Game Over Online ~ Escape from Monkey Island

GameOver Game Reviews - Escape from Monkey Island (c) LucasArts, Reviewed by - DaxX

Game & Publisher Escape from Monkey Island (c) LucasArts
System Requirements Windows, Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 195MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 85%
Date Published Friday, December 15th, 2000 at 02:25 PM

Divider Left By: DaxX Divider Right

Escape from Monkey Island (EMI, as I'll refer to it through the rest of the review), is the latest in a series of very successful adventure games. The first game, Secret of Monkey Island, came out years ago and won a loyal following with its light-hearted fun gameplay (you can't die!) and quirky humour. Even today, the original game is still very playable and fun. Has the latest adventure captured the spirit and enthusiasm of the previous games? Read on and find out (or scroll to the bottom and read the score, you lazy bums).

EMI has taken the big step into 3D, leaving behind the pre-rendered backgrounds and sprite animation for slick 3D models. I'm happy to report that it made the transition wonderfully. Great effort has been put into keeping the same look and feel of the earlier games, so everything and everybody will be immediately recognizable. The biggest improvement is the animation. Every character is wonderfully animated and comes across as much more life-like than the earlier games. The colours are lush and the locales are full of beautiful detail. If you've played Grim Fandango, this game uses the same engine (albeit improved) so you know what to expect.

The sound also comes across very well. The music is of light-hearted Carribean fare and if you've played any of the earlier games you'll recognize a lot of the tunes. The sound is great, but it's the voice acting that stands out. Once again, you can tell when a game uses real (well-paid) voice actors, and LucasArts does. Every character's voice is over-the-top, from the evil Australian with his limey accent (no offence Aussies) to LeChuck's big evil pirate voice, to Guybrush's diminutive and slightly whiney voice. There's a LOT of dialog in the game and all the voice acting is top notch. It's one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.

The game's story picks up after Curse of Monkey Island (MI3) when you and Elaine (your wife and the governor) return to Melee Island after your honeymoon, only to find Elaine has been declared legally dead and thus no longer governor. From there, it progresses into voyaging to multiple islands in the "Tri-Island Area" and, of course, it involves the dastardly LeChuck, arch-nemesis of Guybrush who has the hots for Elaine.

Gameplay-wise, this game is fun. If you're not familiar with the Monkey Island-type adventure games, they're an interesting paradigm. The name of the game is simple fun. You don't have to worry about dying (it's impossible), all you have to worry about is figuring out the puzzles. The puzzles themselves range from relatively easy to quite tough. I must admit, on a few occasions I had to consult a walkthrough to help me progress because I was just stumped. They're all interesting and almost always involve using items in weird ways or combining items. You have to pay very close attention to what people are saying and pick up EVERY ITEM POSSIBLE because you end up needing everything. If you hear Guybrush mention something haphazardly, chances are it's something worth noting. For example, there's a part where you're on a cliff and he will mention how the birds up there look hungry. This is a big clue as to what to do in that area. If you do get stuck, it's a pretty easy task to just try combining every item with everything else, and using every item on a particular thing.

I was surprised when I passed the game - I was expecting it to go on a bit longer. It's not exactly short, and some of the puzzles might stump you for a long while, but if you're smart, you can breeze through the game in under a week. And, being an adventure game where the only challenge is solving puzzles, there is very little replay value. I have heard, however, that some of the items you pick up and don't use can actually be used in the game in semi-hidden side-quests, which might make it worth your while to play through again. Unless the rewards are pretty good though, I wouldn't be too interested in sitting through the game again.

The user interface is quite well done, it's easy to use items, combine items, and look at the world. Small details like being able to skip "chunks" of conversations with the space bar is handy. Imagine you talk to somebody in the game and you pay attention at the start, and all of a sudden you need to pee like a racehorse and you miss the end of the conversation. What you can do is talk to the person again but skip all the way up to the part where you left off the last time. You can also press ESC to get out of the current area (ie. buildings, or the town) so you don't have to run the whole way.

Now, onto the problems of the game. The control could use a bit of work. The game is entirely keyboard or joypad controlled, there is no option to use a mouse. There is a rather elegant system where Guybrush will look towards items he can manipulate and options will appear at the bottom, but I would still prefer to be able to use my mouse. Movement can also be a problem - if Guybrush hits a bounding box, on a wall for example, he will turn around. So if you're running full speed and just happen to brush a wall, you might find yourself running in a completely different direction. It's often hard to tell where the bounding boxes are from certain camera angles, and this can lead to frustration when you're trying to run across a bridge and keep "glancing" off it. Perhaps I just have crappy co-ordination, but this grew to be annoying. There is also a problem telling where exactly you can run off-screen and go to another area. This led to a big frustration for me - on the little pirate hideout area (you'll know it when you get there), you can run to the bottom left of the screen to get to another area, but if you run to the centre left of the screen, you just get turned around...they need little arrow indicators or something to show places you can "go" to.

The insult arm wrestling is pretty fun and simple to master, but I found the whole "Monkey Combat" to be a little annoying. It can be unwieldy and I don't like any system where you have to write down weird grids and tables. It was needlessly complex.

All in all, though, the bugs are minimal. The gameplay is fun but can get a little tough and/or complex in certain places but hey, that's what the Internet and walkthroughs are for. If you've played any of the other games and enjoyed them then you'll enjoy this; if you haven't played any of the other games this is as good as any to start with.

[ 41/50 ] Gameplay
[ 08/10 ] Graphics
[ 09/10 ] Sound
[ 09/10 ] Storyline
[ 09/10 ] Fun Factor
[ 09/10 ] Overall


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