Who knew that traditional point and click graphic adventures would come back with such a vengeance? This is a genre that laid dormant for well over a decade, doomed to be a footnote in the long history of great video games genres. But all it took was one or two high profile adventure games to put the genre back on the map. And now that graphic adventures are chic again, LucasArts has decided to cash in on some of their classic titles. Their newest entry is none than a remake to the 1991 classic, LeChuck's Revenge.
In Monkey Island 2 Special Edition, you play Guybrush Threepwood, the quick-witted hero of Monkey Island. When we last checked in with Guybrush he was saving the girl of his dreams from the ghastly ghost pirate, LeChuck. Thankfully he prevailed, defeating the ghost pirate and saving the girl. But don't get too comfortable, because Monkey Island 2 (and pretty much every horror movie ever made) proves that it's hard to keep a hate-filled ghost down. LeChuck is back and he has a bone to pick with Mr. Threepwood.
Although this sequel is called LeChuck's Revenge, the reanimated baddie doesn't have much to do. He's only in a few cinema scenes, leaving most of his screen time for the last ten percent of the game. Instead of dealing with LeChuck, much of your time is spent tracking down map pieces and coaxing the colorful cast of characters to help. You'll also have to compete in a spitting competition, out drink the locals and make a corpse rise from the grave. Needless to say, it's going to be a busy day.
Monkey Island 2 plays out much like all graphic adventure games; you pick up items and solve puzzles. While the original game employed a point and click gameplay mechanic, this retrofitted version puts the character control on the left analog stick. You can still move your cursor around using the right analog stick, which is also how you choose which actions you want to take. Fans of Telltale Games' newest console games will feel right at home with this redone control scheme.
Of course, it's not the new gameplay that makes this game stand out. Monkey Island 2 Special Edition looks phenomenal, especially when paired with a nice HDTV. All of the characters, backgrounds and animations have been redrawn to take advantage of the higher resolutions. Gone are the pixels from twenty years ago, this remake offers stunning hand-drawn artwork. These aren't polygonal characters and pre-rendered backgrounds, the whole game looks like a painting or the illustrations out of a children's book.
To hammer the point home, LucasArts is giving you the option of playing the remake or the 1991 original. What's especially impressive is that you can switch between these two versions on the fly, simply by pressing the "back" button. I found myself constantly pressing the button to see the before and after pictures, constantly impressed with what the artists were able to do. Being able to switch between versions with no noticeable break in the action should be standard in this type of remake; it really elevates an already spectacular game.But it's not all good news for this remake. While the controls are generally good and you'll never have a complaint about the graphics, the game does have a few annoying hang-ups that get in the way. For one thing, Guybrush gets stuck on everything. He's a sluggish character that can't seem to step over a pebble in the road. He's constantly having problems walking in a straight line, which can really take you out of the experience.
It's also frustrating to see the time-based puzzles return. It would be one thing if these puzzles were more forgiving with their time limits, but players will constantly find themselves being pushed prematurely. In an early example players are asked to sabotage a character's room before he gets back. Unfortunately you only have a few seconds, which doesn't give you much time to figure out what you're supposed to do. Assuming you're playing this for the first time, it may take you three or four tries before even grasping what the computer is asking for. Much of this frustration could have been avoided if they extended the time limit.
It goes without saying that the funky graphic adventure logic is in full force. Many of the puzzles require nonsensical solutions, some of which aren't very clear. Monkey Island 2 gets away with some ridiculous logic because it's inherently funny. Even when you're slamming your head against the wall in frustration, you can't help but laugh at the absurd writing. This remake also adds voice acting, most of which is delivered with solid comedy timing.
The good news is that Monkey Island 2 is a lengthy adventure game with intriguing twists and turns. Throughout the course of the game you'll travel between four different islands and talk with more than a dozen interesting characters. The whole thing can last four to eight hours, depending on how good you are at solving the puzzles. I'm sure somebody can speed run through the game in an hour or two, but there's no question that Monkey Island 2 Special Edition offers enough content to support the $15.
LucasArts knows that pirates are cool, even if there's no swashbuckling and sword fights. This world of tropical islands is fully realized with exquisite detail and an art department that doesn't quit. Throw in the option to play the original game and you have a worthwhile package. It may have a few problems here and there, but Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck's Revenge is a must-own game for anybody who likes graphic adventures and wants to laugh.