Anyone with an adventure gaming pedigree will have a
soft spot for the original Secret of Monkey Island. Put together by
gaming legends including Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer, it is
often credited with being the stick by which inventory based graphic
adventures are measured.
Interestingly, it was inspired (many years before
someone else had a similar idea) by the Disney ride Pirates of the
Caribbean. Gilbert said he wanted to create a game with the same sort of
flavour, but where instead of just gliding past the goings-on, you could
“get off the boat and enter the whole storybook world”. Where the monkeys
came from, though, I don’t know.
It’s a product of the times when games still came on
5¼ inch floppy discs (they really were floppy back then) and where it was
recommended that you play the game from the hard drive “if your computer
has one”. You typed a:enter install c: then monkey c a if you needed to
select CGA graphics with AdLib sound. You then got to use the 1990 version
of Starforce piracy protection, a rather fantastic Dial-A-Pirate pinwheel
by which you dialled up the correct two halves of the pirate’s face to
give the location and date that you needed to enter to proceed with the
game. As the manual said in big bold letters: "Don’t lose your Dial a
Pirate wheel – without it you won’t be able to play the game".
I once owned a dog that was smarter than you!
But that was then and this is now. Whilst utilities
have been available to get the old game running in all its blocky pixelly
midi music glory, you don’t need them any longer. All you need is $10, and
what you get is the old made new - licked, spitted and polished into a
modern renovation that is true to its roots.
Put simply, this is the same game, redrawn and with
voiced dialogue, but still the same game. Nothing new, no bits added, no
director's cut, no attempt to modernise the setting or the corny jokes.
The Scumm Bar is still the Scumm Bar, you still do strange things with
cooking pots and rubber chickens and - most importantly - your momma still
wears army boots.
You can check that it really is the same. Simply
press F10, and the game morphs into the original. You can, in fact, play
it like that if you want, exactly as it was. Or you can bounce back and
forth between the two as the mood takes you. Even if those Lego looking
characters give you hives, press F10 every so often just to see how well
this has been done.
Game play uses the old style verb choices to
generate certain actions. Choose look/use/push/open, etc to do all manner
of things. In the old world, these were present below the screen, and you
clicked to choose the one you wanted. Now you need to bring up a menu,
which felt a little clumsy, especially when you needed to do it several
times to use items with other items or needed to do it quickly. The right
mouse defaults to being context relevant (if you hover the curser over a
character it will “talk to”; if it's over an object it will likely be
“look at”) but it was often not the action I wanted, which meant using the
menus. However the shortcut keys worked a treat, and became my favourite
way of playing – hit u, get the use curser; press p, and you
can pick up. Ditto c for close, o for open, g for
give and so on. It worked well and it worked for me.
Ahoy there fancy pants!
Two things are different. There is now a hint system
(which prodded rather than propelled on the occasions I used it), and you
can’t skip dialogue, which you could do in the original.
You don’t get or need a pinwheel either, which is a
pity as it was a thing of beauty. I got mine out just to give it a twirl
Guybrush, our chief protagonist, doesn’t look like
he did in the original images, but does look a lot like he did in the more
recent games. Some might think he is a little too fancy, but I thought the
slightly boyish demeanour and boofy hair suited him. This, after all, is
not a world of vicious cut throats, but one where the pen is mightier than
Sword fighting might in fact be the one area where
you might end up thinking “couldn’t they have tweaked this a bit”. I say
no, because then it is a different game, but it does get a little tedious.
You need to engage in sword fights in order to learn insults and how to
respond, and then you need to defeat the sword master by successfully
responding to a new range of insults using your learned responses. It's
cheerfully done, and you may well store some away for future use, but it
can be frustrating.
You fight like a cow!
Hotspots are still very small in some places, but
hints will help. Puzzling generally consists of trying strange things with
a never-ending supply of inventory items. You won’t need a pencil and
paper to work things out, although recognising a map when you see one will
help find the treasure.
It’s a very decent length, made all the more so by
the fact that there are lots of conundrums. The direct path through the
game is much shorter, but I doubt you will take that without a
walkthrough. It took me about twenty hours to get through, even with the
Any review of the original game will give you a lot
more detail. Suffice to say that the Special Edition of Secret of
Monkey Island is excellent. These sorts of games might not be your
preferred choice, and they aren’t mine, but there are some games every
adventure gamer should play, and this is one of them. With its makeover,
there is really no longer any excuse not to. I hope we see more games
treated like this in the future.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
can be purchased via download from
I played on:
OS: Win XP
AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz
Gx card: ATI
Radeon HD 3850 512Mb