LucasArts' Secret History #12: The Curse of Monkey Island Screw That Guy: What Does Everyone Else Think?
Mojo's readers have opinions too, shockingly enough.
Hey, come here, I want to tell you something. Come closer, it's a secret. Ready? OK. Curse of Monkey Island is my favorite of the Monkey Island games. HEY! WAIT! Where are you going??? Come back!!!!!
Seriously though, Curse of Monkey Island was my first Monkey Island Game. I didn't even know it was a series when I bought it. All I knew was that it was made by Lucasarts and was the same type of game as Full Throttle which was the game that opened the door to adventure games to me. Then I read the manual and it informed me that there were two previous games which I bought about 6 months later (along with a few others in the "Classic Adventures" pack) and taught me the glory of Lucasarts early adventure games.
One of the most striking features of course is graphics. It may only be 640 by 480, but damn if they aren't pretty anyway. The art direction of Larry Ahern and Bill Tiller is top notch and rivals that of most animated films at the time and since (traditional, 2D, 3D, any of them) and even tops some of them. Literally every single background screen and character is drawn, animated, or rendered beautifully and the attention to detail shows everywhere. Almost 12 years old and I still love firing it up just to look at it. No matter how good they were for their time, I just can't say that about any of the other games that came before it.
The attention to detail and high quality applies to the puzzles too. Mostly, the puzzles throughout the game are smart, fun, and hilarious. Even the wacky ones still make sense in a Monkey Island sort of way. They sort of fall apart at the end of the game a little bit, but I'll get to the end of the game... at the end...
I think the writing and jokes totally live up to the high standard set by the previous games. It had me rolling back in 97 and it still does today. There are a few rough spots, like the extremely extended conversation with LeChuck when you first get taken to Monkey Island. They really felt the need to iron out almost all the loose ends left by the previous two games and to be honest, I think they did a pretty darn good job tying most of the threads up, but the delivery method (the previously mentioned extended conversation) was not a great way to do it unfortunately. It would have worked much better if Guybrush had been able to find out a lot of the details as he progressed through the game, little by little, instead of one big info dump near the end of the game.
Unfortunately, as much as I love the game, even I have to admit that the complaints about the ending are almost completely justified. It's painfully obvious that they ran out of time to properly do the Monkey Island carnival and rushed it terribly. First you have an extremely long dialog with LeChuck to answer all the questions left by the previous games that really should have been revealed organically as you played along. Then you have unshrink yourself with a mildly illogical puzzle in a sequence that lasts too long in too small an area. If only we'd been able to explore the whole carnival instead of just one scene. Supposedly after that there was a sequence cut and it's very obvious because suddenly Guybrush is on the cart and Elaine has somehow escaped LeChuck with no explanation. The endgame is boring and anti-climatic, and it's a real shame because you really get the feeling that if they had had the time, they really could have made something special.
My thought is Ron Gilbert's comment about how Elaine and Guybrush would never have gotten together. Having not played or even heard of the other games before playing, I had no preconceived notions and I guess that's why it never bothered me. I can see what Ron was talking about now, but it's pretty obvious that the third in the series was taken in a completely different (lighter) direction from the original two games, especially the second, which had a fairly dark undertone of dread and fear despite the silliness and wackiness that abounded.
So ends another over-long over-analyzation.
Oh, and the voice acting and casting were perfect. Papapishu!!!
The Curse of Monkey Island has always held a special place in my heart, probably because it was the first Monkey Island game I ever played, and I instantly fell in love with the series because of this chapter in the series. Its characters are unforgettable, the visuals and soundtrack are enchanting, the puzzles are brilliant, and there really is no other Guybrush apart from Dominic Armato. Coupled with two modes of difficulty and a nonstop slew of piratey humor and ridiculous fun, this game is very close to the top of my best adventure games of all time list.
If there were to be any complaints, I would have to say that it was disappointing, after backtracking to play Monkey Island 2 a few months later, that there wasn't more of a connection between that game and this game. But on the other hand, it's almost more fun to imagine the missing chapter for yourself (and really, you can piece together what happened if you talk to LeChuck and the Voodoo Lady long enough). Also, the last two chapters wrap up the game a little abruptly after the lush, well-balanced four parts preceding them. But these are minor quibbles when you look at the overall sheer brilliance of this game. I'm not going to say it's objectively the BEST Monkey Island game, but it is without a doubt my absolute favorite. If you've never played a Monkey Island game, start with this one. You won't be disappointed.
