The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Get ready for a swashbuckling adventure and set your wits against the cream…well the dregs, of the Caribbean. Only by solving mind-boggling puzzles and matching your witty repartee with your enemies will you win the day.

Original title screen (screenshot taken by the author)
Special Edition title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

The first in a popular franchise, The Secret of Monkey Island was developed and published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. The special edition version was released in 2009. It can be found on many platforms including the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST, Macintosh, CDTV, FM Towns, Sega CD, OS X, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The version I reviewed was for the PC.

This point-and-click adventure game starts with Guybrush Threepwood declaring “I want to be a pirate!”. What ensues is an adventure full of humour, perilous pirate trials, the rescue of a damsel in distress and the defeat of the ghost pirate LeChuck, all set in the Caribbean. Along the way Threepwood must complete tasks to progress in his adventure, many of the tasks are peculiar and to solve them involves thinking not just outside the box, but outside of any other shape you can think of as well.

The Special Edition sees the game get a makeover with slick new graphics, improved music and sound, and vocalisation which adds to the humour of the gags. However, for the purists you are able to revert back to the original music and graphics at the touch of a button. On many of the screens you can opt to hear commentary from the games creators explaining how they created the graphics and music, which I think should be incorporated into more games.

In order to interact with the world around you, you must choose from 12 commands at the bottom of the screen. These commands include ‘pick up’, ‘talk to’, ‘open’, ‘close’ etc. This can become quite tiresome, especially when you are stuck and need to enact the “try everything with everything” method of problem solving.

Although cartoonish, and originally in 8-bit graphics, the backgrounds and characters are very colourful. Oddly enough, when close-ups of characters occur, they look very life-like, which is the opposite of the Special Edition. The music also sounds great and captures the pirate mood exceptionally well. For me, the Special Edition graphics adds more life to the environment.

Original graphics (screenshot taken by the author)
Special Edition graphics (screenshot taken by the author)

The only thing that let’s this game down, and it is only one thing, is that some of the puzzles are so convoluted that you will need to use a walkthrough to find the solution. I like a mental challenge as much as the next person, but most would never think of using a  rubber chicken as a zip-line.

Did I complete the game?

I did finish the game, but there were many times that I needed assistance from walkthroughs.

What the critics said of the original game:

Computer and Video Game Magazine – “Usually the entertainment you get from an adventure is derived solely from solving puzzles, but the hilarious characters and situations, and the movie-like presentations make playing this more like taking part in a comedy film so it’s much more enjoyable.  Overall 94%[1]

Dragon Magazine: “If you enjoy a great graphic adventure spiced with humour top-notch graphics, and a soundtrack filled with really good, original compositions, this is a must buy for you. We haven’t stopped laughing yet! 5/5.[2]

Zero Magazine: “At last an adventure game that’s enjoyable rather than frustrating. Overall 84%[3].

What the critics said of the Special edition:

Eurogamer.net: “Few games can stand the test of time with such confidence, and whether your interest stems from its genre-defining significance or its reputation as an unforgettable game, you won’t be disappointed by time spent on Monkey Island. Anyone who disagrees probably fights like a cow. Overall 9/10.”[4]

IGN.com: “The Secret of Monkey Island has a special place in the museum of videogames for its quick wit, its personality, and the way it surprises us at every turn. Playing this adventure will take you back to a simpler, more innocent time before games needed to bash us over the head with ultra-violence to get our attention. They definitely don’t make ’em like this anymore. The Special Edition doesn’t offer any new gameplay, so its appeal may be limited if you’ve already been initiated. But if you’ve never seen a three-headed monkey, download this now. Overall 8.7/10.[5]

Gamespot.com: “If you’ve got opposable thumbs, a sense of humour, and a brain that you’re not afraid to use, this puzzle-filled adventure is one well worth taking. Overall 8/10.”[6]

My Verdict: “Avast me hearties, here be a fun, classic point and click pirate game for ye. The puzzles be tough, but there be plenty of laughs for a landlubber such as yourself. Now pass me the grog!”

Rating:

What are your memories of The Secret of Monkey Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Glancey, P., ‘Review: PC – The Secret of Monkey Island’. Computer and Video Games Magazine. (December 1990). Issue 109:112-4. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_109_1990-12_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n113/mode/2up Accessed on 13th December 2019.

[2] ‘Review: PC/MS-DOS – Secret of Monkey Island’. Dragon Magazine. (April 1991). Issue 168:49-50. (https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg168.pdf Accessed 14th December 2019).

[3] ‘Review: PC – The Secret of Monkey Island’. Zero Magazine. (November 1990). Issue 13:58. (https://archive.org/details/zero-magazine-13/page/n57/mode/2up Accessed on 14th February 2020).

[4] Whitehead, D., (16th July 2009). ‘Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition’. Eurogamer.net.  (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition-review?page=2 Accessed 13th December 2019).

[5] Hatfield, D., (Jun 14th, 2009). ‘The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review’. IGN.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20111208163158/http://xboxlive.ign.com/articles/100/1003651p1.html Accessed 14th December 2019).

[6] Calvert, J., (April 23, 2010). ‘The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20120804010019/http://www.gamespot.com/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition/reviews/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition-review-6260007/ Accessed on 13th December 2019).

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