Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam.
Title: The Secret of Monkey Island
Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Developer: LucasFilm Games
Release Date: July 15, 2009 (October 1990)
Price (at time of review): $9.99 ($14.99 with the sequel)
Last week I did a bit of talking about how, while it was a lot of fun and a lot of funny, Psychonauts wasn’t enough adventure game for me. This realization left me feeling deeply saddened and empty inside, and I retreated to what was either a remote Tibetan monastery or the bathroom for nearly seven minutes. During this time I engaged in intense meditation, contemplating the mysteries of life, the breadth of human experience and all the myriad decisions, good and bad, that had brought me to that point.
Then I went and played a real adventure game.
Guybrush Threepwood would love to be a mighty pirate, but all he’s got going for him is boyish charm and the ability to hold his breath for exactly ten minutes. With your help he will learn the art of piracy through the related arts of burglary, treasure hunting and insult swordfighting, and maybe, just maybe, he can rescue the woman of his dreams from the clutches of the ghost pirate LeChuck. It’s a long shot, though.
- This game sits high on the altar of classic adventure games. Some might say it’s THE classic adventure game.
- In the interest of full disclosure, the version available on Steam is not the original. This is unexpectedly a good thing.
- Why? Because the enhanced re-release includes redrawn graphics, controls, updated music and sound, and voice work for the characters.
- There is also the option to switch back to the graphics and sound from 1990 in case you’re a stodgy old fart.
- Like me.
- The difficulty is a little out there if you’re not used to the foibles of point and click adventures. Lucasfilm was always good about the puzzles – there aren’t too many that require you to hunt down the exact pixel the game wants you to click on. (This was common in lesser quality games.)
- But you will have to learn to bend to the unique logic of the game at times.
- Also, while it’s ordinarily impossible to die (a trait shared by most of the Lucasfilm Games classics) there is one occasion in The Secret of Monkey Island where it is not impossible but merely very difficult to render yourself deceased.
- Also also, you can render the game unwinnable if you are willing to feed all of your money to a broken vending machine one coin at a time, but you won’t do that unless you’re an idiot.
- Don’t be an idiot.
Okay, so I love adventure games. This may make me a little biased when I say this is a fine game, and it makes me exceptionally biased when I say this is the best game. Okay, maybe it’s not the best game ever made but it’s very good, and in a world where Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island 2 didn’t exist I might even say it’s the best of the classic adventure games. It’s only ten dollars and if puzzles and comedy are your thing it will keep you entertained for a while. And for five dollars more, they throw in the sequel, which is better, funnier, and has also gotten the updated re-release treatment. I guess what I’m saying is stop listening to me and start forcing cash into your CD drive or however you like to pay for things on the internet. 10/10
This game and me go way back. In fact, this whole genre and me go way back. I first played The Secret of Monkey Island when I was three years old and did not yet possess certain key abilities like ‘puzzle solving’, and although I had the ‘reading’ part of ‘reading comprehension’ down pretty well I was lacking the other half. So I wandered around the world, occasionally finding new things to do, soaking in the piratey atmosphere and not really accomplishing much else of note. I loved it, though – it was easily my favourite of the LucasFilm adventure games that made up my childhood, mostly because I liked pirates.
But it wasn’t until I stumbled across the old disk some years later that I actually finished the game. I did it twice, once to roll around in the nostalgia and once more just because I could. That double-playthrough rekindled my old love for point and click games.
I’m not sure why it is I liked them better than anything else before and perhaps since. Maybe it’s because they make you think. Oh, these days shooters will have puzzle segments and talky bits and require a little more brain-work than they used to, but back in the day they were two very separate genres and Doom was hardly rocket science. The extent of the ‘puzzle solving’ in an action game of the 90’s was blue key goes in blue door. If you wanted to think you had to go somewhere else, and that somewhere else was the adventure games of Sierra and LucasFilm (later LucasArts). Both required you to think, outside the box, inside the box, in other directions relative to the box. That was the point of playing them, really, it was the challenge.
But it wasn’t all about exercising my massive brain. The other thing that set classic adventure games apart for me was the story. Returning to the earlier example, Doom had a story, yes, but it might as well have been written in crayon. It was only a minor part of the greater whole. In an adventure game, though, the story was far more crucial to the experience. Between puzzles, these games had to keep you entertained with nothing more than the quality of their writing, and as such they exhibited a much higher standard of excellence in the story and dialogue department. Oh, I’m not so blind with nostalgia as to say that all adventure games are forgotten diamonds. There were some awful ones out there, just like there were terrible action games and unconvincing strip poker simulators. But in all honesty I never played a LucasFilm adventure I didn’t love.
‘Wait!’ the reader says. ‘This has nothing to do with the specific game in question!’ and you’re right. I just have a soft spot for the genre, and I rambled on about it for far too long.
Should you play this game? Look, there’s no better way I can break it down than this.
Do you like to laugh? It’s funny as hell.
Do you like pirates? There are pirates in this game.
Do you like, or at least not mind, having to solve puzzles sometimes? There are also puzzles in this game.
If any of those things describe you then buy this game. You won’t regret it. And if you do, you can send an angry letter to firstname.lastname@example.org and I personally promise you I will ignore it.
Being that this is a re-release and not the original edition of the game, the technical issues seem to be all sorted out. If you run into anything, you can feel free to contact me at email@example.com and I will try to be as cryptic and unhelpful as possible in my response.