Gamestyle Archive intro: Back in 2001 the arrival of Escape from Monkey Island on a home console felt like a novelty and it probably would still be the case today. Such games have fallen out of fashion yet offer a unique, challenging experience.
Published: July 2001
They say its good to have a change of pace and to try something different once in a while and this is the case with Escape From Monkey Island. Brought to the PS2 by Lucas Arts it does not thankfully feature any Star Wars characters instead this game comes from their highly praised adventure series, Monkey Island and is the latest instalment. Very much a stronghold of the PC, this type of adventure does not rely on guns, action or explosions. Instead it draws on the company’s film experience by bringing a compelling plot, character design, clever puzzles and mixing it all together in one package.
One important element of the series is the humour on offer throughout and you can get a taste of this from the plot outline below. We need more humour in videogames for sure, Conkers Bad Fur Day being the only recent example. The voice acting in the game is excellent, perhaps the best yet on a console and should be the benchmark for all other games. The Monkey Island series started in 1990 with the secret of Monkey Island, and then LeChuck’s Revenge followed by The Curse of Monkey Island. There is obviously a lot of history before the game we have on review here. I had some experience of the previous games but as it’s a straight conversion many of the in jokes will go over your head. To its credit Escape From Monkey Island is a good enough game in its own right not to be affected by this as its very much a new adventure rather than a side story. Conversations with former crewmates who would like to see you dead and have a fear of monkeys will not make much sense to the uninitiated, as will later segments.
You are Guybrush Threepwood, the hero or bumbling baboon (depending on your point of view) of the series. The instalment begins after you lucky enough to marry Elaine Marley the governor of Melee Island after dispatching the evil demon zombie ghost Pirate LeChuck. When the couple returns from their honeymoon Melee island has taken a change for the worse. Many locals have been forced out of their homes by a sinister Australian land developer called Ozzie Mandrill who now has his sights set on the Scumm Bar. Believing that Elaine Marley died many government changes have taken place including the proposed destruction of the Governor’s mansion and strict law enforcement all under the guidance of the power hungry Charles L Charles. Its down to you to prove your wife isn’t dead and return Melee Island to its original state but its not going to be easy.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward as its roots are in the PC point and click genre. Shame that the PS2 USB ports have not been taken advantage of to provide a similar method of control but instead the analogue stick is acceptable. You can navigate the island by using the main map, enter most buildings, interact with every character and engage in some unique activities. Menus feature heavily in the game but these are straightforward and do not encroach on the gameplay unlike those found in the Bouncer. By pressing a key you will bring up several possible actions, each with a different response and its very a case of much trail and error. Talking to characters will offer you several phrases each again with a different response. If you are trying to obtain information you will of course have to take the correct approach but you can have some funny conversations. If you did everything by the book you would miss out on half the humour and wonderful moments. A guide for instance would offer the best combination of insults for the insult arm wrestling match in the Scumm bar, why not try them all out for fun? As the game isn’t time or lives based, you can take it at your own pace, explore and try all the possible connotations and needn’t worry about dying. Although the speech is excellent you may prefer the speech text or perhaps both but please try the former, as it really is superb.
Puzzle based games can be frustrating at the best of times but I would recommend that you do not use any guide. Not only would it shorten the length of the game but also you would miss out on so much. The puzzles in the game are more cryptic and challenging that those offered in Resident Evil or similar console games but once solved without a guide prove to be extremely satisfying. A tip I would offer is that every item in the game is there for a purpose – sometimes not a very obvious use I agree but pick them up as you will need it later. So how does an old PC game make the transfer to the 128bit monster that is the PS2? The answer is very well; in fact compared to Onimusha Warlords Escape From Monkey Island is superior in every respect. The artists at Lucas Arts have created a beautiful pre-rendered 3D world, lavish colouring and high-resolution helps to immerse you in the game. The game has been given a major overhaul and is streets ahead of its original version, cut scenes being a prime example.
The presentation is of a high standard again when it comes to the soundtrack and sound effects. It is strange that a similar amount of time, effort and respect hasn’t been given to the many Star Wars titles we’ve endured over recent years. Not everything is perfect however, this genre does not appeal to everyone and perhaps the challenges on offer will be too much for some without a guide. Once completed the game is over, the replay value like most RPG’s is of a fairly limited nature.
Gamestyle Score: 8/10