Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Commodore Amiga (and PC) - Monkey Island

Commodore Amiga (and PC)
Monkey Island

If ever a game was guilty of drawing me in for an afternoon of swashbuckling pirates, belly-laugh inducing humour, Caribbean Reggae music and fighting with insults, this was it. For me, it was one of the first adventures to truly draw me in and involve me, make me feel a part of it… make me feel like a grog-swilling filthy pirate.

Taking control of the misfortunes of pirate-wannabe Guybrush Threepwood, your mission begins with the aim of fulfilling your desire to be a pirate. Controls are simple, like a camera you just point and click your way around Melee Island, talking to characters along the way, collecting items to use or trade to further your progress. Your first port of call is the Scumm bar of Melee Island, a place where foul-smelling grog-swiling pirates frequent, and much useful information can be gained, as well as a couple of funny moments (for example, a conversation with a dog???)
Conversations are something you’ll be having plenty of in this game, and a very careful balance of wittiness without being over the top is struck and maintained throughout the entire game. As you become a pirate, you meet a beautiful governor and make an enemy or 2 along the way, namely Fester Shinetop, the local law enforcement officer, and LeChuck, a ghost pirate who is in love with the governor. As you can imagine, your interest in the governor does not seat you in favour with LeChuck, with hilarious results.
By the time you become a fully-fledged pirate, you’ll already have passed one of the most ingenious moments in gaming history… Insult swordfighting. Never before and never since has a combat system been so original, so hilarious and so frustrating. The basic premise is that your swordsmanship skills will only win a battle coupled with the right insults or retorts. Unfortunately you have to learn them all, which means relying on other pirates to insult you in a new and wonderful way, and then hoping you get the chance to use that insult elsewhere, and hopefully learn the best retort to said insult. After a good hour or two, eventually you’ll be told you’re good enough to beat the Swordmaster, who uses a completely different set of insults, but hopefully by this stage one of your retorts will sound half decent and eventually you will win the fight. 
You fight like a dairy farmer!
How appropriate, you fight like a cow!

My last fight ended in my hands covered in blood!
Hopefully you’ll have learned to stop picking your nose!

If they’re not entirely accurate, never mind, you get the general idea. Normally what I’d do is play through the game again and check it, but I’m loathe to immerse myself into the game again. Several reasons for this, 1 is I’d never get this review written, and 2, I’d end up giving away far too much for you to get into the game yourself if you decide to see what all the fuss is about. For that reason, I’m going to give no further plot or surprises away here, you’re just going to have to try it for yourself.

The controls are straightforward enough, click what you want to do, then click what you want to do it to, and Robert’s your mother’s brother. For the most part, wrong choices will only result in having to try again, there are a couple of places where you can die, but you’ll probably have more fun trying to find them (it’s not easy!)

Puzzles and character interaction come with alarming regularity, but there’s always a fairly obvious solution as to what to do next. Sometimes a little lateral thinking is all you need, and there’s also a few in-jokes that will make you laugh till you spit your coffee.

As for sound – a lovely mix of Caribbean lilt and atmospheric tracks keep you company throughout the game, music which I enjoy listening to even now!

Personally, this one is still my favourite from the whole series, but they’re all worth a go, all with different quirks, and the good news is the franchise is as popular as ever with new versions recently coming out on Wiiware. The games stand up on their own, so you can jump in wherever you like, but I would highly recommend playing the original. Which, it seems is now out on Nintendo DS…

I am rubber, you are glue…

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