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The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

by: Finn Orfano ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

Lucasarts' Secret of Monkey Island has long been considered one of the most popular and influential adventure games ever made. How faithful is this enhanced remake to the beloved original? I'll take you through the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition here in this in-depth review.

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    The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

    monkey box It’s been nine years since the last entry in the Secret of Monkey Island series, and fans have anxiously been awaiting another adventure. With the release of this enhanced remake of the first Secret of Monkey Island game, long-time fans have the opportunity to relive the classic with a number of new features and improvements, while newcomers to the series have been given a modern entry point into the charming franchise.

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    The Secret of Monkey Island: Story Line

    Guybrush Threepwood is a man who wants nothing more than to become a pirate, but an encounter with a beautiful lady and a villainous ghost will send him on a daring rescue mission instead. While not a very unique tale, brilliant characterisation and writing enhances the otherwise stock plot. Witty jokes and clever situations make this rescue mission a hilarious and enjoyable quest, and it’s hard not to grow to like your bumbling hero as he adventures through a series of clever obstacles. A large, funny and often absurd supporting cast of characters further adds to the story in the Secret of Monkey Island. Plus, you will find that there are many opportunities for a treasure hunt in the Secret of Monkey Island to get you really in the pirate mood.

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    The Secret of Monkey Island: Gameplay

    Like most adventure games, the gameplay in the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition consists purely of exploring, acquiring items, interacting with other characters and solving puzzles. While a few of the trickier problems may stump you on occasion, most puzzles are reasonable and logical, and the game always makes it clear what your immediate goal should be. If you should find yourself stuck on a specific puzzle in the Secret of Monkey Island, an in-game hint system can guide you, first giving you vague suggestions before explicitly revealing what you should do. This makes it impossible to become stuck in the Secret of Monkey Island, although try to avoid abusing the hint system as you’ll find it to be a much more rewarding experience if you solve the puzzles on your own.

    Despite the simple gameplay style in the Secret of Monkey Island, there are a few minor control problems. Moving, talking and picking up objects all work fine, but using items from your inventory can be a bit more tricky. The inventory screen in the Secret of Monkey Island is pulled up with your right trigger, while your verb screen (used to select what action you would like to take, for example, Give an object) is brought up with the left trigger. Thus, simply using an object requires you to pull up both menus, a process which must be repeated every time you make an error or an inaccurate attempt at solving a puzzle. While not a huge hassle it does slow the pace of the otherwise brisk gameplay in the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

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    The Graphics in the Secret of Monkey Island

    Gorgeous, hand painted backgrounds are the norm in the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which is presented in 1080i widescreen. New, cartoon style character models are also used, giving the game a sort of storybook feel. This new approach works well, especially when one looks at the little details like rippling water and flying birds. The hand drawn approach may not rival modern graphics, but it adds charm to the adventure without distracting you with unnecessary detail. The only drawback to the Secret of Monkey Island is the animation. Aside from the flashy sword fighting most actions, such as using objects, lack detail, which is disappointing considering how much work was put into the other graphical enhancements.

    For a change of pace gamers can switch to the game’s original graphics with the press of a button, shifting seamlessly from 2009 to 1990. Aside from a potential rush of nostalgia these old graphics don’t really add anything to the experience, but it’s an interesting feature that allows you to see just how far gaming technology has advanced in the past 19 years.

    As you can see from the screenshots below, the Secret of Monkey Island does have some great colors and more to the game overall. So, even if the graphics might be a bit less than what you are used to, it doesn't mean that the Secret of Monkey Island is a complete bust.

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    Images From the Secret of Monkey Island

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    Audio in Secret of Monkey Island

    This remake of the Secret of Monkey Island, features both a re-mastered soundtrack and full voice acting utilising the cast from later Secret of Monkey Island games. The music is catchy and really enhances the game’s Caribbean theme, providing a fitting backdrop for sailing and exploring. Well used ambient sound effects further add to the overall experience in the Secret of Monkey Island, providing the realistic sounds of nature to the locales you visit.

    The new voiceovers add a lot to the experience in the Secret of Monkey Island, especially since all the voices fit their respective characters perfectly. Unfortunately, some minor technical problems do arise here, as there are often brief pauses between lines that ruin the flow of the dialogue. Fortunately this never happens during crucial scenes, but as you wander the game examining items and trying to solve puzzles your hero often takes several seconds to rest in the middle of describing the situation. While by no means a game breaking problem it is a notable flaw in an otherwise enjoyable experience.

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    Conclusion

    Between the gorgeous presentation, witty writing, excellent acting and all-around charm it’s difficult not to recommend this game to both seasoned adventure gamers and those looking to sample the genre. Don’t let a few minor technical problems prevent you from taking part in the experience that the Secret of Monkey Island brings to the table, especially considering its low cost of just 800 points from the Xbox Live Arcade.