LucasArts' Secret History #14: Escape from Monkey Island Screw That Guy: What Does Everyone Else Think?

Surprisingly enough, Mojo's readers have stuff to say about this game.


So, yeah, Monkey 4. I assume the smurf-like houses, the controls, the talking monkey, the robots and the sushi bar already had enough coverage, and I don't think I can add a lot to that. It's not that Monkey 4 is a bad game. It's a funny, long adventure game with quite a lot of amusing puzzles. It's just that replaying any of the other games (or playing Monkey 5 for that matter) allow me to quite easily imagine it's still 1997 and I'm still 10 years old. Escape doesn't have that effect on me. Monkey 4 is probably the biggest MI in terms of content, but the world of the other 3 (quite possibly 4 now) just felt a lot bigger. I felt there was a story behind every building, that every island had some sort of awesome history. Monkey 4 focused on one aspect of Monkey Island - being funny. And it was funny. But that was it. The world didn't feel alive anymore. Whenever I replay the game I try to give it the benefit of the doubt, and in parts of the game I can trick myself into thinking I'm playing a lovely Monkey Island-game, but the further you get in the game the more it falls apart. I remember hearing about revisiting both Mêlée and Monkey Island and encountering characters you haven't seen since Monkey Island 1, and being convinced that this would be the Monkey Island game to end all Monkey Island games. Needless to say, I didn't feel the same way when I got the game a couple of months later.

But part of me is happy that Monkey 4 happened, because without this game I doubt Monkey 5 wouldn't be nearly as good as it is now (or at least is shaping up to be). I think everyone is quite aware of the mistakes made in Escape, and everyone realised what the real essence of Monkey Island is. Not just jokes and volume. Story. Character. Atmosphere. But I think that, now that Monkey 4 isn't the last entry in the series anymore, a lot of people will soften their opinion on the matter. In the end, Escape really is quite a good adventure game. The only thing that spoils it is that it says Monkey Island on the cover instead of Sam & Max.

Byron Hooper


I remember first hearing that there was going to be another Monkey Island game on the still-fledgling internet not long after Grim Fandango came out. I remember the uproar over it being 3D, but after enjoying Grim Fandango so throroughly, I trusted Lucasarts to make another stellar game regardless of how many dimensions it was in. When they published the demo online, I downloaded that gargantuan 100+ megabyte file (twice as big as Grim Fandango's demo) over my college's Napster-choked internet connection and then installed it with expectant glee. I have a very specific memory of seeing the pirate who is firing cannonballs to demolish the Governor's mansion and thinking, "Holy crap he looks awful! It's like they melted Gumby and then painted him with pirate colors." Even though the demo was released a mere month before the release of the actual game, my growing denial forced me to chalk it up the fact that the demo was some sort of "beta" and that when the game really came out, people would look that squashed and low-res.

When I finally got the game, I found that while the models were the same as in the demo, the game wasn't all bad visually. It was a mixed bag though, as a lot of characters were very poorly designed, but the backgrounds all looked great. Guybrush himself was very well designed as were some of the more major characters (not Lechuck though... that's another sigh). The other problem with the visuals though, is that when the game brought us places we'd been in previous games, it was clear they had taken only the tiniest bit of design reference from the earlier games before just putting things wherever they felt like. It was a sign of far worse things to come unfortunately.

The biggest problems with the game have been discussed ad nauseum, so I'll keep my comments on those brief. The most glaringly obvious problem is the treatment of Herman Toothrot and the attempt to cram him a spot in continuity he never belonged in, and in fact almost every story point in the last third of the game is in some way in direct opposition to what we've found out in previous games for no apparent reason. And lastly, Monkey Kombat. I don't know what they were thinking with that.... Taking a tedious and frustrating derivation of insult sword fighting, and making the only joke the name, (an extremely dated joke at the time and wouldn't have even garnered a laugh as a throw away gag), and making it the centerpiece of not just the third section of the game, but also the game's finale!! Ugh...