The reason I got fully into the adventure game genre was because of this game -- seeing the gorgeous screenshots in a magazine, and thinking "this looks so different from everything else." I got the [em]Monkey Island Bounty Pack[/em] for my birthday and played the first three games interchangably at the same time. It actually worked out very well, though sometimes I would only get a joke or reference a while after it had happened.
A million years later, and CMI still looks unique, and plays like a charm. A very special classic.
This game really brought me back to the series. I played the other games in my youth and just always assumed the series died there. This revival was an amazing way to pull me back into adventure gaming. The art and music were perfect. But most of all, Dom's voice of Guybrush made and already great character into an even greater one. This game also featured a whole slew of interesting characters new and old to the game with equally amazing vocal talents. Amazing game and certainly in my top 3 adventure games list.
My strongest memory of when CMI came out has to be during the pre-release promotion when LEC released the trailer. I remember trying for weeks to find an internet connection that i could download from so i could finally get it. After having absolutely no luck i managed to talk my mom into letting me try to download it with one of the hundreds of AOL trial discs that would appear in our mail every week on our extremely old *gasp* 2800 baud external modem. Needless to say the beefy 11.1 or so MB's of the trailer taxed the limits of my... umm... bandwidth (if you could actually use that term when talking about 2800 baud :P), causing the download to drag on seemingly forever. After about an hour and a half i fell asleep in the computer chair. The next morning i awoke to a download that failed at 16% and two very angry parents. Where i live is pretty remote, because of this connecting to AOL required a long distance phone call to the other side of our province. Basically i had just been on an 8-10 hr long distance phone call, setting a house record for extremely huge phone bills that still stands to this day. I watched the hell out of that 16%
Indecently, i'm pretty sure i downloaded it from the Scumm Bar and not from Lucasarts
CMI was a pretty big milestone for me, it was the kicker to move on from windows 3.1, prompting me to build a computer for the first time in order to have a win95 machine to play it on. I can remember my joy when finally being able to play the game that i had bought months before but couldn't yet use, I don't think i have ever been as eager about anything in my life. By that point hearing guybrush talk for the first time may have been a religious experience :P
I was not disappointed, every second of the game was enjoyable. If I was to voice one complaint it would be that they completely ignored the whole *MI2 spoilers ahead* part about LeChuck being Guybrush's brother, which was backed up by being able to make a voodoo doll of the dread zombie pirate using Guybrush's own fathers skull. This was one of those things i really wanted to know about, especially after not knowing if we would ever find out for a while when Ron left the company, and it always sort of bugged me that nothing was ever said either way to support/disprove it in CMI.
The Curse of Monkey Island has a permanent spot in my top 3 favourite games of all time, with the other 2 also consisting of Monkey Island 1+2, its in excellent company. Monkey Island rocks, nuff said :P
We fast near the end. A once golden age approaches its grand culmination, the defining thesis of a proud era. That is, Grim Fandango. BUT... One final detour before we end this mad dance of Mojo and the eldern ways, once again to the Caribbean, for better or worse. But this is not the isolated, pristine island we once knew, nor does it smack of death and the occult as in its predecessor. CMI, a dear favorite of the old itinerary, makes known its joy and revelry via ambient reggae beats, tropical environs and background luxury unseen before in the second dimension, and even, perhaps, the entirety of the third. However, as with all great games, it stands alone, seperate from the dead trilogy, a reimagined remnant and last ditch effort at a happy ending, although even when lain to rest we may not let it sleep, as soon its corpse will shamble back as the nebulous and horrible EMI. But, as viewers, so often we forget that our power lies in interpretation, and our blood debt to the High Lucas Lords need not require us bow to CMI's slavering sequel. Let us bask in the relevance of the moment: It is 1996, Lucas Arts has announced its ultimate Scumm Game, and we are desperate to play.
