There are few studios in the history of the point and click adventure games with a higher pedigree than Lucas Arts. Having a golden period in the late 80s and through the 90’s where they were the undisputed leader of the genre, they made classics like “Maniac Mansion”, “Full Throttle”, and “Grim Fandango”. However the game they are probably most known for is “The Secret of Monkey Island,” and I’m playing through it for the first time. It’s a great example of the unbelievable development and writing talent that was working in that studio. I am having a blast playing it and genuinely find it hilarious, I wanted to give my impressions after going about half way through it.
I’ll start off with the obvious first, the game is hard, especially when you are used to more modern puzzle games. There’s a lot of times where it’s unclear what to do and you have to begin clicking everything and anything for the way forward. But that was expected back then and really it’s kind of charming now. I love the world that they have created so spending time in it, trying to find out what do next, is fine with me. It’s also very satisfying finding the solution after searching and the answers to the conundrums you face are always clever. One of my favorites in particular is near the beginning of the game. You come across a bridge, naturally it’s guarded by a comically out of place fantasy troll. He says you can only pass if you give him something that stands out but has no meaning. So you leave – having nothing like that in your possession and then later when you come back, you try to give him all of the things you’ve collected. Nothing seems to work until you come across that rotten redfish that’s seemingly useless for all other puzzles. The troll takes it eagerly and says “Ah a red herring.” You are then allowed to safely pass.
Clever writing like that is a staple throughout this game, it’s so consistently well written and clever through the entire experience. The main character Guybrush Threepwood is a stranger in a strange land, he absolutely wants to be a pirate but he has not a single idea how to do it or the personality to handle it. He is overly polite sometimes and a downright idiot most of the time. The unlikely heroes story through the world of pirating and his confrontation with Lechuck (The games undead pirate villain) is completely entertaining. It’s supported by an absolutely wonderful set of side characters and people to talk to. The whole game is a farce which is a refreshing change of pace, there’s not enough of these kind of stories happening in games nowadays. Just to give an example of how ridiculous these characters could be, the first building you walk into has a brain dead pirate who can only talk about the next game coming out for Lucasarts. He has a little sticker saying “Ask me about Loom” and that’s the only thing he responds too. He’ll be dead quiet but ask him about Loom and he’ll give a whole spiel about it with a blinking message at the bottom “ADVERTISEMENT.”
The game does not attempt to keep any realism or respect the pirate setting at all. The pirate spin is really just a set up for the story and the jokes. They break the fourth wall constantly and often make fun of pirate fiction. The player might visit a used pirate ship salesman and drink from a grog vending machine or a pirate might tell Threepwood to speak in more pirate lingo because he needs to play along. Also the locations you visit are really unique and the pixel art in this game is really gorgeous, especially the first opening shot of the game (which is the first picture). It seems everyone in the team was top of their class, the visuals are beautiful, the limited music is great, the writing is impeccable. As you might be able to tell, I’m really enjoying it so far and I can’t wait to finish it. I’ll give another update after I see it through to the end.