What I had a problem with the most though, was Ozzie Mandrill, and the failed potential he represented. The biggest problem with Ozzie is that he starts as semi-interesting villain and his plan to "disney-ify" the pirates for tourists was cool alternative to the standard "Lechuck does bad stuff" that was the bread and butter of the series to that point. Unfortunately, Lucasarts commited the worst sin when introducing a new villain in an established story: They made him this Machiavellian schemer who easily manipulates Lechuck and is shoehorned into the backstory in ways that not only aren't necessary, but actually contradict the backstory that was given before! And then they take his villainous plot and change it from interesting (getting rid of "real" pirates for the benfit of tourists) and turn it into a standard take over the world (or just Carribean) plot, using the Ultimate Insult. Not really sure why they decided fetishize the insult concept so much either, it was a really weird decision that didn't serve the story.

I think the biggest letdown though, is that underneath all these major flaws, there was a good game! There were some really fun, challenging puzzles, and a good framework for an interesting story, at the beginning at least. It's just too bad that they couldn't have used this foundation to create a game that lived up to its predecessors.


Escape From Monkey Island... An interesting topic. Sure, it kind of destroyed the entire Monkey Island timeline (giant robotic monkey head? Come on!). But, yet, when removing the Monkey Island part, it was still a very good game. I laughed a bunch of times during it. The pink boat... The LUA bar (the name, not the actual bar)... The lava flume... Yeah, good times. As for the controls, I had the PS2 version, so it seemed fairly smooth. I didn't experience the problems the PC players had. The game was still fun to play. So, we should just call it "Escape From Donkey Island" just to remove the Monkey Island name...


  1. I even cant remember well the plot story line of EMI... I didnt interiorised any of the moments from it.
  1. Recycling the main theme song from CMI was one of the worst disappointments. And the subsequents songs from Michael Land were extremelly under the quality line of the others chapters.
  1. I always had the awful doubt that the EMI intro with the flashback with lechuck's transformations were reused from pre concept tests...

I'm glad MI had a new chance. A chance that is going to be quite great.

Nothing more to add.


Over the years I've done many things that might be objectively ill-advised. There will be some who'll say I've done these things because I was running away from something. If this is the case, then EMI may as well be the thing I've been running from.

So, thanks EMI.


I like this game a lot. I had a great time playing it when it first came out, and thinking back now, I have plenty of happy memories. The aboination of nature. The House of Sticks. The Lawyers. The duck. Exploring the islands.

It seems to me that the reason some people dislike Escape is because they compare it too directly with the previous games, as if this was the fourth chapter in a book written by one author. It's not like that at all, in reality; it's more like the fourth son of the same man. Perhaps this son has not achieved as much as his brothers, but it is not pleasant or productive to compare him to his brothers all the time. Why can't we just accept him as he is, on his own, warts and all?

I won't pretend that Escape is a perfect game -- it would have benefited a lot from more development time -- but it is good, and enjoyable, and, for me, that is enough.

Thank you, Escape from Monkey Island. I raise my glass to you.

Glo Kidd

Writing a contribution for this article has been hard. Extremely so. It is difficult because I love the Monkey Island characters so much that any opportunity to spend a bit more time in that world instantly adds a five star rating for me. Its hard to try to be objective and try to analyze my feelings about the game as by virtue of just being a Monkey Island™ title it is excellence by default.

I have often been one of the "EFMI gets a bad rap" crowd in forum topics but the flaws that exist are certainly not lost on me. I remember the first time seeing that the title of the final cut-scene was "The REAL Secret of Monkey Island" doing a spit take or something similar. Umm okay... the giant monkey robot thing was pretty different and highly unexpected, but... THE secret... Really?

That being said, none of it stopped me from replaying the game pretty regularly, I play it once or twice a year or so usually starting a trend that ultimately has me replaying them all in reverse chronological order (dont know why). That also being said, i tend to play the others a whole lot more often

For me what it ultimately comes down to Is it has Guybrush, Elaine and LeChuck, my attachment to these characters is such that the game could actually take place in the distant future on an abandoned space station full of Zombie-Midgets with high pitched yet strangely demonic voices and still be a Monkey Island. Okay, maybe not but think about it: Space Grog, Space insult swordfighting... a space rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle :D (sounds sort of fun actually)

So yeah, EFMI is an MI game so i cant help but love it but its sorta like the crazy Uncle you never want to talk about but have to deal with from time to time at family occasions.

