One of the most splendid features of this Special Edition is the ability to switch back and forth between the remake, and the original game with its original graphics, original midi sound, and the original verb table on the bottom third of the screen. Pressing F10 to watch it smoothly swoosh between the two builds is stupidly addictive – you’ll not be able to pass through a screen without comparing and contrasting.
However, there’s danger in riding the nostalgia rollercoaster. The Secret of Monkey Island is a surprisingly empty adventure game. First of all, there’s almost nothing to ‘look at’ in any scene. The vast majority of backgrounds have only one or two hotspots, and most of these will generate an ‘I don’t see anything special about that’ when inspected. There are no gags for incorrectly combined inventory items. The ‘talk to’ cursor won’t even acknowledge hotspots on the screen, let alone offer a joke for chatting up a tree. The notion of a graphical adventure game packed to bursting with hilarity was still a year away in the form of Sierra’s Space Quest IV.
The dialogue is still great. That’s where everyone’s fondness for the game comes from – Guybrush’s affectingly daft enthusiasm in a world of weary pirates. The voice acting for this freshened incarnation is absolutely spot on, Dominic Armato reprising his role as Threepwood with aplomb, only bettered by Earl Boen’s mellifluous, fruity LeChuck. (The delivery is a little odd. There are awkward gaps in conversations, presumably a result of the original’s reliance on the timing of the appearance of text.) What surprised us is how infrequently the original script aims for the big gags. It mostly ambles amiably, lighthearted but rarely guffaw-inducing. Gently wry. But here’s the remake’s other whopping mistake.
You cannot skip the dialogue. If you accidentally trigger the same lengthy conversation again, you’re stuck with it and its slow, halting delivery. That is, insanely, unless you switch over to the original version, where as before you can skip the on-screen text with a press of the period key. That you find yourself in the situation of switching to a 20-year-old build of the game in order to get satisfactory functionality out of a brand new one is... troubling.
Still, ten dollars for a digital download is a no-risk price for going back to perhaps the most famous point-and-click adventure ever. And while LucasArts’ remake makes some mystifyingly poor choices, it’s gorgeously rendered and wonderfully acted. Perhaps Monkey Island could never live up to its own legend, but it remains an entertaining and extremely silly game.
Jul 16, 2009