The Game always echoed an ambience, a sort of dreamless sleep. MI2 bustled with movement, things were happening, sounds shivered through the air, be they Phatt's snores, or the growling of a crocodile, the chattering and active banter of Bart and Fink, and especially Booty Island. Conflict made its grisly presence known; LeChuck readied his fleet expediantly, and the player grasped a sense of urgency in the events rustling beyond Guybrush's understanding. Not so in CMI, the city streets are forever deserted, filled with working men preparing to meet faces which shall not come, actors forever rehearsing dull lines fallen from lofty peaks. The opening Chapter perfectly captured this idea, this Prufrockian notion of Action via Inaction, the conveyance of thought through constructive ambience. Guybrush converses with an old friend; Yes, there is a battle in the background, but ships remain distant, a sonorous glow emanates within and without, from candles lit by dead men's wax. Then, a dawning. That is, the genesis of Guybrush's adventure, which marketh the passage from day, toward the zenith, ultimately into shadow, and again renewal.
And As well, this reinvention of an already beloved saga conveys through its sandbox nature unified and splendid themes, as the player wanders aimlessly throughout Plunder Island, they may grasp the totality of a given scene, almost as an extended painting (Courtesy the fabulous Tiller's artwork), a notion only conveyable through games. The sun beams proudly and marvellously over this vibrant isle, conveying along with ambient and wonderfully flavored Reggae vibes, the altogether Rasta notion of freedom, a liberation from the tropes and traps of any other adventures. This First island of two symbolizes the slow ascent to full-fledged daylight, counterpoised by the neurotic and perplexing night haunted by roving sharks and the muddled Mr. Fossie. But above all, its defining point is the field of battle, long deserted and overgrown, rest and respite in the midst of morn.
Then, Of course, we come to Blood Island. I'm not sure what went through Tiller's head when designing this dark landscape, but its beauty is inherent from the start. It gets distorted in one's head over the course of years, you imagine greater sights not truly there. A dejected aura permeates its every cove, Griswold's tragedy perpetual, providing a sort of grim catharsis. Note that Mr. Kuter also voiced the other most tragic character in the Lucasonian canon, Dockmaster Velasco. But even this lonesome locale is not without light, be it the sad and soulful lamps of The Hotel's upper stories, (although they hide many things more than man), or the smouldering embers so gushing from The Volcano.
To Note, There is one thing here that scared me more than anything prior or since in any adventure game: The disembodied head upon Mort's wall.
But although you save the resort, conquer the gathering gloom, LeChuck's presence still binds you to long-running torment. After the beauty of Plunder and the aura of Blood, this conclusion seems almost an aftermath, a retread which can never compare to the spectacle and wonderment having gone before. The Story ends abruptly, illuminating the true greatness of the journey. A good thing too, Reggae Omens sing thee to thy rest.
So then, it is a game encapsulating the very nature of the Adventuring experience, the culmination of the game as theatre. Nothing is absent here, you make your way through fire and water, light and shadow. Bill Tiller may further evolve the Genre with his Vampyre games, but as it stands, CMI got it right. And still, the wondrous ambience which plays in the dejected Spare Room perfectly sums the game's introspective feel. Guybrush undergoes a journey toward his own nature, to point, and having pointed, click.
I love The Curse of Monkey Island. It's hard for me to decide whether this matches or tops the original two because it's so different. It's plain to see that this was made with a different team from the moment you start the game, but that's no problem for me since it's such a great game.
Monkey Island 2 ended on such a strange note (which I loved by the way) that I wasn't sure how the Curse crew was going to handle it for the sequel. Strangely, they decided not to put any plot details up front, but just started the storyline fresh. Fans did get an explanation, but that came at the end of the game. I remember a lot of reviews criticizing LeChuck's long winded speech containing all the plot points at the end of the game, instead of weaving it into the game. But, honestly, it all worked great for me. I had no problem with Guybrush writing in his memoirs in a bumper car as the only up front connection between the second and third game. And I definitely had no problem with LeChuck's tirade at the end of the game. It worked great as a spoof of villains giving away the plot to the hero before they send them off to their doom.
