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The Curse of Monkey Island (PC) artwork

The Curse of Monkey Island (PC) review

"Ah, the point-and-click adventure! As primitive as they may seem in the days of analogue control and full-3D environments, there’s no denying the enjoyment of a nice, slow-paced, puzzle-driven adventure. The Monkey Island series has to be my favourite point-and-click adventure series. Despite the taxing puzzles, you’ll rarely not be smiling as the games pour on their razor-sharp wit and humour at almost every possible interval. Fans of the series will be happy to know that, despite the huge grap..."

Ah, the point-and-click adventure! As primitive as they may seem in the days of analogue control and full-3D environments, there’s no denying the enjoyment of a nice, slow-paced, puzzle-driven adventure. The Monkey Island series has to be my favourite point-and-click adventure series. Despite the taxing puzzles, you’ll rarely not be smiling as the games pour on their razor-sharp wit and humour at almost every possible interval. Fans of the series will be happy to know that, despite the huge graphical overhaul, the game’s general play mechanics remain about the same, with only a few changes here and there. So is this, the third instalment in the Monkey Island series, any good? I’ll get to that later.

You play Guybrush Threepwood – somewhat of a wannabe pirate – who, after winning the heart of Governor Elaine Marley in the events of the previous two games and defeating the evil ghost/zombie pirate LeChuck, manages to accidentally save the residents of Puerto Pollo and turn his fiancé into a solid gold statue after floating into port in a rubber duck-ring (don’t ask). But, defeating an evil ghost/zombie pirate is never that easy. Oh no. Guess what? He’s now the demon pirate LeChuck, of all the darned luck! So Guybrush must gather a crew and a ship and search for a way to cure his cursed fiancé. So, it’s another chance to solve a whole load of perplexing puzzles to vanquish the evil LeChuck and so on and so on. A good a reason as any for a rollicking adventure.

The game’s slow-paced “action” takes place from a third-person perspective from a fixed camera-angle which occasionally pans left and right on some of the larger locations like the Puerto Pollo town square. Being a point-and-click adventure, you’ll be using the mouse to guide Guybrush around the various locations. Clicking the left-mouse button moves Guybrush towards where you clicked. The cursor turns from white to red when waved over an item/person if you can interact with it/them. Holding down the left mouse-button on a person or item brings up a small coin menu which gives you three possible actions to choose from. The actions are usually along the lines ‘pick-up’ or ‘examine’ or ‘talk’. Clicking the right mouse-button opens your inventory where you can combine items or select them for use with other items and characters. Through these actions you can solve puzzles to progress the story. You’re never forced to make quick decisions and you can tackle everything in your own time. The impatient gamers amongst you may be put off by this style of gameplay, but get into it and even the most impatient among you will find it difficult not to get immersed in this rather splendid adventure.

If you’ve played the first two games, the first thing about Curse of Monkey Island that you’ll notice will certainly be the massive visual overhaul that the series has been given. It’s more cartoony than the first two titles and it’s enjoyable enough even to watch. The whole game is extremely bright and colourful to match the game’s light-hearted mood. All of the pre-rendered backgrounds have been gorgeously drawn. The animation is mostly excellent with some really smooth non-playable-character movements and sequences. For a game so old, it’s quite beautiful and a real joy to watch – especially the brilliantly humorous cutscenes. The only slight annoyance I can find with the way the game looks is that some of the character models, although crisp and smooth in close-up, look grainy and jagged when far away. Even Guybrush looks a bit grainy and blurry in middle-distance, but it isn’t something you’ll be dwelling on when playing through this highly enjoyable game.

Now, of course, in an adventure such as this, the puzzles are the most integral aspect of the game. To all purposes, the whole game is just one big puzzle merged with a few cutscenes in between. The puzzles are mostly ingenious involving use of item combination and character interaction. A few of these are a little obscure but most of them are brilliantly perplexing and brain-wracking. One or two of them can seem a little random at first, but by examining everything and talking to all the characters, the clues will reveal themselves to you. All you really need is some logic and some patience. Many have criticised The Curse of Monkey Island’s great linearity in its puzzles and it is massively linear. But it is my opinion that a puzzle game like this requires a large degree of linearity to have a proper structure to hold the game together. Otherwise, the puzzles would become too haphazard and would be nowhere near as enjoyable to solve.

