The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition




Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    LucasArts

Released:  July 2009

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, Intel Pentium 4 3GHz or AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Processor, 128 MB with Shader Model 2.0 capability,  2.5GB free hard drive space, DirectX® 9.0c compliant sound card, DirectX 9.0c (March 2009)





by flotsam


It's twenty years old and not looking a day over last year. Not now anyways. Mix a cinnamon stick with some monkey blood, add a live chicken and stir inside a human skull, then liberally smear over one revered adventure classic and, viola! Born-again Monkey Island madness.

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 or two.

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 the sword.

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 hint system.

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 Steam.

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

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

January, 2010

design copyright© 2010 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index