I enjoyed the voices of this game. Dominic Armato gave the right amount of naivity in his portrayal of Guybrush, Earl Boen was the perfect voice for LeChuck, and I enjoyed the English-accented voice of Alexandra Boyd as Elaine, but I think I prefer Elaine’s American-accented voice in Escape from Monkey Island. The only voice I didn’t like too much was Stan’s. It was too slow, and really didn’t match the frentic pace of which Stan moves.
The music was great as always, and the puzzles were among my favorites in all of the LucasArts games. The puzzle where Guybrush was swallowed by a snake was definitely one of the most absurd puzzles I've ever played, but it was also one of the most fun.
About the only thing that disappointed me about this game was the features that I read were cut from the game due to budget constraints. I really would have loved to have seen Elaine's fight that culminated in her shooting the track switch to save Guybrush from becoming an undead pirate. She was too much like a damsel in distress in this game, (although her punching Guybrush showed a bit of her previous personality).
The "Plank of Love" song that was supposed to play over the credits at the end also sounded like it would have been a lot of fun. I loved the Pirate Song (and especially the way they worked it into an interactive puzzle!), and I would have loved to have more music with lyrics to enjoy.
Still, even with the cuts, it is still one of the best games LucasArts made in my opinion. It's near-Disney quality animation make it the LucasArts adventure game that stands the test of time the best visually too.
This is the game that properly introduced me to Lucasarts. A bit late maybe but then again, I was pretty young at that time and the Internet wasn't what it is today. I had already played Maniac Mansion and The Last Crusade way before I got my hands on Monkey Island 3 but now I started to recognize the name Lucasarts. It was the game that started it all.
The number 3 was a bit of a tip-off that there would be more of these great games and it wasn't that long after my first encounter with the game that I got all three Monkey Islands as a birthday present. It started to seem like every Lucasarts game was an instant classic and it was true as far as adventure games were concerned.
The Curse of Monkey Island is a great game. It has great artwork, atmosphere, characters, everything. The ending was a bit rushed and really the only complaint I have about this game, but it doesn't ruin the whole package. As much as I like it, I can't help but wonder what Ron Gilbert would've had in store for us. Curse fits in quite well but it isn't the conclusion to the series that we might have had if Ronzo himself would've been making it. The first and second games also felt more...mysterious. The Curse of Monkey Island takes the series to a little different direction but in itself, it's just an awesome game.
I am hesitant to write about CMI as I'm afraid I'll be unable to convey how big an impact it had on me. I will concede that it's not a perfect game, but there are so many aspects of it that are perfect that it is truly greater than the some of its parts. The music, the voices, the art and animation, the humor... everything comes together. There's not a single part of it that doesn't make me smile.
I played CMI when it first came out and it left a lasting impression, but at the same time I was entering a career that put me on Macs. A few years ago I got to play CMI again with ScummVM and I realized how much I missed it and other adventure games, and now I'm actually making art for adventure games. It's like after CMI I took some detour, and then CMI brought me back to where I was supposed to be.
Some may think it's blasphemous to say, but I'd love to see the other Monkey Island games remastered with the CMI art, music and voice treatment. I mean no disrespect to the artists of the other games (and in fact, I'd love to see CMI given the Monkey Island 1 & 2 treatment), but Escape from Monkey Island would have been infinitely more enjoyable for me if it had the 2D art and animation of Bill Tiller & company. Even better, I'd love CMI to get the HD treatment like Capcom gave Street Fighter II. CMI in high def? Not that I need any more reason to play it again, but come on, who wouldn't want to see that?
Aaah the Curse of Monkey Island. The first Monkey Island game I played and also one of the first adventure games I played. Although the story is a bit simple, it's the atmosphere that will stay with you for years, it did for me anyway. Beautiful artwork, voice-acting and music, especially the artwork holds a special place in my heart (aaw).
I really miss 2D adventure games...
I had been a huge fan of point and click games, Monkey Island in particular. I was so die hard to play the original Monkey Island on CD that I had to jump around playing at other peoples house's since I only had a single speed drive at the time. When I heard Curse of Monkey Island was coming out, I was ecstatic. I could not wait. When I saw that there was a demo being packed into a pc gaming magazine, I rushed out to buy it. I tried over and over again to get more than 2 minutes into the demo, but it would always freeze. Eventually, the disc wound up destroying the 4 disc changer I had, with the disc cartridge refusing to eject. When the game eventually came out, I bought it as soon as I could and with the CD drive not working, was forced to try playing it on my father's laptop, which was not powerful enough to play the game.
