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The Secret of Monkey Island (DOS)

90
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.2
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Boston Low (92)
Written on  :  May 21, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars

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Summary

Yet another review for THE Adventure... someone has to do it

The Good

Back in the Old Years, an adventure game came and boosted up the genre, a bit closer to the qualities of the later games.

Monkey Island is a great game, almost in all aspects. The first thing you ever see it's graphics, and graphics is where it was breakthrough. The backgrounds for example, previously were flat, and now obtained depth and perspective. Sometimes they were immersive (like outside the Mansion, or the cannibal village). The sprites were not something impressive but they were adequately drawn as semi-cartoony. The dialogue close-up portraits were the first photographic quality images to enter an adventure (AFAIK).

Your sprite now instead of walking and opening doors, will contribute to impressive cutscenes, like the fight with Sheriff and at the end with LeChuck.

The gameplay is highly different from the other products. Here you don't use 'What is' and start pixel hunting. The name of the recognised object appears right when you point it. The scenario is open and you can do stuff no matter in what order. Go to the SCUMM bar, talk to the pirates, the leaders, learn for the trials, and return the evidence? Fine. Start solving the trials without talking to the leaders? When you present the evidence to them they will say 'Ah I see you have heard of the trials'. Do you want to save time and avoid the dialogue? Fine. Start with the trials, which you can, by the way, solve in whatever order.

The dialogues give also a sense of freedom. Introduced in Indiana Jones, here they are extremely better. Although the dialogues don't affect puzzles or distant future events, they are richly designed. Many ways to introduce yourself to strangers, which will affect their reply, or not. Then you can ask many thinks, in whatever order you like. Sometimes your questions will bring up other questions or you can avoid them and go back to the original questions. Sounds familiar? Well that's how it started.

Dialogues are also an indicator of humor. For example when you meet Elaine, your availiable lines you have to choose from vary between 'Ulp...' and 'Err...'. Or when you have to say 'I do' many times till you convince Smirk to train you.

Oh yes, humor. After Larry and Space Quest, Monkey Island is one of the funniest games. The plot is self-sarcastic and Guybrush is driven toward funny situations. Vegetarian Cannibals, anachronisms (grog slot machines), a hanged man who died while trying to set up a swing, a monster-parrot, gangs, punchlines, in-jokes. They won't impress you as the later games but they will at least make you laugh.

It was also the first game to use a full soundtrack so this must be noted. I was not a fan of reggae, but here you don't hear music only in the intro, but in many places you will visit. The first job of the famous Michael Land.

The Bad

When I was thinking of writing a review I found it hard to think of any flaws. A brief reading of other reviews proved the same. Is the game THAT good? Anyway, after thinking a bit I can tell the following:

The savegame system is poor, identical to LOOM. You can save up to a certain number of games (which is small), and cannot change your directory. If you want to keep your games you must backup them in another directory. If you want for some reasons to review them (eg. for screenshots, or test other replies) it's a real trouble, especially back when some used plain DOS.

Another minor flaw, in-game this time, is the distance you have to travel each time. In later games Lucasarts fixed this by jumping you to the next screen when double-clicking. However in those times, people did not conceive time as we do and wan't hurrying. Few games had such 'tricks'. Besides it's less slow than Syberia!

Also, some puzzles are a bit frustrating. For example how could you guess that you can switch monkey blood with a bottle of wine? I can forgive these since this is a comedy adventure, and after all you can always start 'USE'ing everything you have and find the solution.

The Bottom Line

The big Hitchhiker's Guide to the Adventure Games of the Galaxy, in the definition of the word 'classic' must have the box-cover of MI. I won't say that MI is my favourite game, or the best ever made, but it is indeed one of the most influential, at least to us of the 'newer generation' who are too young for other classics, like Zork. If you are an Adventure gamer and haven't still played it, well, did you miss something?