James Humphrey

Escape is a hard one to review mainly because it polarizes the fans more than Curse ever did (depending on whether you are a Gilbert purist), such is my dilemma really. While there are some brilliant moments in Escape (the 'revelation' of Charles as LeChuck, Carla and Otis, a few bits on Monkey Island), there are also the jarring scenes, characters and concepts that let the game down. The big one for me is not really the Giant Monkey Robot and Monkey Kombat, but the attempt to bring tourism and consumer obsession into the Monkey Island world. While Monkey Island has always merged contemporary culture and swashbuckling adventure in the past games, this seemed a step too far and the Jambalaya Island part of the game just appears stripped of any real character and atmosphere that so many of the past islands have. Escape just didn't have the overall feel of the other three games and seemed to deviate so far from the original appeal of the series. It left an unfortunate end to the series for a number of years, and overall I felt slightly disappointed in this title.

Jennifer McMurray

I enjoyed Escape from Monkey Island quite a bit. It had it's share of flaws, but it is still a wonderful game. This game uses an updated version of the interface LucasArts first used in Grim Fandango. I still miss the point and click interface found in the classic LucasArts adventures, but thankfully Escape from Monkey Island has some enhancements that make the game more enjoyable. An addition I enjoyed is the welcome return of combining items in inventory. This has always been a staple of the puzzles in the Monkey Island series, so I was very glad to see that the new interface allowed this.

The storyline in Escape from Monkey Island is one of the things that turned many fans off from the game. There are a lot of contradictions here from the story set forth in the previous games, but I wasn't concerned at all about these. When you are dealing with a series that is heavily based in voodoo magic and evil curses, it's not hard to imagine how these plot holes could be realistically resolved in a future installment. The storyline was enthralling, the jokes were funny, and the cutscenes were entertaining. It was great to see LeChuck doing something other than blindly chasing Elaine, and seeing LeChuck's transformation abilities back in action for the first time since The Secret of Monkey Island was a real treat. It was also nice to see a different villain at center stage for once, with LeChuck playing second fiddle throughout most of the game.

There were only two things that bothered me about this game. First was that it included a few puzzles with strange logic. This was the same hang-up that plagued Grim Fandango. The first time I played through the game, I got through the file sorting puzzle by luck. The swamp time puzzle is the most puzzling of all. I don't think I would have ever figured it out without consulting a walk-through. The other thing that bugged me was the monkey kombat stages at the end of the game. Unlike the odd puzzles, this was cause for me to almost give up the game in frustration. The sword fighting mini-games in the first and third games were fun, but this game was not fun at all. Having to write down monkey noise combinations to do martial arts moves was tedious, and in the end it didn't seem rewarding. Thankfully, the monkey kombat parts were short and the final scenes of the game were very cinematic and entertaining, so it didn't stop my enjoyment of the game too much.


Escape from Monkey Island had me jumping up and down my seat quite a few times when it was announced. I loved Curse of Monkey Island, and by this point I had played part 1 and 2 too, which were pretty amazing too. I played the Demo quite a couple of times, and even though some things were different, I knew this was going to be an amazing game.

The first part was pretty good. There were a few times that I thought the writing was a bit simplified, some character changes, but I liked the overall appeal. When I got to the second part, that was were it really went wrong. I hated Jambalaya Island and the way the game was progressing. All the commercial situations just didn't work for me, it didn't feel Monkey Island-y to me.

I thought that when I got off Jambalaya Island it was gonna get better, but it actually got worse. The Monkey Island section just didn't work with me the way it did in part 1, the Monkey Kombat thing was a terrible idea, the monkey robot an even worse one (what the hell happened to the mushroom hell), but the worst thing was actually the person that made life bareable on Monkey Island in part 1, Herman Toothrot. The way they completely ruïned a weird, funny, zany character will always be the last drop that ruïned part 4 for me. I could've forgiven the plastic looking 3D style, character flaws and even the terrible Jambalaya Island, but this was just too much.

Fact is, if it was a different adventure game, it would've been an excellent one. The puzzles are top notch, the designs are really good, the music is excellent, the characters are lively and even the writing, though not that Monkey Island-y was pretty tight. It's just the fact that this ÍS Monkey Island. And in making the 4th title in such a popular franchise, they failed.

