The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review

If you missed the original Secret of Monkey Island and want to relive the classic adventure, this version of the game will remind you how fun pointing and clicking can be.

Over the course of a decade, Monkey Island was the flagship series for Lucas Arts and one of the most renowned names in the graphic adventure genre. The Monkey Island games represented everything that was great about Lucas Arts titles: colorful visuals, tongue-in-cheek humor, memorable characters, iconic scenes and just joke after joke. But for the longest time, it was difficult to play the DOS games on modern hardware, so the developer came up with The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. A remake that despite having some minor missteps, is a terrific upgrade to one of the best graphic adventures ever made.

In the game, you play as Guybrush Threepwood, a wannabe pirate whose obsession for the unusual profession will take him on a journey to a forbidden place known as Monkey Island to save the governor and defeat ghost pirate LeChuck. As part of the trip, Guybrush will interact with some bizarre characters, including a hyperactive ship salesman, cannibals who spend too much time thinking about cholesterol, pirates who prefer insulting rather than sword-fighting and prisoners with bad breath.

As it’s usually the case with Lucas Arts games, interacting with unusual objects, talking to different characters and exploring the bizarre environments is part of the charm because there are jokes hiding everywhere. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments to be had, but I’ll avoid mentioning specifics, since finding them is definitely part of what makes the game so delightful to play.

In terms of gameplay, the verb-based menu is still here so traditional in Lucas Arts adventure is still here and it works fine, but sometimes you need to push several buttons to perform simple actions, such as combining to items or use an item on a specific character. The new interface is less cluttered, but learning where everything is takes some time. Solving puzzles is matter of thinking about the items you have and how to use them effectively, but clicking on everything to see if it works is still a valid option, though a frustrating one.

But what makes The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition special? Well, there are a bunch of new features that make this version the definitive one. The most obvious one is the audiovisual upgrade: there’s voice acting, added sound effects, redone music and hand-drawn high-definition graphics. I found the new voices fitting and they definitely complement the fantastic visual humor. Regarding the new graphics, the game looks outstanding and the world is brimming with personality thanks to a clean look, new animations and updated visual style. Unfortunately, black bars surround this new look for whatever reason and while I got used to them, they were distracting.

Purists interested in playing the original Secret of Monkey Island will be able to do so, since the classic game is included in its entirety. The most fascinating part is that you can switch between the original version and the Special Edition by pushing the back button and I found myself alternating between the two versions several times because I wanted to compare specific scenes.

There’s also a three-step hint system which is a welcome addition. Basically, whenever you get stuck in a puzzle, you push X to receive a hint and you can do this up to three times. As you’d expect, the first hint is vague, but they become more specific as you request more of them. Although there were definitely times when the hints didn’t help that much, I liked this new system because it makes a classic point-and-click adventure game more accessible to newcomers and veterans can choose not to use it at all if they prefer the challenge.

In the end, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition looks and sounds new while staying true to the original. Decades might have passed since the release of the original adventure game, but if you missed it and want to know what all the fuss is about or you want to relive the classic adventure, this version of the game will remind you how fun pointing and clicking can be.