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The Curse of Monkey Island (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168607)
Written on  :  Dec 19, 2002
Rating  :  4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars

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All's well that ends well

The Good

I was truly amazed when I first played "The Curse of Monkey Island", which was shortly after it appeared on the market. Of course, now the game's graphics seem outdated and old-fashioned, but it was, and still is, the best example of cartoon-style 2D graphics.

Again, some grudging voices complained about Guybrush being too tall - I think you forgot to complain about him having actual animation, instead of just raising his hands or grinning, showing a block of white teeth? Technology progresses, and it would have been stupid to use old, "serious" hand-painted graphics for this game, just as it would have brought nothing new to make the sequel with 2D characters. The cartoon-style graphics of "Curse" are excellent, the animations are smooth and amusing, the backgrounds beautiful, and the occasional FMV certainly adds a lot to the game. It sounds good, too, bringing back the good old reggae tunes from the first two games.

One of the best things about "Curse" is its atmosphere. Despite the bright cartoon-style graphics, the game captures perfectly the dark, romantic spirit of a pirate adventure, the same spirit that was present in the two first games and that sadly disappeared from the fourth. The game oozes atmosphere, there is something indescribably beautiful and dreamy in it - you really feel you are thrown into the magical world of ghost pirates, sword-fighting, and mysterious islands scattered around the see.

A more important question is: is this game funny? The answer is: yes. It does borrow heavily from previous two games - for example, the insult fighting is nothing more than recycling the stuff used in the first game (although with a spicy addition of rhymes!), but there is still a lot of fresh, charming humor here. The recycling of classic humorous mechanics from the predecessors is nowhere as blatant, as artificial - and, dare I say, as insulting - as in the next installment. Even the salesman Stan, who was used for the third time, managed to stay amusing - he now sells coffins, because at least the customers don't come back with complaints... There are also some subtly placed anachronisms (like Guybrush finding an old record) - very remote from the atmosphere-destroying "capitalism parody" of the following game. And of course, the classic "I'm in a game" jokes. Somehow they were funnier than ever. Veteran Monkey Island players will be delighted to discover the Easter eggs. The joke of the decade is the "false ending" in the middle of the game (I won't spoil it for you, but those who finished the game know what I'm talking about).

The characters also do not disappoint. The Voodoo Lady is even more amusing than before. Some new characters with cool accents appear (the voice acting is top-notch). Also, this game introduces perhaps the coolest character of the entire series - the skull Murray. Every time I met this guy he had new funny lines to say.

The puzzles make much more sense than in the second game, and the gameplay is way more pleasant with its better interface. I found the puzzles to be among the strongest aspects of this game, since they were never frustrating, but always extremely fun. My favorite part was probably the banjo competition - the game is almost worth playing just for that!

This doesn't mean the game is easy - on the "hard" setting, some of the puzzles will surely cause serious headache. But even the hardest puzzles had their own sense of logic, and after solving them, I always had a feeling of being rewarded for thinking hard, not just for clicking on stuff without any idea. The golden tooth puzzle is such an example - definitely very hard, but strictly logical in its own crazy way!

And the ship fighting mini game, with a slight flavor of role-playing (you could buy better equipment only after defeating several weaker enemies and collecting their booty), was delightful!

The Bad

Well, the only thing that's really not very exciting here is the story line itself. Of course, comedy adventure usually doesn't need a good story line to be great. I'm not even sure it is a valid criticism, because LeChuck's Revenge also had a very silly story. But somehow, I missed the epic struggle for love and the rank of pirate from the first game.

And yes, the ending sequence was pretty short and a kind of letdown. Although everything happened the way I hoped, it was just not long enough to conclude the wonderful trilogy.

The Bottom Line

+ Great visual appeal
+ Wonderful atmosphere
+ Still very funny
+ Fantastic gameplay
- The story line is so-so
- Short ending

The second Monkey Island game ended with a cliff-hanger; it required a continuation, a conclusion. "Curse of Monkey Island" is exactly that: a conclusion to a great series of adventure games. It's not the most original game out there, but it's still as atmospheric and as charming as its two predecessors. And to say the truth, it's almost a pity the series didn't end with this one...