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In the last couple of years, the adventure game genre has seen new IPs, remakes of memorable classics, and modernized sequels to beloved, bygone favorites. At this point, we can’t really call the influx of adventure games a “return.” It’s here to stay, at least for a while, and LucasArts’ of Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge is the best litmus test to determine whether or not you should care.
Above: “Hey, that monkey came on to me”
This remake of what is debatably the best Monkey Island title serves as what is unquestionably one of the best point-and-click titles available, perhaps ever. Its pacing is far quicker than its predecessor, its established in-jokes are out in full force, and nearly every scene is as memorable as the last. These qualities made the lighthearted, pirate-centric comedy an exciting adventure almost 20 years ago, but it’s Monkey Island 2 Special Edition’s modern-day improvements that make it worth revisiting. Even if you’re undecided, or avidly against the adventure genre, Monkey 2 still might be worth checking out.
The most obvious improvement LucasArts added is, like the first Monkey Island Special Edition, the art. The gorgeous watercolor painting look gives the world vibrant definition, making items the original game made indistinguishable considerably easier to spot, and lending expressive life to the characters we love. And if you miss the pixel-hunting of 1991, you can swap the high-res art for the original visuals at the press of a button. What truly makes Monkey 2 worth the skeptics’ time is that it’s simply easier to play than most adventure games. We dig the option to navigate the charming world as we would in any other game – you can use your left stick or keyboard to walk around the charming world, while the right stick/mouse lets you search and mess with objects in the environment.
Above: Zombie LeChuck is twice the jerk Regular LeChuck was
If you’re as terrible at adventure games as we are, the improved help system – text hints, arrows, and glowing objects of interest – goes a long way to assuaging the inevitable anger adventure games conjure. Some puzzles demand you solve them without the game ever informing you of their existence. Some require solutions that had us kicking and screaming in confusion, and an uncomfortable amount of tedious backtracking exhausted our interest in exploration. We spent more time than we’d like to remember bouncing between the game’s three main islands in search of specific objects, mostly thanks to inconvenient events.
Still, solving them is immensely satisfying, and each puzzle usually serves as the most memorable moment in an amazing scene. The infamous spitting contest, where lovable protagonist Guybrush Threepwood has to distract a crowd and cheat his way to first place, is one of our standout favorites. Given how irritating some can be, we’re reluctant to admit that the puzzles are each cleverly constructed, and still hold up after almost 20 years. Maybe we’re just bitter because the game is smarter than we are.
The humor, too, stands the test of time. We laughed at nearly every conversation, from the first awkward encounter with Guybrush’s old flame, Elaine, to his beachside philosophy lesson in the final chapter. The excellent voice cast wittily insults each other, expertly cracks clever jokes about Monkey 2’s voodoo themes, and breaks the fourth wall to poke fun at LucasArts. If we didn’t know any better, we’d peg this as a beautiful, brand new 2D adventure.
Above: Nasty loogie-hocking, now in glorious HD
That the sometimes-frustrating puzzles are still as clever and enjoyable to solve as they are says something about the original design philosophy of Monkey Island 2. Listening to legendary designers and the original Monkey 2 team members Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman discuss that process in the audio commentary is an entertaining means of understanding the game. The trio also has a comical chemistry, and their thoughts on the Special Edition make the commentary mandatory listening.
For longtime fans, that commentary track alone is worth replaying Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. For everyone else – even those of us who aren’t entirely enthusiastic about the methodical pace and heavy exploration of the genre – the wonderful art, stellar cast of characters, challenging puzzles and killer comedy warrant at least an attempt at adventuring. If Monkey Island 2 Special Edition can’t convince you, nothing can.
Jul 13, 2010