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Throwback Thursday Review: The Curse of Monkey Island

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[ThrowbackThursday is a series where we look back on games from the past in
reviews, retrospectives, and more. We will have something every week for
your retro enjoyment. You may even discover something new to love!]

Since I have been
reviewing a couple of very popular adventure games that are known by a lot of
older gamers, I decided to tackle a franchise that is one of the most popular
and iconic adventure game series of all time,
Monkey Island! Originally created by LucasArts with a design team
consisting of Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer, this was and still
is one of the most if not, most popular adventure game series ever. It was
filled with creative puzzles, memorable characters, great jokes, fantastic
music, and the overall experience is satisfying for any gamer looking for a
good adventure game. Well, except for the first 3D game in the franchise. Moving
on, I decided to review my favorite entry of the series. It should be no shock
or surprise when the title of this review shows which game I am reviewing,
The Curse of Monkey Island. This was the
last of the LucasArts adventure games to use the popular ScummVM game engine,
which the company used for a majority of their games. It’s easily one of the
top five LucasArts games, and that is saying something since a majority of the
adventure games made by them are fantastic. Grab your peg leg, eye patch, and a
bottle of grog, and let us continue with the master piece of adventure gaming,
The Curse of Monkey Island.

The story stars
our main hero Guybrush Threepwood, voiced by Dominic Armato. He is stranded in
the ocean after the events of the second game and is writing in his journal
about the previous events. As he floats along the ocean waves, he comes across
an epic battle is happening between a seaside castle and a ghost ship filled
with undead pirates! The pirate captain leading this fight is the antagonist of
the series, LeChuck, voiced by Earl Boen. LeChuck is attacking this seaside
castle because that is where Guybrush’s love Elaine Marley, voiced by Alexandra
Boyd, who Lechuck is in love with is located. With some puzzle solving and
witty humor, Guybrush defeats LeChuck, and with a ring he found in LeChuck’s
ship, asks Elaine to marry him. Unfortunately for the new couple, the ring is
cursed and turns Elaine into a golden statue. Guybrush must travel across a
couple of islands, fight pirates with insults, not tell you anything if you ask
him about
Grim Frandango, and save
Elaine.

Of course, Guybrush will also have to deal with cannibals, obnoxious
insurance men, devious pirates, a snooty cabana boy, a couple of barber pirates,
and a newly revived LeChuck to save the life of his love. The story itself is
the best part about this game. While Guybrush is more of a normal guy with some
witty humor here and there, his best strength is when he works off the silly
cast of characters that he encounters. LeChuck is, by far, the character with
the best lines. There is just something both intimidating and absolutely
hilarious about his lines and how he acts. For example, in one scene he will
want to kill Guybrush, but in another, he complains about how they never give
you enough coleslaw in value meals. Or in another scene he says he will show Elaine
how much he loves her by blasting her with a voodoo cannonball. For the
majority of the game, the story is entertaining from beginning to end.

The Curse of Monkey Island is obviously
an adventure game. You will be wandering around a couple of different islands
solving puzzles by finding items wherever you go. The way you pick up items,
observe objects, or talk to people is done in a very similar fashion of games
like
Full Throttle. You will have a
circular icon that will represent your command menu. You will also have a
separate inventory screen where all the items you have accumulated throughout
your adventure will be stored. Sometimes, to solve certain puzzles, you will
need to combine items that you find, and the items that you need are not always
obvious the first time around. This is definitely an adventure game where you
need to stretch that thing you call a brain to really know how to solve the puzzles.
Don’t worry, this game doesn’t have a lot of dead ends like in other adventure
games. The other big mechanic in this game are the sword fighting bits called “insult
sword fights”. During the mid-way point of the game, you will need to fight a
couple of different pirates and will need to learn a huge assortment of
insults. You win each fight by having an insult that rhymes with the insult
thrown at you. You won’t win your first couple of fights, but once you get a
laundry list of insults from some early insult sword fights, you will get
through these fights later on easier. The game can range in difficulty, since
the harder difficulty ramps up the puzzles and their solutions. I would say
that you can beat this game in about 3 hours if you know what you are doing.

Graphically, this
is one of the reasons why this game is my favorite game of the series, the art
style. I love this Disney-look to the characters, and the cut scenes are well
animated, detailed, and look really good for a PC game from 1997. Sure, some of
the characters might not look as smooth as they did back in 1997, but this
game’s engine really holds up compared to game engines of today. The voice work
is phenomenal. The main cast does a great job with their roles, but the
supporting cast is what holds it all together. You have actors like Gary
Coleman, Alan Young, Neil Ross, Tom Kane, and Glenn Quinn. They bring with them
great performances and execute the humor perfectly. The music is also extremely
catchy as I found myself humming the main theme after I played the game. The
composer was Michael Land, who I have said before in other reviews, worked on a
huge number of LucasArts adventure games.

So, what
complaints do I have with this game? Well, while the overall game is amazing,
funny, and a worthwhile experience, you get the feeling that they rushed the
ending. The ending of the game happened so quickly that I was disappointed. You
take so much time in the beginning and middle part of the game solving these
puzzles that will help you solve other puzzles, and yet, you just solve two
puzzles at the end and then the game is over. The ending cut scene is nice and
all, but I wish there was a bit more substance at the end of this game. I also
thought some of the puzzle solutions on the harder difficulty, while
challenging, could be very farfetched at times. For example, one of the puzzles
in the later part of the game required dog hair, whipped cream, and shaved ice to
make a potion that turns you into a man. I prefer it when inventory based puzzles
have a great overall flow to them and don’t keep you from progressing. An
example of this would be when you meet this fortune teller character and you
have to get five cards of the same kind. You need to do this because it will
help you solve another puzzle later on. I didn’t know about this until I found
out I needed the cards for a poker game. I then went back to a previous island
just to get the rest of the cards needed for the poker game.

Final Verdict: A treasure worth looking for!

What
else can I say about this game that I already haven’t? This is my favorite game
out of the franchise, and even though Ron Gilbert, the original creators of the
franchise, had nothing to do with this entry in the franchise since he left
LucasArts after the second game, the people behind the game showed that they
knew how to make an overall high quality product. I got my copy for about $12,
and I could easily recommend it at any price point you can get it for, complete
in box or not. It’s a shame that the series went downhill after this game was
released, as
Escape from Monkey Island
was not as well received as the previous games and halting the series for quite
some time. Either way, you should really check this game out and have some
grog. This is one treasure you will want to plunder.

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ChannelImages
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Our Verdict
The Curse of Monkey Island
Memorable characters, a fantastic sense of humor, interesting puzzles, and an incredible soundtrack.
Weak final act and some confusing puzzle solutions on harder difficulties
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Cameron Ward
Hello Gamnesia! My name is Cameron Ward, but you can call me camseyeview. I have been gaming since the mid 90’s and I still enthusiastically play video games today! I have been writing reviews for about 5 years now and have recently made a website called camseyeview.biz for my reviews and other special feature articles on gaming. I love many varieties of game genres, but I am mostly a Nintendo and Sony fan. However, I do enjoy Microsoft games also. Got a question to ask me? Have a video game to recommend for a game review? An upcoming game or game developer you want me to do a Thoughts On um, on? Ask away!

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