This time, I was forced to wait. I refused to allow anyone else to play the game, as I had with the original, for I wanted to be the first to experience it's greatness. I continued to wait, until Christmas morning, I found a brand new PC wrapped under the tree. After opening up the remainder of presents, I worked as fast as I could to set up the computer and get everything working. And the very first thing I did when it was set was to install the Curse of Monkey Island. I then spent the remainder of the day playing through the game, ignoring anyone who was not Guybrush Threepwood.
You know, there's a lot I want to say about this game - but I won't. No words can describe how completely perfect it is. It hasn't aged at all, and I doubt it ever will. The writing, the art, the structure, even the way the game's dialogue trees were done - always making sure if you wanted to go on and listen to more backstory, or just finish the game - were all perfect. The puzzles were brilliant, the acting and casting fantastic. Don't even get me started on the music, or the atmosphere (especially Blood Island). This was the very first adventure game I ever played. It's been eleven years. And not a single week has gone by without me thinking at least once of this game.
As an eight-year old I was completely mesmerised. As a nineteen year old I'm in awe. The Curse of Monkey Island is everything that a game should be, and is a classic in every sense of the world. It's just so well done. I found it again two years ago, just sitting there at a shelf, in a bookstore of all places. I skipped a few parties because of it. Seriously, no regrets whatsoever. And it's not like nostalgia was factored in either: I don't really miss being a third grader. No, it was just the game itself: perfect in every way.
The Curse of Monkey Island was actually the first part in the trilogy (yeah, to me it's still a trilogy) I played. It was on a demo cd provided, once again, by my nephew. And it was really really awesome. It's the game that made me fall in love with the series. Later that year I got the full game off a Twilight cd (anyone remember those?).
It had the full game, without music, voices or movies. But I enjoyed playing it anyway. Sometimes I'd just play the demo to hear the voices, music and cutscenes again, and then I'd fantasyse them into the game. A year or so later, a friend of mine got it, but he accidentily bought the german version, which kinda sucked. It didn't even have the pirate song in it! But using my brains I implemented the music files into my twilight game, and gave the cutscenes from the demo the names they have on the german disc so they'd play in the full game. The intro wasn't the full games intro, but I didn't know that. After another year or so, after so much screwing around, I got the full game (in English!) from another friend of mine, which I replayed several times in Mega Monkey mode. The things you do when you're a broke kid who wants to play his favorite games, right? In the meantime, I discovered parts 1 & 2, and loved those two games even more.
Well, after this trip down memory lane, let's talk about the actual game, shall we? The writing is once again top notch in this one. Making me question how much the series depended on Ron Gilbert in the first place. The humor didn't really change, it really has the right amount of clever witty dialoque with a spark of insanity. Part 4 really let me down in this, making it feel more like a bad sitcom.
The graphics are top notch too. The great artwork by Bill Tiller, with it's curly forms and briliant color palette fits the series really well. When I was a kid, I couldn't imagine adventure games looking more beautiful than this. The graphics were so crisp, thanks to the improved resolution, and the cutscenes were just like a cartoon. Does anyone else think it's odd that this is Lucasarts only 640x480 2D Adventure game? The music is really great too, Michael Land really goes to lenght to give it a real carribean-like feel, using recordings of real instruments over a synthesizer ambience. It never really drifts of from the previous games though. Then the voices, the cast really gives a great performance. Dominique Armato's voice really gives the right amount of naïvity to the character of Guybrush. And Earl Boen is a briliant LeChuck. Some people question the english accent given to Elaine, but I think it really fits her. To bad they didn't give her more text.
Using an American accent on her in the fourth game really broke the continuïty though. The rest of the cast do really well too, with a few Lucasarts regulars and some new vocals. They really opened up a rainbow of different accents and colors for this one. All and all the game is perfect for me, except for one little thing... You see, later on I started questioning the ending, letting Guybrush get married really didn't seem to fit the character to me. Maybe it would've worked as an ending to the series, I don't know...
