The Secret of Monkey Island

aka: El secreto de Monkey Island, Le Secret de L'Ile aux Singes, MI1, Monkey Island 1, Mutiny on Monkey Island, TSOMI
Moby ID: 616
DOS Specs

Description official descriptions

Deep in the Caribbean lies Melee Island, ruled by the governor Elaine Marley. The cruel pirate LeChuck is deeply in love with her - so deeply that he refuses to accept his own death. As a ghost, he dwells with his undead crew somewhere near the mysterious Monkey Island. Meanwhile, a young fellow named Guybrush Threepwood is determined to become a real pirate. At the Scumm Bar, he meets three pirates who tell him he has to complete three difficult tasks in order to be worthy of this title. But as Guybrush is trying to complete these tasks, he encounters the lovely governor, and this meeting changes his life forever. Risking to incur the wrath of LeChuck, Guybrush has to prove his wit is as sharp as his sword, and figure out a way to foil the ghost pirate's plans.

The Secret of Monkey Island is an adventure game that utilizes the command verb-based SCUMM interface first introduced in Maniac Mansion: the player constructs commands for Guybrush by selecting an appropriate verb and then combining it with an object or an inventory item. Objects that can be interacted with are highlighted when the player places a cursor over them. The game is the first LucasArts adventure in which it is impossible to get irrevocably stuck; like in Loom, the player character also cannot die. The branching dialogue system, where the player chooses between several available responses during conversations, allows the player to talk to characters in different ways without fearing a wrong choice and is often used as a humorous device.

The puzzles are predominantly inventory-based; most of the problems in the game are solved by picking up items and combining them with each other or with objects (or people) in the game world. Several tasks are dialogue-based; among those is the humorous "insult swordfighting", which involves Guybrush learning and choosing witty insults while dueling pirates.

The CD DOS and FM Towns versions of the game have a slightly updated interface (with graphically represented inventory items instead of the text-only labels in the original version), as well as CD audio music tracks.

Spellings

  • モンキー・アイランド ユーレイ海賊大騒動! - Japanese spelling
  • 猴島小英雄 - Chinese spelling

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Credits (DOS version)

85 People (83 developers, 2 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 89% (based on 60 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 732 ratings with 27 reviews)

The father of adventure games? I'm not so sure ...

The Good
It's funny and it makes you think.

That may be a cliched way to start an interview but this truly does fall under that old axiom. It will make you laugh and the puzzles will make you want to wrench out your hair (especially the shopkeepers vault one). The interface is intuitive and overall it's a class act. Very polished and nicely done. This deserves a place in any gamers collection. If there's not something in here that doesn't appeal to you then you are indeed very odd and you should pat yourself on the back for being a fine individual.

The Bad
It just isn't original. It isn't the father of adventure games nor does it do anything really special. Classy it is, funny it is but groundbreaking? It's not, the story isn't really that epic either, it's just a bunch of really well told jokes.

In my mind I'm comparing this with Loom, now there's originality in an adventure game and it's story that hasn't been matched to this day, it had an intriguing storyline and the interface was based around musical notes. Now that's ingenuity! I can't say Monkey Island even touches that.

The Bottom Line
I would describe it as a game you must have, a game you will play over and over. A game that, even if you are a comedy-movie afficianado, will appeal to you more than a good deal of videos in your collection and yet a game that does nothing breath-takingly new. It's for adventure gamers wanting more of the same and basically, anyone with a sense of humour.

DOS · by Marcus Wolf (2) · 2000

Monkey Island, The Secret of

The Good
I enjoyed everything about this game, from the lush 2d graphics, to ultra reggae beats (although synth'd)

The Bad
I didn't like the fact that you could easily win this game by simply pressing CTRL+W that ruined it, as it was just too simple, and when you looked online or asked friends whther they had completed, so you could get a tip on a puzzle, they would go: "Oh I Simply pressed ctrl+W)

The Bottom Line
Whenever a list of best computer games of all time is created, rather few old titles pop up. The adventure games from the Monkey Island series always appear on such a list. The series has been a legend among adventure gamers since the release of The Secret of Monkey Island. Ron Gilbert, the creator of the series and the designer of this first game, has achieved a position akin to that of a demigod in the world of adventure games. Exactly what is the magic that attracts gamers again and again to see the misadventures of Guybrush Threepwood? Let us find out! Shiver me timbers and all that, mates, ‘cause Guybrush is here!