This is a real shame, because, as a game, it's really good. I might actually replay it pretty soon, for the first time in 8 years, maybe my judgement will soften by it...


EMI isn't terrible, though many will claim it is. I played EMI on a broken secondhand computer that gave everything pink textures - my brother and I couldn't see anything besides outlines, a few basic colors and the little text at the bottom (this added a neat little puzzle at the prosthetic shop bit, where, not only did we have to figure out what the dials signaled, but how many signals there were and why we were getting those random results). We still enjoyed the game and played it all the way through: which, I think, says a bit about the quality.

Actually, putting aside the so-so art and some puzzles that needed a few jumps in logic, I think the game is, for the most part, rather solid. It's not a pirate game, though - that's a problem - and it does have a giant monkey robot. I mean, it's funny, but overwritten. It's charming, but trying too hard. Maybe it was the environment at LucasArts at the time - the arrival of The Phantom Menace was bad news. I think that scene (sorry if I'm completely off here, I haven't seen the game in ten years) where Guybrush first arrives at Monkey Island sums it up: it has one of the greatest lines in the series - "Sometimes my life feels like an unending series of puzzles" - but then goes on, and on, while a melodramatic violin plays in the background; the scene ends with Guybrush vowing to "do it for the kids". Bummer.

So it's not a bad game, but it's not a great game either. I still recommend buying it if you can.

Matt Shaw (AKA Narrative)

  1. Hype/Anticipation So much hype and so long to wait meant that when we finally had it, it just didn't feel like MI. I think the essence of exploration, gorgeous locales and that distinctive MI style felt missing from the fourth game.
  1. Artistic style- Maybe in a way EMI was ahead of it's time. When it came out there was no denying that 3D was way to go, but with the technology of the time it just didn't look good enough. AND that's with pre-rendered backgrounds as well.

But really for me it was the plot never really excited, too many contemporary references and not enough Monkey!

Matthew Mullen

Okay, I am going to admit it... I liked this game. It's not as great as the classic lucasarts games, and it was, in many respects, it was a limp finish the end of an era in gaming. However, this game still had some enjoyable moments, and I think it is unnecessarily hounded upon by reviewers. I will admit the last third of the game was terrible and ruining continuity and everything else... however, the comedy and feel of the game were still spot on for me. I was a big fan of the "Resort Themed Caribbean" both for historic relevancy and new areas for exploration, and I think the overall storyline was bizarre yet somehow realistic enough to fit with the overall vibe of Monkey Island.

While this game is no where near as good as the recent ToMI, I still think this game has many merits, such as giving an appropriate use for the word extrapolate, Dominic's amazing voicework, and for an extended use of Murray.

I am not a purist, I did not play MI 1 or 2 until WELL after playing 3 and 4. But to this day I still believe that 3 and 4 are much more accessible to people than 1 and 2 (don't get me wrong, I loved 1 and 2, but only after playing 3 and 4). EFMI had many glaring flaws, but underneath that was a game that was funny, fun to play, and in the end, was still a Monkey Island game in a world where they are dangerously scarce.


Escape From Monkey Island...were do I begin. To be honest its not the perfect Monkey Island game (far from it) but it has some whacky charm in its backgrounds. The overall game is horrible and seems like some sort of bad joke. Speaking of bad jokes this game is full of em! Toliet and kiddy humor galour! The controls aren't bad though (their the same as Grim Fandango's) and the backgrounds are somewhat pretty. Unfortunately pretty backgrounds don't make an adventure game. All in all getting through this game is like stubbing your toe. Painful and lots of cursing (because of rampant bugs).

The Tingler

EMI gets a lot of flak for many reasons. Some of these reasons are justified - the giant monkey robot, Murray only getting a cameo, being the last adventure game LucasArts ever made internally. Others, however, I believe are not justified.

Being 3D for a start, there's nothing wrong with that. LeChuck not being the only villain, so what? The control scheme - it's an adventure game, not bloody Quake, and I personally thought it was an improvement over Grim Fandango. And so on.

I loved it. I thought it was funny, interesting, and with a doable selection of puzzles. Earl Boen also put in a much better performance this time, banishing all memory of the goofy Disney-esque performance in CMI. And Murray had four cameos, not just one, so nyeh.

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