I'd like to end this with a side note. I'm playing Broken Sword, Shadow of the Templars again, it has gotten a Wii release, with higher resolution graphics and some new gameplay scenes. I don't think there is a game that doesn't deserve this treatment more than The Curse of Monkey Island. Imagine walking through this game with higher resolution backgrounds, more colors, crisper sound and less compressed movies. They could even animate the cutscene that didn't make it into the final game! Too bad this is only a fantasy, as Lucasarts will never look back on these games...
Out of all of the LA games, CoMI is easily my favorite. It is also the one that gets the best response when I introduce others to adventure gaming. And, when you look at the final product, it is easy to see why:
The art is incredible. I remember the first time I saw the opening sequence, my jaw hit the keyboard. The lush backgrounds, mixed with the large color scheme, mixed with the island themes. It was almost too much. To me, games had finally jumped from low art to high art. I think my overall favorite art piece is when you activate the volcano – the coloring of the lava versus the dark mansion/volcano is amazing.
The voice acting. I’ve always loved the voice acting in this game. The voice for Guybrush is spot on – cynical while also being “weak” – this also matches his character design. Every time I see a skull, I hear Murray’s voice, and part of me thinks even before this game that it is the voice I would have had in mind. The other voices – while minimal – are also strong. LA took the idea of voice acting a step further by giving people accents, on top of voices. It was a nice, subtle touch.
The story. I know most people do not agree with me, and say that MI2 has a better story, but I simply do not agree. While MI2 has a lot of plot development, the immersion factor in CoMI is higher, in my mind. Perhaps it is because of the music/voice acting/art, but I get lost in the CoMI world much more than I do MI 1 or 2.
The humor. I am convinced that CoMI is the funniest LA game. Don’t get me wrong, I love DoTT and SnM, but something about CoMI hits my funny bone more than any other game. It might be the absurdity of the game at times (caber tossing and dueling banjos?!?) or the jokes themselves (I will stroll down the gates of hell with your head on a pike!)
The length – this game is long! It seems to go on for a long time. There are many environments and people to interact with (if only for a short time). Even playing through the game as a “speed run” – it still takes some time. I definitely got the value out of this Christmas gift.
Replay factor. This game is still funny today. It still has a unique charm that I think added to the series immensely. Many people would say that CoMI is the end of the golden age of adventure games, and I think it is because this is the last adventure game they made like this. The game does not take itself that seriously, but it isn’t a crappy game, either. It is a good game, with strong elements, that you can continue to come back to.
My opinion about CMI surely goes against the grain: the game is the worst thing that could happen to the Monkey Island series. Monkey Island was a game that wasn't meant to be a cartoon for kids, it was meant to be a pirate story with a lot of humor and comedy, but definitely NOT a cartoon.
Let's start from the plot itself: it's really poor for a Monkey Island chapter, it just pales in comparison with MI2's story. It's the kind of story you can find in a Disney movie for families, and it lacks of the darkness that was present in the first two chapters.
The graphic style is half awesome and half awful: every background is surely a joy for the eyes, but the price to pay for the new look of the characters is the loss of the epic part that MI once had. The creepy feelings brought to the player within locations like LeChuck's fortress or the swamp are just long gone memoirs.
Some aspects are strangely changed in a radical manneer, e.g. Elaine again in love with Guybrush (wasn't she horribly pissed off with him in the last chapter?).
Guybrush isn't himself anymore, it's just kind of a pathetic cartoon that lost his personality, once strong. And what the hell, where did that nose come from? Anyway, a wonderful game if not considered as part of a series.
The first Monkey Island without it's original makers is actually quite good. It enjoys from many things that were very limited on the first two games; Terrific art, great sound design, amazing music (played with real instruments, mostly) and very good voice acting.
Murray is a genius new character that completely fits in the MI world. The only thing that didn't work for me is the ending, it just didn't live up to the level of greatness established by the previous installations of the series (especially MI2's greater than life ending).
Curiously enough it would seem CMI is the first Monkey Island experience for most people. Which is just like people discovering Pink Floyd after Roger Waters left or Genesis' post-Peter Gabriel era.