Friday, 11 January 2013

The Curse of Monkey Island (PC)

The Curse of Monkey Island title
Curse of Monkey Island is the third in the legendary point and click adventure series, released six years after the previous game. Which was a bloody long gap, considering the first two came out a year apart.

This had new designers, a radically different art style, and voice acting for the first time. And since the original creator, Ron Gilbert, had left LucasArts, the new team had to come up with their own take on the series. Which was all a bit worrying to the fans, especially as the new guys would have to resolve Monkey Island 2's now famous mindfuck of an ending, which I'm going to spoil for you after the next picture. You have been warned.

Monkey Island 2 ended with a tour around the back tunnels of the first game, revealing that all the swashbuckling piratey adventures up to this point had actually taken place in the pirate section of a Disneyland style theme park in the present day, and protagonist Guybrush Threepwood was actually a young child, playing at being a buccaneer with his brother Chucky. Or so it seemed until the end of the credits, when it cut back to the 18th century where his girlfriend, Elaine, was wondering why he'd been gone so long.

Curse of Monkey Island skips the theme parks and explanations for now and instead jumps ahead to show Guybrush lost at sea in a bumper car. At least I think this is meant to be Guybrush, he's looking a little different this time.

The Secret of Monkey Island (MS-DOS)
The first game had a more realistic painted style to it (Guybrush is the one on the right), and honestly it's a look I prefer for the series. Though I realise the switch to animated cutscenes made it totally impractical.

Still, I wish he could have at least have kept his awesome pirate coat and beard from the second game. Actually I just wanted an excuse to show off Monkey Island 2's cover art, because holy shit it's awesome. This was painted by Sam and Max creator Steve Purcell, and he should have been required by law to paint the covers for all the games.

I still think it's a bloody shame this cover was replaced by new art for the special edition. Wait, what game am I meant to be talking about again?

Anyway, poor Guybrush is so distracted by his hunger that he totally fails to notice that he's drifted right in the middle of battle between an island fort and a pirate galleon. And a bloody nice looking one it is too. The new designers may have switched the style to a more cartoony look, but they've kept a lot of the moody atmosphere.

Cue the Monkey Island theme! Here, listen to it yourself on youtube while you read if you want.

Hey, it's the love of Guybrush's life: Governor Elaine Marley! What are the chances?

This whole scene has far better animation than I was expecting, but I'm not entirely sold on her voice acting to be honest. I imagined the character being more deadpan.

Hey it's Guybrush's old nemesis, the ghost zombie pirate LeChuck! What are the chances? This guy's voiced by Earl Boen (you know, the psychologist in the Terminator movies) and he's fantastic in the role.

LeChuck has had a bit of a thing for Elaine since the start of the series, and now Guybrush is out of way there's nothing to stop him from turning her into his undead bride. Little does he know Guybrush has escaped his mindfuck trap (somehow) and has found his way here (accidentally)!

Oh wait, he's just noticed him floating by in a bumper car.

And now he's thrown us in the ship's hold and locked the door behind us. Awesome.

The game uses a mouse driven point and click interface like the earlier games in the series, but this time holding the left mouse button over an object brings up this verb coin, letting me pick up/use it, examine it, or talk to/eat/etc. it.

The Secret of Monkey Island (Amiga)
It's a big step up from the earlier games which had a ridiculous number of commands available. I mean, turn on and turn off? How often is anyone going to use them? It even has 'walk to' as a command, despite it happening automatically whenever you click anywhere.

Damn, you can really see how far graphics had come in six years. Little pixel people to proper cartoon characters.

Well I took the ramrod from the wall (you know, all those cannon balls piled up in that corner are just drawing attention to the fact that this guy isn't reloading between shots) but it seems that I'm not going to get out of here with mere items alone. I'm going to have to persuade this petite pirate to quit firing his cannon, and to do that I'm going to have to pick the right dialogue choices to verbally strip away all self worth and reduce him to being a tearful emotional wreck of a man.

Fortunately Guybrush can be a real bastard, so this shouldn't take long.

I successfully convinced the guy to desist his cannon firing activities and now I'm free to take a turn myself. Which means it's cannon firing minigame time! Not much thinking required here, I just point the dangerous end towards the skeleton pirates and click the mouse to sink them.

Curse of Monkey Island terrible demon skull Murray
Hey, bits of them have washed up next to the ship. I almost regret blowing this guy up now, because after hearing him talk I've realised he's actually awesome. Poor Murray just wanted to terrorise the humans, and he's determined not to let his beheading get in the way of that.

