The Curse of Monkey Island
What can I say? LucasArts -- in my opinion the best adventure games maker on the market -- has absolutely outdone itself this time. The Curse of Monkey Island, the third installment in the series of classic adventure games, meets and exceeds the lofty expectations surrounding it. This game has been long anticipated by fans of the series, and the genre in general. This game has created a new standard for adventure games, and it will be hard to play any adventure game any time soon without comparing it with this extraordinary gaming achievement. The more I think about it, the more the word CLASSIC comes to mind.
Once again you assume the role of aspiring pirate Guybrush Threepwood. This part of the saga picks up where the last game (The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge) left off, sort of. Guybrush is set adrift after failing to find the fabled treasure Big Whoop. Feeling the situation is hopeless, Guybrush eventually stumbles into a battle and is apprehended by his arch-nemesis the Zombie Pirate LeChuck. Right from the get-go the story is engaging and funny. The opening sequence is one of the more memorable in adventure gaming history, and immediately you feel for the pathetic Guybrush. After he is captured, Guybrush is rescued by his lady love Elaine. Using a ring he finds on LeChuck's ship, Guybrush proposes to Elaine, but no sooner is the ring on her finger than she turns into a gold statue. Yes, that's right -- as if you couldn't guess, the ring is cursed. The rest of the game is centered around finding an antidote for the curse. On your way, you'll meet an innumerable cast of memorable characters -- including Murray the talking skull (a running gag throughout the game), and Kenny, a fat little swindler who reminds me of a certain someone from South Park. The story surrounding the game isn't ultra-complicated and it's not as sophisticated as others; however, it's engaging, funny and memorable, and when you finish, you'll wish you hadn't.
The interface in The Curse of Monkey Island is easy and intuitive, and takes all of two minutes to learn. It is almost identical to the interface used in LucasArts' Full Throttle. There aren't really any big innovations in gameplay here over the previous two episodes, which depending on your position you can view as good or bad. I am all for pushing the envelope in gaming and I very much like to see new ideas put to good use, but it is nice to know that a good ol' conventional game can still be produced, and there is a refreshing tendency with the Monkey Island series not to mess with success. I've always been a fan of games like this, and they're not as common as they used to be. I'm very glad to see the masters remind us all how it is to be done, and I hope the success of this game will inspire them to make sequels to some of their other classic adventure games.
The puzzles in Monkey Island are well varied. There are two game options, Regular and Mega-Monkey Mode, with Mega-Monkey Mode offering a more challenging variety of puzzles. Like any good adventure game, the puzzles can be frustrating, but if you persist the solution will ultimately present itself. The story and gameplay here were a pleasure from every aspect, and the puzzles were interwoven with the plot of the game in such a way as to not seem tacked on for the sake of appeasing the world's Myst fans.
Once again, Curse of Monkey Island shines in this category. The graphics are better than any other adventure game thus far. The characters are so big and bright, and move so fluidly, that you would almost swear you were controlling a cartoon. The cinematic cut-scenes are also splendid. The whole game is done with hand-drawn animation, and it is obvious that the animators and game makers alike put a great deal of time and effort into this project. If you have any doubt, just feast your eyes on the screenshots here and on the LucasArts web site.
The audio is another shining example of this game's splendor. It features a Caribbean soundtrack that completely immerses you in the game, and you don't want to come out. You may even find yourself humming some of the tunes without realizing it. I happen to know there are at least one or two petitions going around to have the soundtrack of the game released separately, and I hope it happens. The voice acting is well above average too, and unlike some adventure games where the video and audio sometimes don't quite synch up, I didn't experience any problems with the audio at all.
System Requirements & Comments
Pentium 90 or faster required. Windows 95, Direct X 5.0 (provided on disk), 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 1 MB hard drive space (est. 20 more for save games.) 100% Windows 95 sound card, mouse.
Personally, I think LA has the right idea, providing the best graphics and sound with the lowest possible requirements. I think some game makers have gotten out of hand with system requirements, especially when the graphics don't always hold up to expectations for that kind of power.
In case you couldn't already tell, I highly recommend this game for anyone. Whether you're looking for a good adventure, or just a good laugh, beautiful animation, or great sound, there's something for everyone in this game. It is an excellent value, and will certainly become a gaming classic. I have yet to find a person who has played this game who hasn't loved it; and I have no doubt that almost all of you will feel the same. It is not common to recommend an adventure game to everyone, but even you real-time strategy die hards and first-person shooter fanatics out there might be pleasantly surprised if you pick this one up.
[Editor's Note: Although we enjoyed The Curse of Monkey Island, the game's overall score drops to a 95 based on the disappointing finale, which seemed tacked on at the last minute to rush the game to distributors. Fans of the series should also note that the departure of series creator Ron Gilbert from LucasArts has dramatically changed the overall flavor of gameplay. Curse plays more like a parody of previous titles; LeChuck and his minions are much more comic than creepy.]
Download The Curse of Monkey Island
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