The Curse of Monkey Island
Windows - 1997
Description of The Curse of Monkey Island
Avast ye scurvy scum!
The five year wait is finally over: The Curse of Monkey Island, the highly anticipated sequel to the amazingly popular Monkey Island series we have all waited for, is finally here!!!
As so many years have passed by since the release of Monkey Island 2 , technology has gone through some big changes. Back then in 1991, you didn't even have the game on CD yet (it came on 5 floppy disks), so there was: no voice, no such thing as a pre-rendered cut scene, no digital audio (but a very enjoyable midi soundtrack) and none of the other hoopla we have become so used to during the last few years. So how does Guybrush Threepwood cope with life in SVGA?
Story so far
After the weird ending of the last game, Guybrush Threepwood isn't really sure what happened: he is floating in the middle of the Caribbean in a bumper car (!?) with only a half-eaten corn dog for food. Suddenly he floats into the middle of a ship battle, just outside of Plunder Island. LeChuck takes him as a prisoner in his boat, but Guybrush manages to escape (and sink LeChuck's boat) and steal a huge diamond engagement ring at the same time. On the beach Guybrush proposes to Elaine and puts the ring on her finger. But it's the usual Guybrush's luck: the ring was a cursed voodoo ring, and Elaine is transformed into a gold statue! And what happens when you leave a huge piece of gold unguarded on an island full of pirates? That's right, Elaine is stolen. Guybrush has to find a way to get Elaine back and defeat LeChuck, who's now in the form of a burning demon, for the third time. LeChuck just can't seem to get used to the fact that he is supposed to be dead!
New look and sound
The graphics have gone through a quite a change. Guybrush has grown twice as big as he was in Monkey Island 2 (and has shaved his beard), plus all the graphics are now in SVGA, drawn in a lovely cartoonish style that is similar to the style used in Discworld 2. "If people say it looks like Disney, we have failed", says Jonathan Ackley, the co-project leader of Curse. And they didn't fail.
The new graphic style fits perfectly into the Monkey Island world, and that is why Curse of Monkey Island looks absolutely gorgeous. Now that the interface doesn't take any space on the screen, the artists have put their talents to full use and they have succeeded. I have never seen such detailed background art in any computer game (Riven? What Riven?). It is just stunning. See for yourself in the screen shots. The clouds and beautifully drawn rooms make the game so good looking that I could just stare at them, instead of playing the game. Character animation is really smooth, and the graphics are overall just excellent. The wonderful LucasArts cut scenes we have got accustomed to are also there, and they are tied nicely to the story.
The music in the game is, as you can expect from a LucasArts production, breath-taking and simply outstanding. If God works, he has a job at LucasArts' music department. The Monkey Island theme sounds better than ever, and the music is really atmospheric and excellent throughout the game. Some of the old themes are in, but mostly the songs are new. These are tunes you will be humming and that will be stuck in your head. You have been warned. I just hope there is a soundtrack CD :-)
Look, behind you! A three-headed monkey!
Too often a computer game offers nice-looking graphics, but no gameplay. Is Curse like that? A great relief: no. LucasArts has always put its priorities right, and so it is with Curse. And that effort really shows in the game.
The interface is brilliant: it is similar to the one used in **Full Throttle **. When clicking on an object, the action menu pops up in a shape of a golden doubloon. There are three choices: hand, eyes and mouth, where hand represents all actions like "take", "use", "open" and "push", eyes are used to examine an object and the mouth is used for all oral actions like "talk", "eat", "bite" and "inhale". The interface works perfectly and is really flexible. It is also context-sensitive, so the verbs change on every object (on a person mouth is "talk", on a mug it is "drink"), and this brings whole new dimensions to some puzzles. The inventory is brought up with right-click.
Many people were worried about how the designers were going to pick up the story after the weird ending of Monkey Island 2, and how would the game's humor survive without Ron Gilbert. I had my reservations too, but Curse was a very positive surprise. The Monkey Island spirit is there from the very beginning, and the whole story is very 'Monkeyean'. And in the end, everything WILL be explained: what happened at the end of Monkey Island 2? What was Big Whoop? Is LeChuck really Guybrush's brother? Will the boy get the girl? Why do adventure games cost so much? Where do babies come from? All will be revealed ... in the end.
A guy called Snugglecakes
Guybrush will meet many old friends (and enemies) during his adventures: Voodoo Lady has moved to Plunder Island, and Wally the Cartographer is, or at least tries to be, a pirate. We also meet Stan, the former used coffin salesman, and Lemonhead, the vegetarian cannibal. New characters are as colorful and fun as the old characters: there is Murray the demonic skull, Haggis McMutton (the pirate barb... ummm.... 'buccaneer hair stylist') and the whole Goodsoup family (known for their famous soup restaurant chain).
