After a warm reception to The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, it was a no-brainer for LucasArts to give the second (and best) game in the series the special edition treatment. This time though, they had plenty of fan feedback to use when reworking the game. Lucky for all fans of the series, LucasArts has taken that fan feedback to heart and added several new features to the game this time around. Combined with what appears to be a more faithful and polished representation of the original game in hand painted, high definition backgrounds, should mean a great experience for fans of the series both old and new.
I was shown the Xbox 360 version of the game at this year's E3, while producer Craig Derrick (who loves Mixnmojo) talked me through it. While the game noticeably had the smallest area in LucasArts's room, it was no less impressive-looking on its high definition screen.
The first feature that was new to me was the ability to directly control Guybrush. For newcomers to adventure games, this should be a much more natural control scheme, especially on consoles, where the cursor-based movement in the first Special Edition was a little clunky. Luckily for old time players, this is purely optional and the traditional point and click method is still available in both the original and Special Edition versions of the game.
Another new feature the game is sporting is a streamlined verb system for the Special Edition version. Rather than showing players all possible options for interacting with an object or person in the environment, it will only show those that will give a useful response. This is another feature that makes the game easier to control on the console versions. Once again, the original edition remains unaffected.
Going with the theme of making the game more accessible to as wide an audience as possible, LucasArts has made the game's hint system even more extensive. While it is hard to believe, apparently the giant arrows pointing towards objectives in the first Special Edition were not enough for some players new to adventure games. So to help out these players, separate from the hint system, a button can be pressed to highlight all objects on the screen that players are able to be interact with.
“You can consider me excited.”
LucasArts certainly hasn't catered the game completely towards new players to the series: the game features developer commentary, Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. Mojo readers will recognize the voices and silhouettes of none other than Dave Grossman, Tim Schafer, and Ron Gilbert when this feature is enabled, which is done seamlessly during gameplay with the press of a button. Not only is it exciting to hear what they have to say about the game 20 years later, but it is great that they are on good enough terms with LucasArts these days to collaborate on something like this.
Perhaps the most demanded feature from the first Special Edition was the ability to play the original version of the game, but with the new voiceovers. Well LucasArts has heeded this request, and now the original game can be played with or without voiceover. While it is a very simple feature to add to the game, it is great to see LucasArts give their longtime fans what they want.
The last bit of the game that must be commented on is the updated visuals. It can be debated to the end of time how faithful they are to the original artwork, but there is no question that LucasArts has seen some of the complaints about the first Special Edition's artwork and made sure that those problems do not exist in this one. While I have not seen this game from start to finish, and so cannot say with absolute certainty whether there will be complaints made of it or not, the look I was given appeared to be very polished. If you're still not convinced, just check out some of the screenshots dotted through this article.
Even if none of the new features interest you, the game can of course be played in its completely original state. It really has something for all types of fans. While it seemed to have the least interest from other media out of the games LucasArts was showing, I was still very impressed by what I was shown, and you can consider me excited to get my hands on it.
The game is being released on July 7 for Mac, PC, Xbox Live Arcade, and PSN, as well as "other platforms" hinted at by Craig Derrick, likely meaning an iPhone and iPad release shortly after the game's initial release.
Our man in Havana:
Jeff "The Mole" Moeller
Jeff "The Mole" Moeller