't upgrade or gain experience, and there are no move sets needed to memorize. All you do is move your cursor towards objects and click on them whenever is necessary. How can something this simple be that fun to play? It almost sound like a mobile game (Ouch! Burn!)
. The reason why it's so fun is because of the game engine/programming language called SCUMM. What this does is that the program would have list of verbs for you to choose from. Whenever you encounter a challenge or an obstacle, not only do you need to figure out any items that you picked up would solve the challenge, but also the way you use the item to solve the challenge, whether if it is to "open" or to "push" or to "give." This expands the simple motion of "point and click" to do different tasks. The control scheme is so simple that it helps one to focus on the adventure while opens up many options on how one approaches a puzzle.
One special feature included in the game is the dialogue tree when your character has a conversation with another character. The choice of questions or statements that you choose would either drive how the conversation goes or even determine whether you solved a problem or not. Though it is not as complex as moral choices or dialogue that would change the plot of the story, like something that you see in Mass Effect
, it is still something that is quite impressive for its time.
The puzzles in this game utilizes this type of gameplay very well. There are some puzzles that require you to pick up something in one place in order to combine other item in another location. Other puzzles require you to interact with something in the background. It is a great test of being resourceful and being observant. Yet even though these controls are very easy to master, the solutions to beating the game are not as obvious as one would think. Most of the puzzles require the player to think outside the box or to think like the game. There is some logic to the solutions, but it may not be something that you would initially think to be logical. Sometimes it might be as simple as forgetting to try an action verb on an item. For example, from the sequel of this game, there is a sign that has a shovel with a red circle cross out sign on top of it, indicating there is no digging around the area. However, the solution for one of your puzzles requires you to dig in a different location. How do you solve it? You take the shovel off the sign. It's puzzles like these that might keep you scratching your head while playing. The puzzles can be so difficult that people from LucasArts have help lines to provide hints/walkthroughs for people who are stuck. If you were to play this without any hints, it might take you a while to even complete the game.
The Richness of the Story
I can sum up the story within a couple of sentences. The plot as a whole is very simple and straightforward, but the way that the story is being portrayed is what brings the fullness of adventure. Each character has their own unique personality and way of acting. Interactions between characters furthers that development of the story and it makes the game quite amusing. You become intrigued by the characters and would want to root for the character you are playing, no matter how dumb or ignorant he can be at times. The scenarios that were raised from the conflict between your character and the evil pirate were also interesting to experience. What was suppose to be a small quest to become a pirate became a daring rescue mission to your character's true love.
What brings the story to life is the humor that goes along with it. The brilliant minds of the writers created what can be a serious and scary scenario into a funny and enjoyable experience. The use of witty lines and wordplay are hilarious to read on screen that you can't help but chuckle as you read them. The best part about the game's humor is the creators' willingness to make fun of themselves. Fans of LucasArts can enjoy the funny mentions and easter eggs hidden in the game, like the discussion of LOOM or the SCUMM bar, to name a few. You might even see a reference of Star Wars or a depiction of George Lucas in the game.
Will you be addicted to this game to the point that you will always want to play again and again? No. Because this game has a linear story with set events and a set ending, the player would sooner or later know almost everything about the game and would move on to play something else. Even so, the charm, the humor, and the secret contents hidden in the game would makes you want to replay the game more than once.
No question about it. If you call yourself a video game enthusiast, this is a classic that MUST be played at least once through. This game is the standard of how a story-driven adventure game should be made. With the witty, fun, and adventurous story as the backbone, the simple yet expansive gameplay as the engine, and the beautiful and atmospheric combination of graphics and sound as the skin, you have yourself one great game.
I would also like to throw a plug that if you are a younger gamer and you are not as attracted to the original version of the game due to how backdated the game looks, there is a Special Edition that was made quite recently of Monkey Island 1 and 2. LucasArts enhanced the graphics and the audio for the game while remaining faithful to the original content. They even add voice acting to the characters. They should be on steam or in stores. I highly recommend it if you prefer updated graphics. Either way, anyone should have at least one play through of this game.
My overall rating of this game is a 9.2.