Curse of Monkey Island



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Lucas Arts

Publisher:    Lucas Arts

Released:  1997

PC Requirements:   Pentium-90 or equivalent, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, SVGA, 0 requirement VRAM, 1 MB free disk space, Mouse, Sound card





by gsd

The Curse of Monkey Island

The year was 1997 and I waited and waited for this game to hit the shelves.  The Curse of Monkey Island (CMI) was the third game in the series and it was almost seven years since the release of Monkey Island 2. I was anxious to jump into the zany, crazy world of Guybrush Threepwood and company even though my excitement was tempered just a bit by having read that the creator of the first two games, Ron Gilbert, was no longer with the team. I couldn’t help but wonder if the script and humor would hold up or if the developers would count on improved graphics and sound as a distraction from a leaky script and bad jokes.

Well, it didn’t take long to have the answer. It held up just fine! Fine enough to become one of my personal top ten games of all time. But I regress.

Fast forward to the present (2004). It has been seven years since I last played this game. When I agreed to do a review, I loaded it with a bit of the same caution as the first time but for different reasons. We all know how difficult it is to revisit special places with the same enthusiasm as the first time. You can’t go home again, they say.  Or can you?

In The Beginning

Having somehow escaped LeChuck’s Carnival of the Damned (in Monkey Island 2) we find Guybrush adrift in a bumper car somewhere in the Caribbean…writing in his captain’s log.

“No food (except a half eaten corn dog), no water, no crew, no navigational instruments!  How will I survive? My sweet Elaine…will I ever see you again?”

Suddenly, there’s cannon fire and Guybrush spots pirate ships. He hears voices…could it be? Squinting into the distance he spots them. Alas! It is indeed…Elaine and that vengeful beast, LeChuck.  He strains to listen and hears Elaine‘s sweet voice as she thwarts LeChuck‘s advances. “Guybrush is the only man I’ve ever loved!”

Oh man! Does that motivate a Guy (brush) or what?

A Ship, A Crew and a Map

Let the adventure begin!  LeChuck takes Guybrush prisoner, but our Guy escapes from the hold and sinks the ship.  He spots a huge diamond ring which of course he presents to Elaine while asking for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, the ring is cursed and Elaine is transformed into a gold statue. And what do neighboring pirates usually do when they spot gold? Yep. They steal it.

So now, after some sage advice from the VooDoo lady we must find our way to Blood Island to recover Elaine and release the curse. But first, we need a ship, a crew and a map.

Not an easy task!

Game Play

CMI is a third person, point-and-click cartoon adventure that is divided into 6 chapters. Its complexity is not about plot but rather humor, character interaction and a host of imaginative puzzles that rely heavily upon collecting objects and using them in very unusual ways.

Since Guybrush fancies himself a pirate, he at times must do what all brave pirates do. Fight. But the tongue is mightier than the sword -- so we defeat our opponents not with our blade but with our insults. With practice, we become invincible.

Although we must collect many objects, this is not a pixel hunting game. Any object that can be interacted with is easily identified by a red X cursor. Holding the left mouse down produces a gold coin which gives us three options. Use/pick up (hand), examine (skull), talk (parrot). Right click brings up inventory. Inventory can be combined. It takes very little time to get used to the game controls and they are not at all a distraction.

Guybrush is a bit of a lead foot when walking normally, but if you double click you can move him through screens rather quickly.

Humor is huge in this game. There’s not a single hot spot that doesn’t produce a quip of some sort if you choose to explore it, and I was constantly amazed at the unique and refreshingly funny comments.

Something that shouldn't be overlooked -- this game is kind to the adventure gamer. For starters, you can choose to play as Regular Monkey (easier) or Mega Monkey (harder). Another example -- there is an arcade sequence where you fight other ships. No need to recoil, you can choose to have help or not. If you choose help, it is essentially done for you.

In addition, there are no dead ends. You are never stuck without a way out. The game is linear only in the sense that certain events must be completed before a chapter ends, but there is flexibility in getting there. Finally, you cannot die, so feel free to explore everything and anything you choose. We're talking ideal design here.

Graphics, Acting. Script etc.

The graphics are rich, colorful and a dramatic advance over the first two games.  They hold up well as I review this game in 2004. There are some very effective animation scenes and the background is extremely detailed and well drawn. But the core of the Monkey Island games has always been its humor, interaction and game play and CMI continues this tradition. The voice acting is outstanding. The humor is as sharp and whacky as ever. The music is catchy and timely.

As the game credits roll by, one can see that many creative minds had a hand in this game. The end result certainly shows it.

Technical Stuff

The game comes on two CDs, installs easily and is very stable. I played the game the first time on Windows 95, this time on Windows 98SE, Pentium III. I had no problems either time although screens sometimes are a bit slow in loading.

System requirements:

Pentium-90 or equivalent
SVGA, 0 requirement VRAM
1 MB free disk space
Sound card


The Monkey Island series was born long before developers could rely on jaw dropping graphics to prop up their creation from a sagging plot, bad acting or poorly designed game play. It was a time when developers had to rely on storyline, cutting edge humor, intriguing, well developed characters and clever game play to attract the gamer. Even with the pixelated fuzzy graphics of Monkey Island 1 and 2 (these are 1990-1991 games) they are still well worth playing. If you would like to start at the beginning, you can purchase  Monkey Island 1 and 2 as a CD called “Monkey Island Madness”. It plays very well on Windows 98 directly off the CD.

But the Curse of Monkey Island is really the gem of the series. With its dramatically improved graphics and talking characters it took this wonderful series to another level. Replaying this game so many years later, I am struck by how captivating and entertaining I still found it to be.  Fortunately, some things never change.

Final Grade: A

design copyright © 2004 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index