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
“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
Not an easy task!
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
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
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.
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
Pentium-90 or equivalent
16 MB RAM
SVGA, 0 requirement VRAM
1 MB free disk space
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.