Guybrush, our antihero, arrives on Island of Mêlée to become a pirate. He finds out that all pirates on the island are too afraid to even sail because of an evil ghost pirate named LeChuck. Still, Guybrush starts his pirate initiation known as The Three Trials. Just when he finally masters the arts of thievery, sword fighting and treasure hunting, he hears that LeChuck has kidnapped the beautiful governor Elaine Marley whom he plans to marry. Guybrush, as any good hero is destined to do, now must find a way to the legendary Monkey Island and rescue Elaine.

The Secret of Monkey Island is released in 1990. While it may spot a dated look now, this is not necessarily a negative. The graphics are quite pretty even by today’s standard. Sure, they are pixelated, but who cares? Character animations are lively, and backgrounds are beautiful looking. The atmosphere is great--from the calm night scenes on Mêlée Island to the hot jungle climate on Monkey Island. There are 2 (actually 3) versions of the game released--the original Floppy Disk version in either 16 (EGA) or 256 (VGA) colors and the CD-ROM version. The interface in the CD-ROM version has been upgraded to the one used in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, in which the inventory objects are now visible as pictures and not as word descriptions as in the original.

The music in The Secret of Monkey Island is great. The tunes are ones that sticks in your head for weeks. The theme song of Monkey Island is simply a legend! The sound quality in the original version is not so good if you do not own a Roland soundcard (you just cannot do miracles with an AdLib soundcard). The CD-ROM version includes a fabulous CD audio soundtrack with new songs that are not heard in the original version. The CD can even be played in an ordinary CD music player. The CD-ROM version is available as part of the Monkey Island Madness CD in The LucasArts Archives Vol. III collection.

The graphics are fast and screen scrolling is smooth. The interface is a familiar one. You choose among the verbs to be used with a bar in the lower part of the screen. All objects have a default verb, which is activated with a right click. For example, when moving the cursor on a door, the interface automatically chooses “open” when you right click. The original version has 12 verbs that include some verbs which are very rarely used, such as “turn on” or “turn off”. In the CD-ROM version, the interface is changed to use only 9 verbs.

One of the greatest elements in this game is its nonlinear nature. For example, you can complete The Three Trials in any order you want. If you get stuck on one of them, you can always try another. There is always something to do or explore. The puzzles in this game are brilliant. They are designed in a manner that all puzzles in adventure games should strive. They are so well made that when you finally find the solution to them you have to hit your head against the wall thinking “Why did I not figure that out in the first place?”. The answers to the puzzles are always, more or less, logical. You cannot get stuck in the game just because you miss an object or a clue. Guybrush cannot die except for one place, so you can try everything!

Interaction with other game characters is a priority in the gameplay. You will the previously used boats salesman, vegetarian cannibals, and many other hilarious personalities. Guybrush talks a lot and always has something to comment about everything. It is obvious that the design team has had a lot of fun writing the dialogues for Guybrush and other characters. This game also features one of the most memorable game moments in computer adventure gaming history—the legendary insult sword fight, where you have to verbally insult your opponents in order to beat them. The highlight of this game is definitely its humor. In fact, The Secret of Monkey Island is credited for inventing the concept of humor in computer games. The dialogues are really funny. I find myself amused even after playing this game many times over. As usual, Max the rabbit makes a cameo appearance in this game.

The Secret of Monkey Island is an excellent game in all aspects. It has a clever storyline, great character design, funny dialogues, good graphics, and beautiful music. A novel based on the Monkey Island series, written by Christopher Gerrard, is even available! Another testimonial to the popularity of this title is seen in the fact that the game has been translated in 5 languages—English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The Secret of Monkey Island stands as one of the legendary computer adventure games ever created. It is really funny, well written, and very entertaining. It is a first class adventure. If you do not own The Secret of Monkey Island, turn your monitor off now and hurry to your nearest game store and buy this game! You are missing a lot every second!

Amiga · by phil buckley (19) · 2006

The most glorious Buccaneering adventure in the entire Caribbean

The Good
What isn't there to like about tSoMI? When I received this game through the post when I was 12 even the box gave me goosebumps! An exciting pirate adventure was what I had hoped for and this seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered. Little was I to know that I was starting on the most warped and hilarious pirating adventure ever penned, although that would become crystal clear from the very first conversation in the game.