Using the ramrod pole to hook the floating arm revealed that it was still holding a sword. Hey, that gives me an idea: if I cut the cannon restraint rope and fire the cannon, it'll blast through the door giving me an escape route!

Well stuff happened, and the good news is that the plan worked and I've made it out of that room. Though I may have inadvertently sent the ship on its way to the bottom of the ocean with me stuck in it. But hey, good news for the islanders right?

I was stuck here forever basically clicking every object I had on every other object until I solved it through sheer persistence. Turns out that the trick was to use the diamond ring on the porthole to cut a hole in the glass and flood the ship. Honestly, I doubt that would have ever occurred to me, which isn't a great sign.

But Guybrush did eventually escape the boat, to finally be reunited with his beloved Elaine. He immediately uses LeChuck's ring to propose, and she accepts! And they lived happily ever after.

Or for about 30 seconds anyway, until the cursed ring turns her into solid gold. Well how was he supposed to know?

I suppose now I have to search this island for some sort of voodoo anti-curse.

Leaving the beach took me to this screen, giving me the freedom to travel anywhere on the island. No longer am I trapped solving a single screen at a time. Well I can choose from the spooky swamp, the fort, or the town anyway. I'm already at the fort, so I'll check out the swamp first. It's often a good place to go for voodoo advice in Monkey Island games.

Hey, it's Murray! He's dragged himself here by sheer force of will. Actually some kids threw him up there, but he's trying to make the most of it. Well, I guess I'll leave him to it then.

It's the Voodoo Lady! She was one of Guybrush's biggest allies in the last two games and... wait, why is she living here now?

She just offered to show Guybrush pictures of her kids in case you're wondering about my current set of dialogue responses. This is a good example of a 'you have no choice' set of choices that actually works without feeling like a cheat. Of course whatever I pick he just says "perhaps later", he's not that much of a bastard.


SOME VOODOO CHAT LATER.


Well the Voodoo Lady has kindly given Guybrush a plan of action to save his cursed lover. Turns out that the cure to the curse is currently on another island, and to get there we'll need a map, a ship and a crew. Oh plus we'll need to get Elaine back from pirates because Guybrush was dumb enough to leave a gold statue in the middle of a sunny beach on a island populated by professional thieves.

So I guess I need to look for a ship dealership then?

Well I found a barbershop. Sweeping the mouse across the screen reveals I can pick up a jawbreaker on the floor, but the barber won't let me anywhere near the comb, chair handle or paperweight, and I definitely can't get those scissors stuck in the ceiling beam. Somehow I need to distract him, because if there's one thing I've learned about adventure games, it's that you pick up EVERYTHING.

My plan was to put something on the comb that freaks him out somehow, but I've searched this whole island twice over and all I've found is a pair of helium balloons, a pin, leaflets, a skeleton arm, a gross jawbreaker, a bag of wooden nickels, and an ember on a stick. Solving this is going to drive me nuts.


ENDLESS TEDIOUS WANDERING AROUND LATER.


Oh. Turns out there was this extra room hidden behind a tiny little side door in town. Check out that awesome mirror.

Anyway, I've found some head lice (ew) so it turns out I was definitely on the right track, I just didn't have the right pieces yet.

Hah, all my goals are now completed, and all it cost was the hair of one angry pirate captain. I'm not sure how having a rock and pair of scissors is actually going to help me out at all, but that's only a minor concern.


LATER.


Curse of Monkey Island Ask Me About Grim Fandango
This guy looks strangely familiar somehow.

Captain Blondebeard here runs a restaurant specialising in chicken meals, but he claims to be terrorised by a horrific monster seeking vengeance for his treatment of poultry...

¡El Pollo Diablo!

Clearly I must save the poor ex-pirate from this demon bird to earn his undying thanks and get him onto my crew.


SOON.


I have to admit it, I'm really dumb. It took me this long to figure that I didn't need to buy a ship, when there was a perfectly good one sailing around nearby, stealing gold statues from sunny beaches. These assholes inadvertently kidnapped Guybrush's fiancée, so I'm going to persuade them to tell me where she is, and to give me their boat.

They responded by ganging up on me, covering me with tar and feathers, then kicking me off the ship into shark infested waters. I think I can blame this one on poor planning and prep.

