The Secret of
When I first played The Secret of Monkey Island it was obvious the game was designed as much for fun as for nail-biting adventure. That it manages to provide a healthy amount of both is testament to the resounding success of its design. "We believe that you buy games to be entertained, not to be whacked over the head every time you make a mistake," reads the game manual. "We think you'd prefer to solve the game's mysteries by exploring and discovering, not by dying a thousand deaths."
They got that right. Blessed forgiveness is only one of several virtues that make The Secret of Monkey Island such a thoroughly delightful adventure game. It loses none of its edge in excitement or challenge by offering multiple chances at success, and in doing so it gains a friendly accessibility that keeps it from becoming frustrating and irritating the way other adventure games can sometimes be.
The game begins on Melee Island, where amiable goof Guybrush Threepwood has come to seek his fortune by becoming a pirate. The first stop is the Scumm Bar, where Threepwood endures the first of many cracks about his silly name and learns firsthand from three important-looking pirates what he must do to begin a life of robbing and pillaging. In very satistying detail, the adventure-game hero gets to dish out as many wisecracks as he takes. "You're a bunch of foul-smelling, grog-swilling pigs!" Threepwood can bark at his pirate mentors.
In your role as a pirate wannabe you've chosen the marauders of Melee Island to be your mentors. But there's one catch - none of these pirates is willing to sail the high seas, much less pillage or loot. They're all scared stiff of a stiff - the ghost-pirate LeChuck, whose spirited ship still rides the waves of the Caribbean. So the pirates swill grog in the local tavern while the treasures of the world go un-plundered, the armadas of the seas go un-molested, and the lasses of the country go un-kissed.
Find out about LeChuck by talking to the drunken pirates, then chat with the important-looking pirates in the back room to learn what tasks you must complete before the scalawags will take you under their wing. The three trials they assign - becoming a master swordsman, discovering the lost treasure of Melee Island, and stealing the Idol of Many Hands from the Governor's Mansion - must be completed before you can leave the island. But, no sooner do you fulfill your tasks, than you find that every pirate on the island has flown the coop. LeChuck is on the rampage again, and this time he's kidnapped lovely Elaine, the only governor who makes your heart beat faster. You must scramble to buy a ship, assemble a crew, and follow LeChuck to Monkey Island. Your goal on that isle is to find the key to the Monkey Head Temple. Somewhere in the caverns beneath the temple is LeChuck's ghost ship - and your one chance to stop LeChuck from marrying Elaine. Just how all this can be accomplished is what you must discover.
One consistently strong impression Lucasfilm releases provide is a distinct visual style. In Monkey Island Threepwood moves briskly through an impressively cinematic graphic landscape. Melee Island's village looks cartoonishly ominous beneath a lovely, star-strewn sky, with shady pirates and their pet rats hanging out or roaming the streets. Back in the island's inner recesses, there's an impressive circus tent glowing with inner light and a dimly lit shipyard called Stan's Previously Used Vessels. Unexpected and humorous touches abound in this fantastic title.
Designed by Ron Gilbert, who introduced players to the offbeat worlds of Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken, Monkey Island keeps the outrageous sense of humor of those games, but is more accessible to players. Not only do events progress in a more logical sequence, but Gilbert has added the dialogue choices first found in Lucasfilm's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to the company's then-familiar point-and-click interface. The result is a faster-moving game with more action and less cursor-moving, an excellent example of the evolution of Lucasfilm Game's design ability.
Monkey Island also continues to reward those people who have played other Lucasfilm games by lacing the action with references to Loom and Indiana Jones (and, of course, Chuck, that perennial Lucasfilm character). It's truly a perfect family game of nonstop fun: All that's required is a knowledge of what to do when you're handed a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle. The game is good fun and will have you laughing as you study to become a high-seas terror, so hoist the mainsail and post a lookout. For cutlass-swinging adventure, Monkey Island is somewhere on your horizon.