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Escape from Monkey Island (Windows)

81
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (170634)
Written on  :  Aug 22, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars

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Summary

Collapsed under the weight of too many monkeys

The Good

Escape can still be funny. The humor in the dialogues does get stale very soon, but there are some situations that, while not necessarily reflecting the unique Monkey Island tone, can be amusing. The Scumm Bar turning into a sushi bar is a typical example of the new humor, its symbolic representation: the time of the pirates has passed, modern consumer culture takes over. No, I didn't like this direction either, but at least the game is consequent enough to base a large part of its story on it.

There is nothing wrong with 3D graphics. They have a certain cartoony edge, and some of the character models are appropriately disproportional. Sure, the game loses an even larger chunk of the mysterious Caribbean atmosphere than its predecessor with the perpetual brightness, but it does fit the new colorful locations and themes.

The puzzles of Escape are truly a coin with two sides. There are some really good ones. I enjoyed the bizarre clock puzzle in the swamps of Lucre Island. The diving competition was tricky and fun. One of my favorite ones is the puzzle with the two parrots on Jambalaya Island. It's a pity those interesting activities co-exist with obscure tasks that often make little sense.

In general, the parts that had nothing to do with previous Monkey Island games were the best. Clearing your name on Lucre Island, diving against Marco, figuring out how to get the bronze head on Jambalaya Island. Those parts were fun and refreshing. But Escape wanted to outdo its predecessors in everything, and that was a big mistake.

The Bad

How do I say this... Something's missing here... let's call this something a soul. Everything seems to be in place, but nothing feels fresh, and the series' unique charm is gone. Escape tries to be holier than the Pope himself - to be more Monkey Island than Monkey Island. The result is remarkable: the game becomes a parody of itself. There is so much recycling here that any new and creative idea can't be perceived anymore. Or, better to say, it is forgotten once the mechanical routine of Monkey Island-ness takes over again. The good parts of the game are drowned in the monotonous mumbling of endless Monkey Island mantras: "You fight like a cow... I'm Guybrush Threepwood, a mighty pirate... Yes, darling... Swashbuckling sea scum..." and so on. There is too much of it. Too much to bear and too much to digest. Those phrases have been recycled so many times that they became meaningless. They are not funny any more, because repetition is the worst enemy of humor. Strangely enough, Escape suffers precisely from what it laughs at - consumer mentality.

This kind of thinking leads me to believe that the game was conceived as some sort of a fan tribute, where elements are used and re-used with the happy, blind stubbornness of a neophyte. Phrases from earlier games are quoted verbatim and characters make totally unnecessary cameo appearances. The game thus becomes an empty container for all possible Monkey Island stuff. Characters who were funny become pale shadows of themselves: they finally managed to ruin Stan, and the hilarious skull Murray is degraded to the level of a harmless curiosity.

This is connected to another aspect that suffered in Escape: the atmosphere. In the previous games the exotic Caribbean setting was treated halfway seriously, the occasional well-placed anachronisms only emphasizing the romantic flair of sea adventures and treasure hunting. This game doesn't feel like that at all. Of course, its whole idea was to show the influence of capitalism and globalization on "authentic" pirate stuff, but the result was an almost complete loss of true Monkey Island spirit. This series was never strictly a comedy, it always had place for real feelings and real pirates. In Escape, everything is a caricature. Pop culture references have lost their former subtlety and are now on full rampage. Voodoo and ghosts are treated with toothless negligence. Pirates have turned into friendly gimmicks for tourists.

The puzzles are a mixed bag. Some of them are way too obscure, while others are surprisingly easy and not rewarding enough. The "pinball" puzzle on Monkey Island is a pain to solve, as there are no clues provided. On the contrary, the manatee puzzle on Jambalaya Island is disappointingly simple, although it was supposed to be one of the central issues in that part of the game. Monkey Kombat is a nice idea, but the moves are too hard to remember unless you write them down, and the whole thing becomes boring even before you realize that the entire finale of the game is based on it. The elegance and smoothness of gameplay, shared by the three earlier games, cannot be felt anymore.

The Bottom Line

I had a tough time with this review. I finished the game two times and there were moments I enjoyed quite a bit. But truth has to be told: the magic is gone. Escape is deceptively familiar, luring fans into a sponsored orgy of recycling that casts a shadow over the series. There's too much Monkey Island in it, and not enough true creativity.