Avast, all ye fans of point-and-click based pirating! LucasArts have finally brought Guybrush Threepwood’s second (some would say greatest) adventure into the naughties with a complete high definition overhaul. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge Special Edition is out now for Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, PC and iPhone app store, but is this remake essential gaming for any potential armchair adventurers?
For those of you not familiar with the Monkey Island series, the original games were some of the best point and click adventures ever made. Guiding “mighty pirate” Guybrush Threepwood around the Caribbean, you hunt down the mythical treasure Big Whoop, all the while battling wits with the evil zombie-pirate LeChuck. Meeting all manner of colourful cutthroat characters on your journey, a razor sharp wit will get you further than any sword. The fantastic writing of Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, some of the funniest men ever to make a video game, make every scene hilarious.
Just like the first Monkey Island Special Edition, every character and scene has been painstakingly redrawn in a high definition, hand-painted art style. The bright colours and overly stylised animations bring the game to life, an excellent achievement for a 2D adventure game in 2010. If at any point players aren’t convinced that this remake stays faithful to the original game, a single button press reverts the screen to its original VGA graphics and MIDI sound. While I wouldn’t recommend playing the whole game this way (at least the first time around, as you miss out on the fantastic character animations) it’s worth checking the backgrounds every now and then to see just how much detail this HD remake has added.
With no hardware or disk space limitations this time around, the midi music from the original game has been lovingly rerecorded with a full orchestra. From the moment you start the game, the classic Caribbean vibe of the theme tune is enough to send shivers down fans’ spines. Further adding to the immersion, a full voice cast have brought each character to life and, dare I say it, made the original script even funnier with over-the-top quips and comebacks. Anyone familiar with the Monkey Island series already will appreciate the return of Dominic Armato, who is Guybrush Threepwood, having voiced him for every game in the series. His excellent comic delivery adds even greater impact to the hero’s jokes and comebacks. On top of the excellent vocals, the three main men behind the game have recorded a developer’s commentary for key scenes, giving fans of the original an insight to the creation of the game.
Given that LeChuck’s Revenge originally fit on several floppy disks, Special Edition isn’t the longest game. A complete playthrough can be achieved in a few hours, even for players new to the franchise. The excellent hint system from Monkey Island Special Edition returns, helping gamers if they struggle with any of the puzzles. After all, with only one solution, it’s far better to keep your players in the game, rather than forcing them to the internet for help if they get stuck. Anyone that played the original game will of course finish their quest even sooner, as the answers to puzzles pop back into their minds like long forgotten song lyrics.
One of my only criticisms of SOMI SE was the fiddly control scheme, which would sometimes fail to respond to mouse clicks on the PC. In a very welcome improvement, the controls for LeChuck’s Revenge SE have been overhauled. While some purists might not appreciate the change, being so different from the original game, a streamlined wheel-based interaction system lets you do most actions on-screen, without needing to bring up your inventory. The new interface works much better with a controller too, meaning the console versions are by no means inferior to the PC.
With the HD re-imagining of Monkey Island SE being hugely successful in bringing a classic game to newer audiences, a remake of LeChuck’s Revenge was almost inevitable. The excellent gameplay, storyline and comedy from the original game has been retained, while LucasArts have managed to improve this new release by adding art galleries and audio commentary, making it far more than a simple remake. Even if you know the original game inside out, there will definitely be something new here to enjoy. As for anyone yet to experience the Threepwood phenomenon – where have you been? The monkeys are waiting…
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