Help a scrawny lad named Guybrush Threepwood realize his lifelong dream of becoming a swashbuckling pirate in this tongue-in-cheek adventure from LucasArts. Starting in a place called Melee Island, young Threepwood must complete three trials before he can become a booty-seeking buccaneer: mastering the sword, mastering the art of thievery, and mastering the art of treasure. Finishing all three will allow Threepwood to form a crew and set sail to the fabled Monkey Island, where he'll need to defeat an evil ghost pirate known as LeChuck. Trade insults with rivals, solve humorous puzzles, interact with eccentric characters, and engage in a three-way battle for the affections of a lovely lass named Elaine Marley. Fans of previous LucasArts adventures will recognize the SCUMM point-and-click interface, which involves selecting verbs from a predefined list before clicking on an object to initiate the action.
It's here! Lucasfilm's latest adventure has arrived, and it's their best yet! Fans of Lucasfilm's previous adventures will instantly recognise the unique mouse-driven environment, used once again for The Secret of Monkey Island. Instead of using the old-style text entry system. Monkey Island is operated on a "point and click" basis. It does however, retain a vocabulary which is used to guide your character around the game. If for example, you want to pick up an object, you just click on the words "pick up", from the menu, and then click on the object in the picture.
Unlike your conventional adventure game or RPG. Monkey Island doesn't start out by setting you the hackneyed task of defeating some wicked overlord. As Guybrush Threepwood, it's your goal in life to become a pirate, splicing the mainbrace on the high seas, and all that sort of thing. However, your ambitious efforts lead you into all sorts of trouble, and at times, captaining your own pirate ship is the last thing on your mind.
Young, clean-cut Mr Threepwood isn't exactly tailor-made for the life of a pirate. As you might imagine, he's not given a very warm reception when he arrives at Melee Island. Fortunately for you though, the local pirate crews are a bit undermanned at the moment, so they decide to take you on if you can show your worth by accomplishing three assignments. Report back to the pirate leaders with proof of your achievements, and everything will be rosy, or so it seems.
If your worst computer-gaming phobia is being trapped in a bare prison cell with absolutely nothing in your inventory, don't worry. Monkey Island's designers have made a big effort to avoid any such situations. You're never stuck for somewhere to go, or someone to talk to. From the start, you have access to the whole town, and are free to roam around at will, sticking your nose in wherever you fancy.
Conversation plays a big part in the game, and you can talk to virtually anyone you meet. Even if the character doesn't have any vital information (which is unlikely), you can still yak away for quite a while before you've exhausted the possible conversation topics. There are a lot of people to meet too, not just the token wise man and a beggar. Just about all of these having something worthwhile to say, give or sell to you.
Of course, if you want to be a pirate, you've got to master the sword. No-one's going to take you on if you can't hold your own in a battle. Rather than attempting to included a standard sword-fighting section in the game, the designers have taken a different approach. Fencing duels are a test of wit rather than coordination. One opponent starts the ball rolling with an insult or a boast: "I got these scars on my face in a fierce battle". It's then up to you to come back with a witty riposte: "Didn't your mum ever tell you not to pick your nose?"
When confronted with "You make me want to puke'", a response of "Oh yeah?" isn't going to get you far. Fortunately, a lost duel costs you nothing more than your pride, and with each defeat, you learn a new insult. After a while, you can become the Oscar Wilde of Melee Island.
The cut-scenes of previous Lucasfilm adventures make another appearance, although this time they're a bit more relevant to what's going on around you. There's some brilliant animation and visual gags in these little interludes, as there is throughout the rest of the game. If you thought computer game humour was limited to shoot 'em ups with spaceships replaced by fish, get a load of this. Most of the jokes are very subtle, presented in a kind of "take it or leave it" style, so if you don't get some of the gags, it's odds on that you won't even notice them anyway. References to other games in the series also pop up now and again, which make up a few more of the "cryptic in-jokes only smart people will understand". that are promised on the back of the box.
The graphics are a big improvement over the already impressive visuals of Indiana Jones and Loom. The locations are good and solid, with Guybrush able to walk into and out of the screen. They're all extremely varied too, apart from the intentionally confusing forest trail. At times you're spoilt for choice as you wander around highly detailed locations, pushing, pulling, and examining everything you can get your hands on. You're granted a limitless inventory, so it's wise to take the advice of the instructions, and pick up everything that's not nailed down, off all the predictable "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum" references, without compromising its strong piratical flavour. You never quite know what's going to happen next, and just when you think you've got everything sorted, someone throws a spanner in the works and you're off on another mini-mission.
Compared to most adventures. Monkey Island is quite easy. I don't doubt that many serious adventurous will zip through the whole thing in no time, but then it's obviously not designed to suit hardcore adventure fans. As a very occasional adventurer. I found it paced just about right. This isn't one of those games that lets you stroll into a death trap without warning, and it's unlikely that you'll ever find yourself completely lost for a solution to a problem. Even so, if you really can't figure out a particular puzzle, there's usually another that can be tackled instead. Anyway, if you do find it too easy, there's a pretty big game to explore all the same. It's such good fun, you can't go wrong. We don't dish out these Classic awards for nothing you know.
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