Game Review: The Secret of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island

In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website FemaleGamers reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) (PC)

The Secret of Monkey IslandLong before Captain Jack Sparrow wooed cinema audiences in Pirates of the Caribbean, an unorthodox hero by the name of Guybrush Threepwood arrived on Melee Island with one desire – to become a pirate. So began the first chapter in the highly successful Monkey Island series, which started back in 1990.

The story is faithful to the pirate tradition with buried treasure, pieces of eight, adventures at sea and sword fighting. Guybrush Threepwood’s arrival on Melee Island is badly timed. The pirates are too afraid to brave the ocean and live in fear of the legendary ghost pirate, LeChuck, who is said to have a hideout on the mysterious Monkey Island. At a local bar, a trio of pirate leaders gives Guybrush three trials to complete in order to be considered a pirate himself and this forms only the backdrop to the Secret of Monkey Island. Along the way, Guybrush must overcome his inability to speak to women, general cowardice in the face of the slightest danger and meet a variety of strange but memorable characters throughout the Caribbean.

For a game that is nearly twenty years old, the graphics still stand up well against the high standards we see today. Everything from villages to tropical islands displays some remarkable detail. Humour is a big part of Monkey Island and this cannot be better demonstrated than in the sword fighting where the ability to insult your opponent or have a witty response lined up counts for more than skill with a blade. Throughout the game you will encounter some bizarre characters, including the verbose ship salesman Stan and a trio of cannibals more concerned about their cholesterol levels than where their next meal is coming from. In Guybrush you have a wonderful character to take charge of; the complete opposite of a violent, beer-swilling pirate he wishes to be, while his asides to the camera/gamer about the situations he finds himself in are a constant treat.

In order to progress through the game, Guybrush must gather a variety of items that are used or combined to solve puzzles. For beginners to the series, Monkey Island can be difficult to get through without reference to any sort of guide and could be too much for younger children. This problem was addressed in Monkey Island 2 where two settings – one for beginners and one for experts – was introduced to make the game more accessible, but is unfortunately not available here.

The controls are a point and click style and prove very straightforward. A series of commands such as “Pick Up,” “Talk To,” “Open,” and “Close” are available for Guybrush and these are visible at the bottom of the screen. A small bar above these commands responds to the movements of the cursor as you guide Guybrush through each screen and displays detail of characters, buildings and objects whenever you select them. It’s a simple system that can be picked up very easily.

Celebrating its twentieth anniversary next year, The Secret of Monkey Island remains a tour de force in gaming. The bumbling but amusing hero, Guybrush Threepwood, somehow continues to survive many a frightening encounter in the Caribbean. Thankfully, LucasArts are not ready to let him rest just yet.

Final Score: 93%    

* Originally published on FemaleGamers

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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