This brings me to one of the best aspects of the game which would influence countless other adventures. The story telling is done through conversations in which you get to make some very funny comments about the characters or surroundings, the joy of seeing how the people you talk to react relieves a lot of the sense of linearity you get with most of the early graphic adventure games. Because of this the game does not have to rely on insta-deaths to keep the excitement going, there is even a great parody on those which I certainly won't spoil for you. The dialogue is based on pirate lore as you would expect, but never gets too cheesy to withdraw from the whole experience.

Even though the characters and storyline have countless bizarre moments and the conversations are a laugh a minute, the epic drama of this story shouldn't be underestimated. It keeps you clustered to your PC like a great book does, only you get to discover this wonderfully insane pirating paradise just how you would want to, like Guybrush Threepwood!

The music is also worth a special notice. This is the first game to use the iMUSE system which was specially developed for it. It makes the awesome music and the flow of the game blend perfectly as if you are playing a movie.

Speaking of which: if you like the vibe of Pirates of the Caribbean then you will almost certainly like tSoMI, even though it was made 15 years before for computers that had extremely limited capabilities compared to now. This isn't surprising as both are inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride.

I would almost say this is a must-play for everyone who considers themselves to be a serious retro-gaming enthusiast, it is that good. It is the adventure game that inspired all light-hearted graphic adventures after, although Maniac Mansion from the same team was a very good first start. The follow-up may have a slightly less enthralling story but makes up for that with better visuals.

The Bad
There is nothing that I didn't like about this game.

The Bottom Line
Solid 5 stars.

DOS · by flo h (2) · 2008

[ View all 27 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
UK Release? Edwin Drost (9195) Mar 24, 2017
3.5 Disk Edwin Drost (9195) Jan 22, 2017
MI, a real phoenix VVP (143) Jun 9, 2009
Talkie Wormspinal (619) Feb 20, 2008
A disturbing walkthrough for the game Sciere (921652) Oct 16, 2007

Trivia

1001 Video Games

The Secret of Monkey Island appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Budget

The budget of the game was $130.000.

CD version

The CD version of the game features CD music, a furnished interface with graphical inventory items and new sound effects not seen in the disk version. If you try to load the game with "e" parameter, you won't see the inventory because it is 256 colors only.

Concept notices

One of the first scribbles for Monkey Island that were used for the different story-branches hang in the bathroom of George 'The Fat Man' Sanger's studio in Austin/Texas.

Cut content

  • Originally, there used to be a ship combat sequence in Monkey Island. While this scene didn't make it into the final cut, the idea was re-used in Monkey Island 3.
  • At one point, the developers actually deleted a whole bunch of the games because it didn't flow well with the story.
  • Ron Gilbert was going to make the part where you get Meathook to join your crew longer, but the idea was axed.

Copy protection

The original version came with a code-wheel copy protection, in which you had to mix and match several pirate's faces and assemble their names.

Demo version

The demo version features story, dialogues and puzzles not present in the main game. More information can be found in its game entry.

Distribution

According to a G4 interview with Tim Schafer because Lucasarts was so small at the time and the first shipment of Monkey Island was larger than normal, Lucasarts asked the staff to go help stuff the boxes for the first shipment. So you might own a copy packed by the creators themselves!

DOS versions

There are three different versions of the game: 16-color EGA disk version, 256-color VGA disk version, and 256-color VGA CD-ROM version.

Gags

  • When wandering in the forest, if you examine a certain tree stump very closely, Guybrush sees something in there and tries to crawl in. The game then asks you for disks you don't have, and Guybrush says something like "Oh well, I guess I don't fit".
  • Keep escaping and returning from the cannibal village and the prison door will change its shape to a more modern door.
  • Did you know that you CAN kill Guybrush? Just stay under water for more than 10 minutes.
  • Did you know you can make Meathook make his tattoo talk? Ask him at his hut!!!

Guybrush Threepwood

Guybrush got his name from the fact that in DPaint, the art software being used at the time, you saved palettes and other art particulars in files called "brushes", and the one for the guy who was the hero was called the "guybrush". "Threepwood" was decided by a company contest.

Herman Toothrot

The character of Herman Toothrot was added because the script was running a little slow once you got to Monkey Island...the player needed someone to talk to.

Inspiration

Though he's long been on the record regarding Monkey Island's inspiration from the Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride (the ride, having earned its own movies, effectively nullifying any chance of a Monkey Island movie once in development), Ron Gilbert has come clean regarding another primary source of inspiration, a recently-back-in-print book by Tim Power entitled On Stranger Tides, ensuring a heavy injection of voodoo into the Monkey Island mythos.

