LucasArts' Secret History #5: The Secret of Monkey Island Different Perspectives

Since the first Monkey Island game is engrained in so many people's mind as a "classic," it can be a difficulty to view the game outside of that status. What was it like to play when it first came out? Or the first time in 2008? And who are these Monkey Island fans, anyway?

By Captain Mystery

Odds are that if you're reading this, you're part of a group bordering on being the gaming equivalent of the Trekkies. If that doesn't bother you and it is something you consider a good thing, then you might as well skip to the next page. Whatever I have to say will fly straight past you.

Odds are that if you're reading this, you're somebody who puts Monkey Island higher than what's healthy. You will, for example, know inane facts like that the original close-up of Elaine is based on Avril Harrison. You know about the two different endings in The Secret of Monkey Island. You probably have, at some point, made a web site dedicated to Monkey Island, and even visited chat rooms on-line to talk about it. Some of you might even have traveled miles and miles to meet people who share your interest.

Odds are that if you're reading this, you're somewhat of a social abnormality.

Much like a Trekkie.

Now you can shout and you can scream, but there's more to the comparison than you might be willing to admit to yourself. We all know Trekkies enjoy dressing up like Vulcans or whatever. Think Monkey Island fans (or Monkeys as I like to call them) are any different? Think again. And while I'm unaware of any Monkey Island themed weddings, we have come frightfully close. Need more? How about the guy who wanted to build his own SCUMM Bar, much like some build life size replicas of the Enterprise? Monkey Island tattoos, that's a given. There are even movie analyses...

That, my friends, is all in the same camps as the Trekkies, and they even have about 20 odd years on the Monkeys.

All hope is not lost however. Even a crazy fanboy (I'm just going to assume you're a guy) can live a rich and fulfilling life. Just look at the Trekkies again; many of them are married. (Albeit to each other.) And hey, geek chic is the hip thing right now, as is retro gaming. There are worse things to be a fan of than Monkey Island anyway. Like the holocaust. That one is still not cool.

Plus hey, popular actor Elijah Wood (known from that equally geeky movie about jewelry) is a Monkey himself. That counts for something at least.

Doesn't it?

Mojo staffer Kroms introduced The Secret of Monkey Island to a pair of unassuming preteen cousins of his a year or so ago. Recently, he interviewed the girls about their experience with the classic game, revealing whether or not Monkey Island can have any impact on today’s younger generation, what with their compact diskettes and their musical chairs and their hopskotch. The following has been translated from Arabic:

Thanks for agreeing to do re-do this interview. How old were you when you played The Secret of Monkey Island the first-time?
Jill: Ten
Naomi: Nine.

And how old are you now?
Jill: I turn twelve in August.
Naomi: Ten and a half!

Do you remember why you first played The Secret of Monkey Island?
Jill: It was summer, and we were bored.

Naomi: Yeah. We were waiting for Harry Potter 7 and we couldn't find anything to do. SO then you came over and you gave us Monkey Island.

Jill: I didn't like it at first.

Naomi: I did! I liked it as soon as you said, "This is about pirates," and then Guybrush said: "Hi." I thought it was weird he said hi and then Guybrush forgot where he was going so I laughed. I understood it was supposed to be funny.
Jill: I didn't like that joke. I liked the game when Guybrush talked to that guy in the bar and he said: "well what's YOUR name?" and he said ... umm ...

I think it was "Mancomb Sheepgood." Or Seepgood.
Jill: Yeah! Then I laughed. I liked it then.

Did how it look bother you? The graphics, I mean.
Naomi: A little bit. I kind of didn't care after a while, I just got used to it.
Jill: It was hard to see some things with those graphics but it didn't bother me. Then again the game is older than I am.

Do you usually play a lot of games?
Jill: "Crash" in the summer. That old PS1 Peter Pan game. Umm..."Alice". "Lord of the Rings".
Naomi: "Crash" and "Lord of the Rings" only. I played Metal Gear 3 when you were not
home one time.

Did you like Monkey Island as much as those?
Jill: Yeah! I actually liked it more than I liked Lord of the Rings. That one is just: fight fight fight DIE, fight fight fight level, fight fight fight Gandalf, fight fight
Naomi: Yeah. I really liked Guybrush.
Jill: I had fun with it. I've never played a game before where you can't die (or that's what you said!), and I didn't die. It was crazy, I mean it had everything.
Pirates, cannibals, a swordmaster, the girl in distress, a dumb but lovable guy (who happens to be blonde), ghosts. I loved it.
Naomi: Stan's funny. He reminded me of that man we tried buying a used car from. [Their father bought a car a year ago and he took both girls to pick the car with him.]
Jill: "You're a man of the world. A man of blah blah." That's like that man.

What was your favourite part of the game?
Jill: Hmm. I'd like to say the part where I randomly walked around the forest and found the treasure, but that would be unfair.
Naomi: The last battle. The music is crazy and the whole thing made me laugh. I wonder what LeChuck would have done after he'd kissed the monkey.
Jill: Oh, I know! I liked the part with the idol under the water. That made me laugh, and I slapped myself in the head when I realised how simple it was.
Naomi: Ohhh and the part where it says: "No dogs were harmed in the making of this video game." Ha! You know, though, by the time I'd gotten there I was into the game so much I'd forgotten I WAS in a game. Does that make me crazy?

Not necessarily. Did you ever get stuck?
Jill: On Monkey Island. A billion times. The part with the cups.
Naomi: What cups?
Jill: The cups where you rescue the flower pirate. I think his name was "Otis".
Naomi: Oh yeah. Me: with the seagull. And on Monkey Island, like Jill. And I had to write down the sword-fighting thing, that took me a little while to get. The forest took me two days.
Jill: Ha, I beat that quickly. But I wanted to shoot that shopkeeper at one point, I don't remember when.

And who was your favourite character, and why?
Naomi: Guybrush! Because he uses root beer to kill a pirate. I also really liked Bob.
Jill: Carla the Swordmaster. She's good, she's a girl, and she wears green. In style. [Her favourite colour is green; since this interview I told her where to find my copy of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and her love for Link stemmed initially from his choice of colour in clothes.]
Naomi: I still hate you for killing Bob, Jill.

Finally, on a scale of one to ten, ten being best, how much would you rate the game?
Naomi: 9.5.
Jill: 9.0!

Flashback service courtesy of "Gabez"

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but the effects were still being felt in 1990. Change was happening: it felt that real peace could be achieved at last. Germany was reunified, America was developing a new – and previously unthought-of – relationship with Russia. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher’s iron first had ceased clenching. Europe had finally thrown off the shadow of the Second World War. It was a new decade. The new millennium was right around the corner, and with it, predicted peace, prosperity and freedom.

An optimistic forecast, then, but one that many people must have thought was at least a real possibility. In the computer world, the PC’s reign of terror had not yet properly begun, but other computer systems were falling like rain into an increasing market.

The Secret of Monkey Island is a game that both looks back to the golden past, and forward into a (perhaps) golden future. The game begins with sorrowed pirates too afraid to step outside the bar – but there is the glow of change on the horizon. There are Grog Machines. There are ships with new-fangled gadgets like the new-fangled gadgets that began to emerge in the early 90’s. There is Guybrush Threepwood who means to disrupt LeChuck's status quo.

"It seems like it's ALWAYS 10 o'clock on this island," sighs Guybrush when he sees the Melee Island town clock. And maybe it is. But 11 must follow 10, and 1991 must follow 1990: and thence we launch into peace and prosperity, or failing that, "Good Times and Free Grog." The ending of the game fits this idea: fireworks, just like you have at the end of the year. Whatever comes next will be a different chapter entirely.

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