The interaction with other characters is high on the priority list, like in the first two Monkey Island games, and there is a lot of speech in this game. Guybrush comments on everything and everyone, and most of the funniest jokes are included in these comments. The Monkey Island humor has stayed the same, which means that the jokes and events are really entertaining: for example, what does a banjo duel sound like? Not to mention the singing pirates. There are the mandatory quotes from Star Wars and if you are careful you will find jokes about other computer games like The Dig, Indiana Jones & Fate of Atlantis and Myst. And Max the rabbit makes a cameo, as usual.
There is really much to explore in Curse. The designers have written very, very full descriptions for all objects and made the game really interactive. There are lots of objects that you can't pick up and that don't have any real part in the game, yet they are more than just part of the background, and Guybrush can look at them and have fun with them. This makes the replayability value of the game much higher, as you will find something new every time you play.
LucasArts has chosen excellent voices for all the characters in the game: Guybrush's, Elaine's and LeChuck's voices are just great, only Stan's voice was a little disappointment (for me, at least. I thought of a faster and perhaps more Italian, with all the hand waving, voice for him). LucasArts chose relatively unknown people to make the voice-overs for the main characters: they tried to find voices that fit the characters, not just big names they could print on the package.
Like Monkey Island 2, Curse of Monkey Island offers two different difficulty levels to choose from: the regular version, "a lovingly-crafted voyage of infinite adventure", and Mega-Monkey, "with even more sadistic conundrums". The level you choose cannot be changed after you have begun the game, so choose wisely. I didn't play the game in the regular mode, but I think the difference between these levels isn't very big (compared to the three paths in Indiana Jones & Fate of Atlantis, for example).
The game, as with both its predecessors, is also split into parts: there are six parts, where the first one is a sort of a warm-up sequence. The game starts on Plunder Island, where Guybrush ventures into the second part, and after that he sets sail for Blood Island, where he hopes to find a way to lift the curse. After Blood and Skull Island, Guybrush will go through some ... very interesting encounters.
Lights, camera ... action!!
There are many "action" sequences in the game: in the beginning there is just cannon firing, but the real action starts with the very funny and enjoyable ship-to-ship combat sequence after you leave Plunder Island. It is a combination of Micrprose's Pirates! and the insult sword fights in Monkey Island. Adventurers who don't like these action bits can relax: most of them are quite easy, and you can even bypass most of the ship-to-ship combat by choosing the easier option when Haggis asks about it in the beginning of the third part. Then your adventuring won't be much affected by your combat skills.
I enjoyed the sea combat, and yes, the legendary sword fighting is back! This time the system is different, but the idea is the same: insult your opponent and counter his insults.
The installation is very compact: the game takes just 1.2 megabytes of hard disk space plus 400 - 500 kb per save game. This is a respectable achievement, as most computer games take up over 100 megs of HD space nowadays (Blade Runner full installation: 1.5 gigabytes)
The game is almost bug-free. The only bug I found was that on some systems the game turns the wave volume to maximum or minimum, but this isn't a big problem. You can switch back to the system menu after the game starts and set the volume to normal level.
The option screen lets you change effects, voice and music volume, and enable and disable voices/text. You can also enable Scumm3D from there ;-) Saving and loading the game is easy, and the game saves a screenshot of every savegame place.
The game runs really smoothly, at least on my system. Gamers with a slower CD-drive or computer have complained that some loading times are a little long.
To be or not to be?
Curse of Monkey Island is a long game. For most players it should offer 30 to 40 hours of quality entertainment. Add to that the high replayability value, and you have great value for your money. In the USA LucasArts even offers **Monkey Island **and ***Monkey Island 2*** free for the buyers of ***Curse***.
Who will enjoy this game? Everybody, in my opinion. You have to be a dreadfully staid person if you don't find yourself entertained by this game. While the players of the previous two Monkey Island games will get the biggest laughs out of it when finding connections between the games and seeing and hearing something oddly familiar, no previous knowledge of Monkey Island is needed to enjoy this game whole-heartedly. Guybrush's witty comments and humorous attitude towards almost everything will keep you smiling.
In the movie world, sequels are usually much worse than the original film. Is this how it is with Curse of Monkey Island? Absolutely not. While the game has a new superb look and sound, the most important thing is still the humor. This game offers you so much entertainment that you will be playing this again and again, and every time you will find new jokes. And as time goes by, Curse will become a classic, just like its predecessors.
Review By GamesDomain
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