The Curse of Monkey Island

Developer/Publisher:  LucasArts Entertainment
Year Released:  1997

Review by Rosemary Young (December, 1997)
curse.jpgWell, a message of good tidings for all the would-be pirates out there. You can relax, roll out the barrel and have yourself a grog -- or a lemonade, as the case may be :-) Although it will inevitably have its critics from amongst Monkey Island devotees who are impossible to satisfy, The Curse of Monkey Island is, nevertheless, a very worthy successor to the previous games. And, as a bonus, it is sure to capture a whole new generation of Monkey Island fans.

It's all back with a vengeance. The humour is there, so are the meddlesome monkeys, the magnificent galleons, the fearsome pirates, the terrifying vegetarian cannibals and a host of other familiar characters from the previous games. Even with the new-look graphics, Guybrush Threepwood is just as cute as ever he was.

Deja vu
Of course, you don't need to have played The Secret of Monkey Island or Monkey Island II: Le Chuck's Revenge to appreciate this delightful swashbuckling adventure, but if you have then this one is sure to bring back memories. Now I dare not give a single thing away here, suffice it to say that you'll be endeavouring to undo a curse of your own making and, immediately you escape the predicament you land yourself in at the beginning of the game, the deja vu experience descends. It works particularly well, and I found myself having a quiet chuckle when I learned of the first tasks to begin the quest ... to procure a ship, a crew, and a map so that Guybrush can set out on his adventure. Ring any bells?

The game is divided into 6 parts of varying lengths, each one introduced by an amusing cartoon sequence that moves you into the next part of the story. The game playing area is now full-screen, and the game world is magical with beautifully coloured graphics and lots of quirky characters. There's a quaint village to explore (along with several indoor locations) as well as sun-drenched beaches, creaking galleons, lonely lagoons, creepy tombs, and many other locations, all brought to life by some well chosen music and lots of delightful animations.

Open your eyes and ears
My advice, cut a few sandwiches before you install this game because you won't want to stop for lunch. There are, literally, dozens of weird and wonderful items to collect and an equal number of trials to overcome that are just as weird. Near the beginning of the game it's great fun proving yourself a worthy captain in order to engage your crew, and getting hold of the living map is worth a laugh or two. Not to mention dealing with ferocious cannibals, playing dead, and the numerous other feats you must accomplish later in the game. And, yes, you will have to sharpen your wits once more as the 'swashbuckling' contests are back and, just as before, it's your sarcasm rather than your sword that requires careful honing.

The swashbuckling contests occupy one section of the game and are accompanied by arcade-like sequences where you must manoeuvre your craft and battle other galleons. These bits are bound to entertain younger players and are not overly difficult. You can even opt out if you want and ask for your crew's assistance, which makes the going so easy that it shouldn't deter game players who despair when arcade sequences creep into adventure games.

Needless to say, you must also hone your senses to succeed in this adventure and give your imagination full rein. Clues abound, but only if you watch and listen for them. This means that there are clues in descriptions of persons and items and, much to my great relief, you can enable text subtitles so you don't miss a single thing. Even the opening sequence has subtitles, but you do have to enter the game first and enable this feature before you will get them. The dialogue is thoroughly entertaining and it's worth exhausting every conversation, not only to extract all the clues, but also to get some extra laughs. And watch out for all the quips taken straight out of Lucas Films such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Getting things done
As well as undergoing a complete transformation in the graphics The Curse of Monkey Island is also blessed, or cursed (depending on your point of view) with the new LucasArts interface a la Full Throttle. So, unlike the older games, there is no verb list to select from to carry out actions. Instead, holding down the left mouse button whilst the cursor is over an object will display a small graphic allowing a limited choice of actions ... pick up or push, look, and talk (occasionally eat or taste).

In my opinion this new interface isn't quite as intuitive as the older style interface but this opinion may be influenced by my preference for the older one. It does take some getting used to, and for players like me who like the extra involvement of more action choices, it's a bit disappointing. However, the puzzles are crazy and entertaining enough not to suffer too much from the effects of this change.

A game for everyone
The game has two difficulty levels so it's a very good choice for novice players. The 'Mega Monkey' option, which is the most difficult, is not incredibly mind-boggling, but the puzzles are zany and twisted enough to keep even experienced adventurers guessing on a few occasions. I found myself knocking at the proverbial brick wall several times so my self esteem suffered a blow when I heard that some players completed it in a day. Don't worry, I didn't achieve this amazing feat and, in any case, this game isn't a race, it's one to be savoured ... try everything on everything or you'll miss out on loads of fun. And expect to be thwarted time and again just when you think you have the answer to the current problem, because there's always an extra hurdle to jump.

You've probably guessed, I'm quite partial to this type of humorous graphic adventure with lots of crazy puzzles and quirky characters. It's the type of game that all the family can have a wonderful time playing together. Though I must point out that this series is about un-dead pirates and things that go bump in the night so it has a good sprinkling of skeletons, coffins, etc. Staple stuff for lots of kids these days and, of course, all very amusing ... but, just in case, you have been warned :-) And, I must admit, I was hoping that Elaine would exhibit more of her feisty independence at the end of the game and contribute something to help out, but much to my chagrin, she remained pretty much 'tied up' till the final sequence. The role of helpless damsel in distress just didn't fit. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Pentium 90 or faster, 100% Windows 95 DirectX compatible computer, PCI Graphics card, 16MB RAM, Quad speed CD-ROM drive, 100% Windows 95 compatible 16-bit sound card, 2 MB free hard drive space. Additional space required for saved games.100% Windows 95 compatible keyboard and mouse. Microsoft DirectX 5 is included and must be installed to play The Curse of Monkey Island.