A few have criticised The Curse of Monkey Island for having trial-and-error gameplay. This I disagree with. Unlike other adventure games, where puzzles are unimaginative and tired, this game’s puzzles are quite fresh, enjoyable and require actual though rather than mundane, brainless familiarity with similar puzzles from other games – if you get my meaning. In other adventure games, puzzles tend to be quite easy and brainless because they tend to have that air of “I’ve done this before” about them. So, you’ll be completing them in minutes because you’ve played several similar puzzles before in other adventure games. The Curse of Monkey Island however, manages to be inventive in its puzzles but never pushes them to the point where they seem incomprehensible or random. These puzzles are never anything short of enjoyable. As a result, solving them gives a real sense of achievement. The brilliance of these puzzles is clear when even modern adventures fail to reach that balanced level of enjoyment and complexity that The Curse of Monkey Island oozes at every turn. Have you ever wondered how a pirate can get his hands on a ship simply by use of a poultry knife, a ventriloquism book and a blonde pirate with an unnatural fear of giant chickens? It’s a problem you’ll have to address in this wonderfully taxing game.

As you may have gathered, the characters in the tri-island area around Monkey Island are all-important for Guybrush’s quest. Normally, you’d think that talking to hundreds of locals would be tedious, but it’s here that The Curse of Monkey Island shows its real charm. Maybe it’s the thought of cartoon pirates making hair jokes or Guybrush’s sarcastic tone of voice, but whatever it is, there’s no denying the humorous quality of this brilliantly witty title. The humour, the wit, the reference jokes to previous Monkey Island games and various cult classics – they’re hilarious. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to be discovered and I found my sides splitting at such intervals as the Flying Welshman’s introduction to Skull Island and the various Star Wars, Indiana Jones and James Bond in-jokes (I won’t spoil them for you). Even some of the more timid jokes can’t help but bring a smile to your face. The writers and voice-actors really should be applauded for their humour and deliverance of these subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) jokes. They’ve managed to give The Curse of Monkey Island the kind of charm and humour that makes the game so utterly enjoyable that that the puzzles seem almost insignificant to the actual games despite their brilliance. It’s a real achievement to create a light-hearted mood when the puzzles are so..... puzzling.

The Curse of Monkey Island is an extremely playable game, but it does have a few faults. Waiting for Guybrush to walk across the screen might be infuriating for those wanting a quick blast of gaming. It won’t please impatient gamers as it’s definitely a game to be played in long sessions. Luckily, by double-clicking an exit to a particular location, Guybrush will instantly move to that particular location so there’s no need to watch Guybrush always dawdling across the screen when moving from one side of the map to the other. Also, “Insult Sword Fighting” which was a fun distraction in previous Monkey Island incarnations, now seems more like a chore than an enjoyable intermission to normal puzzle-solving, because it is now very simple, repetitive and unfulfilling. Luckily, this section of insult sword fighting only lasts 15-30 minutes and you’ll soon be back to solving complex puzzles again. I feel that this section is a cheap way to lengthen the game’s lifespan because there’s very little replay value after completing the game the first time (except to relive the witty humour). These complaints however, are extremely minor niggles and after you’ve immersed yourself in The Curse of Monkey Island, it’s unlikely that you’ll find these to be that irksome at all.

The Curse of Monkey Island is a delightfully enjoyable and absorbing game to play. The wit and humour on display mixed with fantastically well-worked puzzles make this a brilliant experience for nearly all who play it. Some may find it a bit too linear and slow-paced at first, but continuous gameplay will reveal a charming, humorous and immersive title that may well become one of the most enjoyable games you’ve ever played.

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Community review by ceredig (November 24, 2004)

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