Legal trouble

  • The giant cotton swab, used as the key to the monkey head, was originally named a "Q-Tip" after the commercial brand name; however, according to Ron Gilbert, it had to be changed because "it would have been OK if we were using the Q-Tip in a "correct fashion", but taking a giant Q-Tip and sticking it into a stone monkey's ear is not "correct usage"."
  • Originally, examining a skeleton in the voodoo lady's hut would cause Guybrush to comment: "Looks like an emaciated Charles Atlas." After a cease-and-desist letter from Charles Atlas Ltd., it was changed in later versions of the game.

Monkey Island

"Monkey Island" is a colloquial term used to describe the area on the roof of the bridge on a modern cargo ship. It is mainly used by the crews of the large cargo ships operating in the East Indies, South East Asia and the South Pacific.

Mono Island

Did you know there IS a real Monkey Island in the Caribbean Sea? Well, it's real name is Mono Island, but the word "mono" means "monkey" in Spanish.

PC Gamer release

A complete version of The Secret of Monkey Island is available on Classic Games Collection CD featured in the July 2000 issue of PC Gamer Magazine.

References: LucasArts employees

  • The original closeup of Elaine (where Guybrush is speechless) was supposedly based on Avril Harrison, an artist who was working for Lucas Games at the time.
  • Carla, the Swordmaster, was a likeness of Carla Green who was at that time in charge of Lucas Games Product Support.
  • The guy who was in the Troll suit on the bridge was meant to look like George Lucas.
  • The name of Guybrush's archnemesis LeChuck was born after Steve Arnold, the General Manager at Lucasfilm Games in 1989, had been telling Ron Gilbert (the series creator) how he really liked the name "Chuck" and would like some character in one of their games to be called "Chuck".

References: Games

  • Lucasarts makes a stab at Sierra adventure games when Guybrush walks off the ledge of the outcrop containing the projectile device on Monkey Island. A standard Sierra adventure death dialogue box emerges saying that your character (Guybrush) has died and you can now choose to Restore, Restart or Quit the game.
  • In the SCUMM bar, one of the pirates is wearing a button with the word LOOM written on it. All he says is "Aye," but if you ask him about LOOM, he will give you a full and lengthy advertisment to LOOM - the Idea was re-used again in Monkey Island 3 with Manny Calavera ( from Grim Fandango)
  • Just like other games from LucasArts, this has also a reference to Sam & Max. Just look at the idols neat the big monkey head.
  • In the demo of the games, when you went to the fortune tellers place, you could touch the chalice...and you would turn into Indiana Jones.

References

  • The troll on the toll bridge saying 'none shall pass' was inspired by Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The SCUMM bar early in the game is obviously a reference to the SCUMM game engine (which stands for "Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion"), created by Ron Gilbert of Lucasfilm Games/LucasArts, and which has been used in several other adventure titles including The Secret of Monkey Island.
  • In order to practice insult swordfighting, Guybrush stops pirates on the road and says the line "My name is Guybrush Threepwood. Prepare to die!" This is probably taken from the duel between Inigo Montoya and the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride. During that duel Montoya repeats "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" 5 or 6 times.
  • During the Governor's wedding scene near the end, Guybrush has the option to yell "Elaine!" which is a reference to a line from the movie The Graduate. Ron Gilbert liked that so much that he gave this first name to the originally nameless Governor.

Ron Gilbert

Stan is reportedly Ron Gilbert's favorite character in all of the Monkey Island games.

Sales

According to an interview with Ron Gilbert in the German magazine PC Games 01/2013, the game sold more copies in Germany than in the USA.

Secret of Monkey Island

THE Secret of Monkey Island has never actually been revealed by Ron Gilbert, but some people believe that it has to do with the anachronisms in the games.

SEGA CD port

The Secret of Monkey Island saw a Sega CD version in 1992, soon after the system was released on the U.S. The Sega CD version is based on the 256-color VGA version of SOMI...even the layout of the CD Audio is exactly the same as the PC version.

Except there is a mastering error for the background sound effects. Specifically, the night time forest sound effect on track 24 is only two seconds long, and this track continues on to the next three tracks, also cut off in seconds. Also, because of this error, there is no jungle background sound effect that should be present in track 25. Indeed, it’s curious to hear night time ambiance heard at Melee Island during the daytime when Guybrush is in the jungle on Monkey Island.