Sup Blondebeard, why you freaking out? Oh right, I do kind of look like a giant demon chicken right now don't I? Well, I might as well roll with it...


SOME PUZZLES LATER.


Well I got a treasure map leading to Elaine, but look at this shit. They might as well have just put the address of the GameFAQs page, because that's where I'm going to end up going after two minutes tying to figure what this means.

In case you're wondering, yeah GameFAQs actually was around when this game came out. I know I was surprised to find that out.

Here, have the solution to the treasure map puzzle, I've spoiled it for you. Honestly I have no idea how the clue relates to this, I was just hitting buttons randomly until it worked. I mean I get that the bananas were the big hint that the monkey crew had been up here, but spotlights aren't the first things I look for when I'm told I need 'all eyes open'.

The best puzzles are the ones you realise were totally obvious in hindsight, and this is the opposite of that for me.

Right, now I have Elaine, I have a ship, and my crew has been assembled. I just need one more little tiny thing, and it's tattooed onto this guy's back. I couldn't find any tracing paper, and Guybrush isn't interested in my 'serrated breadknife' solution, so I'm totally lost. How the fuck do you get a tattoo off someone's back?

With a great deal of trial and error I eventually figured out the solution, and it involved a bucket of ice water, towel whipping, and a bottle of cooking oil. But I'm still calling bullshit on this puzzle. Feel free to leave a comment telling me I'm dumb if you disagree.

LeChuck interlude! Turns out the guy wasn't killed in the explosion that wrecked his ship, because he's basically immune to death. He's had an upgrade though, from zombie pirate to demon pirate and I have to say, the flame beard look really works for him.

But while LeChuck was celebrating, poor Guybrush ended up getting his hard earned map stolen by a certain vengeful and now very bald pirate captain. Funny how manipulating everyone for his own ends eventually bit Guybrush in the ass.

Plus his pirate crew won't stop singing. I knew it wasn't going to be easy being a captain, but this is ridiculous. At least they haven't mutinied like the crew in the first game. Yet.

Eventually though Guybrush finally gets the chance to do what he's wanted to do for two and a half games: actual genuine piracy. Okay sure he only goes after other pirates, but he's still sailing the Caribbean, raiding ships and stealing some fine booty. 

What's really weird is that he's actually good at it. Adventure game characters are often the wimpy underdog, winning their battles through resourcefulness and ingenuity, but for once Guybrush is allowed to win through straightforward tactics and violence.

This minigame lets me steer the ship around with one mouse button, and fire cannons with the other. The trick is to bullseye the other guy a few times without letting him turn his broadside to face me.

Once that's done, it's time for INSULT SWORDFIGHTING. Yep, they straight stole an entire puzzle from Monkey Island 1. Though at sea the combat has different rules. This time the snappy comebacks have to rhyme to actually knock the enemy off balance. No it doesn't make any sense, but seeing how hard it was to get my crew to stop singing earlier, I'm just going to assume it's just a thing in this area. Pirates on the Barbery Coast have a weakness to rhymes I guess.

Sadly insult swordfighting hasn't gotten any more interesting since the last time. The trick to it is to throw out an insult, and see if the opponent knows the response. If they come up with a cutting reply, Guybrush adds it to his dialogue list and is knocked back, if they don't, they get knocked back a step instead. Too many failures and other fighter wins and claims the treasure. So basically I just have to sail around and fight people until I've learned all the insults and responses. I have to admit I'm not finding it that enthralling.


Anyway I should quit here before I end up with another thirty screenshots, because I could just keep going with this. In my opinion the game is a genuine classic so far and definitely worthy of the Monkey Island name, thought it's also a genuine pain in the ass at times. But when I compare it to other adventure games I've played lately like Lure of the Temptress and Curse of Enchantia, it utterly demolishes them in every department. The puzzles are reasonably logical most of the time, the dialogue is often hilarious, there's no way to die or get hopelessly stuck, it has is some of the best music and voice acting I've ever heard in a video game, and the only thing dated about the graphics is the resolution and colour depth. I mean it's basically a cartoon, and I could believe these backgrounds and animation frames still exist in a form that could be scanned in HD and put back together for a modern special edition.

In conclusion: this is one of the good ones.


If you've got any thoughts about Curse of Monkey Island, what I just wrote about it, which Monkey Island game had the best looking Guybrush character, or just want to talk about the site in general, you're welcome to leave a comment.

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