Escape from Monkey Island – Strong Series of Adventure Games
Adventure gaming remains a gem, even in todays world of Quake, Half-Life, and Starcraft. Even though the genre has been tapped more than most (as veteran gamers of the early and mid 1990s are aware), todays adventure games tend to be faithful to their origins, yet fresh enough to thoroughly entertain. LucasArts Escape from Monkey Island is no exception. Not since Yosemite Entertainments Quest for Glory V has this gamer had so much fun with a third-person 3-D adventure.
For the unaware, the Monkey Island series has been one of LucasArts most-loved genres. The player assumes the role of Guybrush Threepwood, the Cosmo Kramer of pirates, if you will. His adventures have taken him from island to island in search of famous treasures, such as Big Whoop, while being chased by his arch-nemesis, the Ghost Pirate LeChuck. The series is known for its unique tongue-in-cheek humor (which both adult and younger players are able to appreciate, as the jokes resonate on a number of different levels), as well as its decidedly characteristic musical score. During its early days, Monkey Island was the comic relief in a lineup of otherwise serious games (Indiana Jones, X-Wing, Dark Forces, etc) and enjoyed much success among both Mac and PC gamers. Monkey Island II, often credited as being the best of the bunch, was the last offering that LucasArts made to the Mac faithful, however.
When Aspyr Media announced at the AspyrWorld party in October of 2000 that Monkey Island would be returning to the Mac platform, this gamer quite literally yelped with joy (I quickly regained composure, however, and looked quizzically at the people around me in a pitiful attempt to pretend it was someone else). To say that a sense of trepidation was not present would be an understatement however. Was the story up to par with its predecessors? Was the humor in step with the rest of the series? The series had since changed hands to a new creative team; just because this game carried the Monkey Island moniker didnt necessarily mean that it was deserving.
Fortunately, Escape from Monkey Island is a great addition to a very strong series of adventure games. As we join our hero, Guybrush is now the husband of Governor Elaine Marley. Unfortunately, Elaine has been away from her constituency for so long that she has been presumed dead. She is forced to campaign for re-election against a sinister opponent who bears a striking resemblance to the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. The adventure takes you across many islands, both familiar and new, and the humor is thankfully fresh and vibrant. Escape from Monkey Islands creators have abstained from recycling old jokes, while at the same time creating a game that is very aware of its heritage (off-hand references to earlier plots and characters will put a smile on the veteran player).
Escape from Monkey Island not only exceeded my expectations, but renewed my love for adventure games as a whole. The games control and feel has been executed with precision. The graphics, while somewhat simplistic with respect to characters, retain the look and feel of the genre, and look great on even a modestly-powered Macintosh. Unfortunately, the game only runs reliably under Mac OS 9, and plans for Mac OS X compatibility have been scrapped. Had a Mac OS X version been released, Escape from Monkey Island would have received an atomic 5 out of 5 rating: a true rarity. Nonetheless, Aspyr and LucasArts have a real gem in Escape from Monkey Island. If youve never played a game from the series before, or even if youre a longtime veteran, pick the game up; you wont be disappointed.