A fix to this problem can be done by taking the last two audio tracks from the PC-CDROM version (tracks 24 and 25) and, usually through an extraction of the data and individual audio tracks of the Sega CD disc (except tracks 24, 25, 26, and 27) and a creation of a proper cuesheet (complete with the 2 second pregap for all audio tracks) for burning through CDRWin, restore the correct sound effects playback for the game at the points affected for the Sega CD version.

Software Toolworks

The CD version of the game was distributed by Software Toolworks at one point - with one of their computer map programs.

Speech version

Despite the rumours, no speech version was created.

Spiffy

The back cover of some versions of the game has a screenshot with a close-up of Spiffy the Dog. The image is however not available in the original game. It was cut to save space on the floppy disks, but the marketing team had already chosen it for the artwork. The image of the close-up was added in the 2009 game The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

Win the Game

The "FUNCTION AND COMMAND KEYS" section of the enclosed reference documentation listed a somewhat peculiar option after the more conventional game interface options:- Reposition Instantly (CTRL+R)

  • Quit Game (CTRL+C or ALT+X)

- Win the Game (CTRL+W). Enthusiastic game-players who jumped in before fully reading the manual might never have encountered that little easter egg. When the key combination was entered, the game would prompt the player: "Are you sure you want to win? (Y/N)" If the player responded Y, the screen would blank, then triumphantly flash"You Win! You scored 800 out of 800 points", regardless of how much (if any) of the game had been completed, all the while tootling the goofily festive music from the Fettucini Bros. circus tent. The regular closing credits (with more than a few joke titles there also) would follow, the entire interactive remainder of the game having been neatly bypassed. Truly here was proof that the playing of the game is far more satisfying than the mere winning of it.

Apparently some permutation of this easter egg is revisited in distant sequel Escape From Monkey Island.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • December 1993 (Issue #114) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #19 in the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #2 Funniest Computer Game (together with Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge)
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #2 Most Rewarding Ending of All Time
  • Enchanted Realms
    • July 1991 (Issue #7) – Distinctive Adventure Award
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 – #12 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2005 – #49 in the "50 Best Games of All Time" list
  • Power Play
    • Issue 01/1991 – Best Adventure in 1990 (Amiga and DOS versions)
  • Retro Gamer
    • October 2004 (Issue #9) – #33 Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)
  • ST Format
    • August 1991 (Issue #8) – #1 Top Atari ST Classic Games (Editorial staff vote)
    • January 1993 (issue #42) – #1 in '50 finest Atari ST games of all time' list

Information also provided by Adam Baratz, Boston Low, Daniel Albu, Emepol, Felix Knoke, Itay Brenner, James1, Jason Harang, Kip Wells, Marek, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual, Rambutaan, rstevenson, Sasha Smith, Satoshi Kunsai, Sciere, showmeyourspine, Silverblade, Swordmaster, Trevor Harris, Unicorn Lynx, William Shawn McDonie and Zovni

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Escape from Monkey Island
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Related Sites +

  • Hints for Monkey Island 1
    Stuck? These hints will help you solve the game without spoiling it for you.
  • ScummVM
    Get "The Secret of Monkey Island", as well as many other adventure games, to run on modern systems by using ScummVM, a legal and free program.
  • Secret of Monkey Island comic book
    The story of MI1 presented as a comic book in the art style of the Curse of Monkey Island (MI3), by fan artist Paco Vink. Not yet complete, but ongoingly in progress over the past three years!
  • The Scumm Bar
    A wonderful site dedicated to the Monkey Island games.
  • The Secret of Monkey Island: The Play
    In spring of 2004 a high school mounted a student production of a theatrical adaptation of the game. Here is the first of nine segments on YouTube.
  • The World of Monkey Island
    A comprehensive site about the world of Monkey Island games from Lucasarts.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by IJan.

Amiga added by POMAH. Macintosh added by Kabushi. Antstream added by lights out party. FM Towns, Atari ST added by Terok Nor. SEGA CD added by Unicorn Lynx.

Additional contributors: Trixter, MAT, Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Apogee IV, tarmo888, Pseudo_Intellectual, Havoc Crow, DarkDante, Ricky Derocher, 6⅞ of Nine, Petr Maruska, Patrick Bregger, Narushima, Jo ST, FatherJack, firefang9212.

Game added December 25, 1999. Last modified February 29, 2024.