Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition


Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    LucasArts

Released:  July 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista, Pentium 4 3.0 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 3000+, 256 MB RAM/512 MB for Vista, 1.8 GB available hard disk space, 128 MB with Shader Model 2.0 capability graphics card, DirectX 9.0c compliant sound card




by flotsam


And so it continues, and I for one am not complaining!

For those not in the know, LucasArts have recently been giving the venerable Monkey Island franchise a lick, and a spit and a great deal of polish. Basically, it’s the same game as the one that was released in 1991, but overhauled to look and sound as if it were made yesterday. There are some special features and tweaks, but what you got then is pretty much what you get now.

You can check to make sure – just press F1, and the game morphs into the "old skool" version. Word for word, scene by scene, spit by spit.

Guybrush Threepwood is now a pirate, and is on the trail of the Big Whoop treasure. The fact that it remains treasure means finding it won’t be easy, not least of all because LeChuck is dead but not gone. Zombie LeChuck is ambulatory, if not alive, and hellbent on revenge.

Some things have changed. If you played the special edition of the first game, The Secret of Monkey Island, they will be familiar to you. One is the added hint system, with three levels of clues, and this will definitely be your friend. One of my grumblements about this game when I played the original all those years ago was the obscure nature of a number of the solves; those solves are still as obscure, but the hints mean you can be prodded, then poked, then simply told what to do next. It keeps things moving along.

So too you can identify all the hot spots by pressing the left and right mouse buttons simultaneously. It helps in finding relevant objects.

Another difference is the way the verb action is utilised. You use look/pickup/push/open, etc., to engage with the world by right clicking on an active object. This brings up a menu of available options, which might be anywhere from 2 to 5 or 6, depending upon what you can do with the object. Or you can use the relevant key on the keyboard to pick the action you want – u for use, o for open and so on. I liked the latter method better - but both work, and there were times when using the menu approach gave me another action I hadn’t initially thought to try.

It has been tweaked too since the first special edition game. Those controls were clunky, these are not.

Of course, you can simply press F1 and do it old style. The verb icons are all below the game window, and you just choose the one you want.

“Like a Steamin Weenie on a hot bun”

There were easy and hard modes in the original, the former having some less complicated puzzle solves (e.g., you might find the shirt you need just lying on the bed, instead of having to finagle it from the laundry man). The puzzles in the special edition appear to all be the hard versions.

There was also no spoken word first time around, although in this F1 version you can have the spoken dialogue if you wish. Consistent with the spruce-up, there is a full-blown musical score in the special edition.

As was the case with the special edition of the first game, there is, alas, no pinwheel. The original LeChuck had a Mix 'N' Mojo Voodoo Ingredient Proportion Dial, which served as the anti-piracy mechanism. To start the game, you had to complete the called for voodoo recipe by aligning the appropriate ingredients and then entering the correct proportions. Far more fun than Starforce, and it left nothing on your system. If they ever release these games in a box, they must include a pinwheel!

Sadly, the dancing monkeys in the opening credits are missing too. Why I don’t know. The skeletons which come later in no way make up for it.

So much for the mechanics, what of the game itself?

Firstly, it looks and sounds sensational. Voices are excellent and the soundtrack full and jaunty. LeChuck has a much bigger hat than his pixelly counterpart, and Guybrush has kept his boofy blonde mane from later incarnations, but I love the way it has been animated. It is clearly still the same game world - Scabb Island is as scabby as ever, and Governor Phatt remains just that - but now your spit is vibrantly real!

The modern animation helps define the exceptional level of detail in the original game. Blocks of pixels have their drawbacks, and fine detail is one of them. Here, just how much attention was paid to those things in the initial game is clearly evident.

“An ottoman comes to mind”

The humour remains as it always was – punny, funny, silly and irreverent. Wisecracks abound, and while humour will always be a matter of taste, the quality of the writing means it would be a sour old puss indeed who did not enjoy the banter.

As for the puzzles, if there is a game with more of them I don’t know what it is.

Nearly all of them are inventory based, and as I said some are incredibly obscure. This is where the hints work best, not because they give you the answers but because they first provide a line of thought as to what might work. It might be weird, but go with it, think a bit more laterally, and you may well find that the out-and-out solve is rarely needed.

I actually think the hint system makes this a better version. Call me soft, or even lily-livered, but if puzzle after puzzle is a chore, it eventually strangles all the fun.

There are a couple of outright puzzles, one which you will have to recognise as such, and one of which is an absolute gem. It is diabolical simplicity, and to say anything more would spoil it. 

There isn’t a sword fight but there is a spitting contest (in fact, spit features rather a lot in one way or another). There are also a couple of puzzles where you have a small window of time to engage in the correct action to complete the puzzle (e.g., you need to complete an action while everyone is looking the other way). Failure just means trying again.

Quite a few of the conundrums, especially in the middle part of the game, require gathering items and information from all over the place. You will do a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, which verges on the tedious at times, but if you adopt the approach of going everywhere initially and learning what you can, then trying to be systematic about how you might put it all together, you will cut down on the traipsing somewhat. And you can always press the h key to know where to go next.

“If a tree falls in the forest, what colour is the tree?”

I don’t know how long it took me, but all of the above makes for a long game. Certainly double the length of the first. How long will depend on how stuck you get, or how liberal you are with the hint key. I enjoyed it all the way to the end.

Which for me is its lowest point. I never did like the end, and being the same end I still don’t like it.

Having said that, it is compensated for by some awesome additions that I have saved till last.

Every now and then you get a little pop-up, inviting you to press the audio key. What that gets you is a conversation between the three gaming legends themselves – Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer – generally reminiscing about a design aspect of the scene in front of you. It's insightful, entertaining, and worth the price of the download itself. Make sure you enable it in the options screen, and do not fail to press the a button when offered.

At certain stages in the game you will also unlock concept art, which you can examine at your leisure from the main menu. Finally, in (at least) the Steam version there are 12 achievements you might or might not accomplish, and your score will be revealed at the end.

All up, and while it isn’t perfect, it almost is. The Special Edition of LeChuck’s Revenge is as good a time as I have had playing an inventory game in a fair while. The hint system overcomes much of what bogged it down for me first time around. Some of the extras are a little gimmicky, but the commentaries make up for them. The end is up to you, but unless you rewrite it, it will always be the end.

For me, it’s better than the first special edition, and makes this second Monkey truly memorable. I can’t wait for the next one.

Grade: A

I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional SP3

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 3.25GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb


Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition is available via download from Steam.

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

July, 2010

design copyright© 2010 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index