Written by  :  Unicorn Lynx (181375)
Written on  :  Dec 19, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars

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More of an homage than a true conclusion

The Good

Curse was the first Monkey Island game not developed by Ron Gilbert. Overall, the new team did a good job filling those very large shoes, most noticeably as far as gameplay mechanics are concerned.

Clearly, much effort has been put into puzzles, that very important cornerstone of adventure game design. There are quite a few mind-benders here; the golden tooth puzzle will probably be forever engraved in my memory - not just because it's tricky, but also because it's brilliantly designed and very amusing. And how can I ever forget the banjo competition? After several futile attempts I finally figured out the solution and couldn't help bursting into laughter.

Is this game still funny? The answer is "sometimes". It does borrow heavily from previous two games - for example, insult fighting is recycled (though now with rhymes) - but there are still bits of fresh, charming humor here. The usage of classic humorous mechanics from the predecessors is nowhere as blatant, as abusive, and - dare I say - as insulting as in the next installment. Even the salesman Stan, who is now being featured for the third time, manages to stay amusing - he now sells coffins, because at least the customers don't come back with complaints...

Veteran Monkey Island players will be delighted to discover the Easter eggs - that scene where you explore a location from the first game displayed with original VGA graphics is very amusing, and so is the brilliant false ending in the middle of the game. And how can you not appreciate a joke hidden in the game's menu options?..

The characters also do not disappoint. There aren't that many old acquaintances, and the game introduces one of the funniest characters of the entire series: the talking skull Murray. Even more forgettable characters are fun to be around thanks to the superb voice acting, which in my opinion contributes quite a lot to the atmosphere.

The Bad

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I felt there was always something dark and slightly deranged in Monkey Island games. Admittedly, I liked the first one more than the second, which had a cynical break-up of a couple, dangerous voodoo rituals, and a spitting contest. But Secret also had unsettling scenes, and the whole premise of a ghost pirate ship lurking beneath a mysterious island was not taken lightly. The third game has lost that particular edge; it's funny, but it's not crazy enough - it's too tame. That's why I still prefer the second game with all its idiosyncrasies.

I have no complaints about the puzzles, but the game's structure is formulaic and not inventive enough. Just like the first installment, it begins with a search for a crew; each potential recruit requires you to undergo a lengthy trial of puzzles until you meet his whimsical requirements and he agrees to accompany you. The plot is also not particularly interesting, and instead of the weird ending of LeChuck's Revenge we are treated to a stereotypical final confrontation adorned with a disappointingly short ending.

I can't say I loved the simplified interface they carried over from Full Throttle. LucasArts' adventures have always been more restrictive than Sierra's, but at least specific verbs enhanced the interaction. Here, it's just basic pointing and clicking.

I think the game's main problem is excess of reverence. The designers clearly tried their very best to capture the elusive, enigmatic spirit of the series, but perhaps they tried a bit too hard, and failed to come up with a strong idea of their own. The game, therefore, feels like a respectfully designed, well-measured, tasteful tribute, but not the grand finale to the series that we were expecting.

The Bottom Line

Perhaps I'm being unfair to this undeniably well-crafted, solid game, but I can't help feeling underwhelmed by its timid adherence to the series' formula and its lack of dark and bizarre imagery that distinguished its predecessors. It's a characteristic example of what people call "good, but not great".