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