Lemon Head ate so many lemons he turned into one. True story.
A question that never seems to be off the tongue of the public is always that of "What is the greatest blah-de-blah of all time?" We seem to have a natural desire for comparisons of every kind no matter how mundane (urinals are, of course, a frequented hang-out for people of this sort). But despite the efforts of our ëself respect' gland to shield us from as much shameful tripe as possible, some long-forgotten, basic and primal instinct causes our palms to sweat at the mere mention of Channel 5's "Top 300 Insurance Claim Ads 2001" line up.
As sick and perverse as this behaviour may seem, the very same stunt has been pulled in the gaming world for years. While greasy, console-lusting 10-year-olds were still whining on about "Mario rulez! No, Sonic rulez!" us more sophisticated PC-goers were discussing the pros and cons of the top shooters at the time ("Quake sux! No, Duke sux!")
Of course, by now the console crowd has been left behind to bicker amongst themselves and no one really cares, however, the PC continues ever onwards with numerous award ceremonies and countless "best-o-da-best" charts - N.B. contrary to popular belief (i.e. certain *ahem* high street retailers) Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is not in fact the number one best game ever.
Why go drivelling on about all this, you moany bastard' you might say, the simple answer being that it is still the general consensus that Monkey Island, despite its matured years, is one of the greatest and most influential games ever. So bow down and get reading.
Is that a cutlass in your pocket or...
In the good old days, every self-respecting catapult-toting schoolboy wanted to be either a cowboy or a pirate. Whether this stereotype was ever impressed on Guybrush Threepwood, our rather inept sea-faring hero, is not clear but if anything is ever sure it is that he would now give his back teeth to be a respected member of the buccaneering community. So, much like the members of the Green Party, Guybrush begins his career filthy, dishevelled and attempting to acquire some sort of recognition without having old boots pelted at him.
What Guybrush lacks in ferocity, he makes up for in friendly incompetence and this fact alone ensures that the whole game runs with a light-hearted air and a distinct lack of pressure. That particular style of gameplay was yet to be made fasionable, developers didn't want humour, they wanted logical puzzles, you can't be logical and funny, it's just not reasonable. Nevertheless Monkey Island does have healthy doses of humour incorporated into it and while the puzzles may not be the most obvious or easy to solve, they give the player a sense of that long-sought-after commodity - entertainment.
Originally, most adventure games relied on the sense of satisfaction at having sorted out a taxing puzzle to keep the punters coming back for more, but MI actually tries to make them fun, not only a novel idea but a successful one at that. The comedic value of getting just that little bit further is motivation enough to keep you playing till your bladder explodes within your gut and you to drown in your own effluence. Trust me, it will have been worth it.
It's not just the situation of the puzzles that are funny, but the whole general ambiance of the game in which they are presented, the language, the feeble one-liners, the script that makes Guybrush so lovably ham-fisted, they all go together in perfect unison to make for an enjoyable experience.
Run him through!
It seems that originality was coming out of Ron Gilbert's ears when this game was in production, which is a good thing for us because while puzzles are inherent to an adventure game's core, what harm would a little innovation from time to time do? Happily, Lucas Arts came through on this front as well with a not-wholly-staggering but respectable selection of never-before-seens.
Amongst these, the most memorable would certainly be the sword fighting extravaganza which doesn't play a prominent part in the game but is certainly a good idea and is repeated in both CMI and EMI. It basically consists of have to fight your way through various ne'er-do-wells, vagrants, and other assorted hairy nomads but using a cunning system of insults and retorts rather than relying on any actual fighting skills. For example, if you were to be accosted with the insult ìMy last fight ended with my hands covered in bloodî you would, being the card that you are, reply with "I hope now you've learned to stop picking your nose".
To start with you only know one insult and answer but you gradually build up your collection and so on until you are the most fearsome felon to bear a blonde quiff. This sort of arcade feature set a trend in the majority of later Lucas Arts games and provides a comfortable antidote from the routine business of using object A on object B and just deserves a little mention for being so funky.
Other than that, the only other minor change made in the genre was that of the act system. I know it's not a very praise-worthy part of the game because it's so insubstantial but I'm still going to include it because it does give you a real sense of progression and development in the story when you have set waypoints and a new target to reach without having to consider previous decisions you might have made.
Now, I know this is normally the section where I start beefing about how bad the sound is but for once I think I'll show a little lee-way because the theme tune for MI is so damn catchy it still couldn't fail to enslave even if it were played by a giraffe with Parkinson's on a violin that had been through a steam press.
I'm also taking the CD version of the game into account, which has better sounding music than the original, and while the sound effects themselves are rarely kind to the old eardrums, I really don't care.
If you're looking for a game to split a cheeky grin over your face for a while, you couldn't do much better than Monkey Island which has the ability to entertain to a high degree and is certainly full to the brim with re-playability.