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The Secret of Monkey Island (Sega CD) artwork

The Secret of Monkey Island (Sega CD) review

"Let me make this clear from the beginning: The Secret of Monkey Island is a classic point & click adventure chock full of oddball humor and zesty piratey goodness. The Sega CD translation, however, does a fine job of languishing on a dusty shelf. Preferably someone else’s."

Let me make this clear from the beginning: The Secret of Monkey Island is a classic point & click adventure chock full of oddball humor and zesty piratey goodness.

The Sega CD translation, however, does a fine job of languishing on a dusty shelf. Preferably someone else’s.

If you’ve ever played the floppy version you’ll discover that the only truly cool feature here is that the soundtrack is in redbook audio and an enhanced version of the Roland MT-32. It sounds leagues better than anything your crappy old sound card could put out back in the day – now you can enjoy catchy pirate ditties, the pounding drums of the jungle, or just the distant crackles and hooting owls as you’re wandering around in the middle of the night. Unfortunately for Sega there’s also an enhanced CD edition for PC that offers the same thing.

Even more unfortunately, the transition from computer to the Sega CD leaves way too much to be desired. There’s still a brilliant game buried underneath the crap – but when you add up all the flaws it’s too much of a pain in the ass to bother with.

For starters the Genesis palette obviously couldn’t handle the original’s beautiful 256-color graphics, as the end results are pretty good overall but noticeably washed out, grainy, and too dark. There’s no mouse support either and a gamepad isn’t nearly as comfortable, although it’s not really that big of a deal unless you’re still using those massive three-button things for some reason.

But then there’s the fact that we’re stuck with a single-speed CD-ROM drive, and the implications of this should be rather obvious.

* loading *
* loading *
* loading *

Switching to the next screen usually takes anywhere from 24 to 40 seconds as you constantly stop and enjoy the wonders of an empty black screen with only a watch icon and the CD drive’s frequent whirring for company. It doesn’t end there, of course: there’s also:
– a lengthy interruption between cut scenes
– massive slowdown whenever there’s a bunch of sprites moving around or you’re attempting to scroll across the screen (or both, as in the SCUMM Bar)
– a short delay just before you’re given a choice of responses in the midst of a conversation
– a few stutters whenever the audio track loops
– there’s even a noticeable pause as you snatch up an item.

Did I mention that this game has an awful lot of loading? Because it does.

Should you understandably become weary of all this nonsense, you’ll be treated to a saving system that occasionally even manages to save something. Pausing the game reveals a simple four-digit passcode which does little more than remember a few major items and events (like, say, having completed one of the three trials) while casually resetting Guybrush’s current location and all his conversations along with EVERYTHING else he may have been carting about.


Suppose I find myself in the middle of a forest carrying a gleaming pile of money, a leg of meat, a herring, and a handful of yellow flower petals – maybe even a “treasure map” – when suddenly I realize that we’re all going to die, I’ve wasted my life, and I desperately need to flee into the beautiful day outside while screaming at the top of my lungs. Naturally I pause the game and record my password. After taking several deep breaths, entering this code and subsequently waiting the requisite minute and a half for the game to load, I discover that I’m back on the first screen carrying only the money, meaning I get to collect all those items all over again.


This makes for particularly great fun during the countless swordfights, what with all those pauses in between every single dialogue prompt and being required to do them all in one sitting. Unless you already know how to solve the puzzles you can expect plenty of backpedaling to recover lost progress. Maybe the passwords are easy to record and re-enter at a mere four digits, and maybe the Sega CD’s internal RAM isn’t exactly expansive, but it probably would have been a worthwhile trade-off to considerably lengthen the passwords in exchange for their, I don’t know, ACTUALLY STORING SOME DATA.

Don’t be suckered by awesome ports like Maniac Mansion on the NES – at a glance Monkey Island on the Sega CD look like a pretty faithful translation but in reality it’s no fun at all. Shell out the extra cash and track down Monkey Island Madness (featuring the first two games on CD) so you can play it in DOSBox instead.

sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (June 29, 2005)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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