ESCAPE FROM MONKEY ISLAND
Taking adventuring one step further
By WILLIAM BARKER
Seems like Escape from Monkey Island got lost at the bottom of the 'to
do' list during some vital restructuring (aka. extended Counter-Strike
and Red Alert 2 sessions). But, we got around to it. And you know what
they say - better late than never. They also say never look a gift horse
in the mouth, but I never met a gift horse, only a Shetland pony.
Escape from Monkey Island, a member of a dying breed of game, is likely
to be ignored by gamers when browsing the shelves of local software retailers.
Why? Because no one plays adventure games anymore. More importantly, no
one buys adventure games anymore.
Whose fault is this? Mine? Yours? The FBI's? No, its Tamagotchi actually,
but let's not dwell on that one. For those who get a thrill from ye olde
gameplay of yester yore, Escape from Monkey Island will be just the ticket.
Like all good long-running series, it retains what made its precursors
so much fun, yet adds enough for it to be fresh and entertaining.
The plot follows the exploits of the wisecracking wimp, Guybrush Threepwood.
This time he's in a little situation. Well, change the word little with
life-threatening and situation with blood bath. That's a slight embellishment
of the truth - Guybrush is now married to Elaine, who was once governor
of Melee island. Now, some other jerk-ass is trying to muscle his way
in. A simple story on the outset, but layered like an onion as you get
closer to the core.
The game ditches the generic mouse interface in favour of a Grim Fandango-style
arrow key affair. This way, you must navigate by rotating your character
left and right walking forwards and backwards.
Whether or not the
old mouse-over interface would be more efficient is debatable but, as
it stands, the game is still very playable. When you approach context-sensitive
objects, areas or people, Guybrush will turn and face it. You hit the
action key and he'll do something basic (not toilet functions).
Just say you are
walking along and the main-man Threepwood's eyes swivel (evil Furby style)
to face a pole. Push the action button and he'll shag it - the default
action. You can also open your inventory and use an item with the pole,
perhaps a chainsaw, or simply examine the pole where a sly hint may be
dropped. "This pole leads to the treasure room. You can't climb it, but
a rope may come in handy…"
Progression has always been a sore point in adventure games. Some titles
involved puzzles that were just so insanely obtuse, figuring them out
was usually a case of trial and error with every conceivable variable,
item and character. Escape from Monkey Island comprises a number of interesting
and generally cognitive riddles, which are difficult, but just enough
so as to reward the player once completed. But it's not without those
few bizarro killer puzzles.
Visually, the game is fantastic. Not in a special-effects, gourad-shaded,
texel-mapped hoo-ha way, but rather in an art direction and backgroundy
way. Everything is very cartoony and full of life and there's no clipping,
no jagged edges. Complementing the vibrant visuals is some of the best
speech experienced in a game. Threepwood's voice is strangely soothing
and never gets dreary. Some of the other characters are a bit dry, but
most only have bit-parts, so it's all smiles in the end.
The game is quite hefty and even the most experienced of veteran adventure
gamers will find weeks of goodness within. 'Tis a pity we didn't review
this one earlier as it really is a tasty little diversion from countless
action games. Lucasarts still has it, but does anyone want it?