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

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 90% (based on 50 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 619 ratings with 24 reviews)

I would become a pirate just to be able to play this game

The Good
The path between Maniac Mansion and Secret of Monkey Island was not entirely thorn-free for LucasArts. They designed interesting and influential games, but were sometimes struggling to find their own tone. Eventually, their hard work and talent crystallized in what some fans consider their most important creation. Indeed, while Maniac Mansion was the one that put the company on the map, LucasArts' design philosophy and everything they stood for is firmly associated with the adventure that takes place deep in the Caribbean.

There is not so much in Secret of Monkey Island that is different, but rather a lot that is more polished and complete. All the tendencies, all the sparks of brilliance from their past titles united in this game like never before. The perfect amalgamation of puzzles, plot, visuals, and atmosphere made this happen. Secret of Monkey Island is much less revolutionary than Maniac Mansion and much less unique than Loom, but it is undeniably a more exciting game.

LucasArts was always trying to compete with Sierra, but only in this work they managed to put everything together to beat the archrival at their own game. Realizing that text descriptions and interactivity were not exactly their forte, they concentrated on what they did best: branching dialogue. In Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, that gameplay device had the function of talking your way out of a fight and achieving your goal in a different way. Taking a cue from its humorous potential ("I forgot it in my other pants"), Ron Gilbert et alii expanded that seemingly harmless feature to gigantic proportions, turning it into a primary tool both for gameplay and comedic effects. Diving into excellently written, often brilliantly nonsensical and hilarious conversations became one of the chief sources of pleasure in this game. And how would anyone ever forget the delightful "insult swordfighting", during which you learn new humorously offending phrases from each opponent and then figure out how to apply them in the proper context?..

Death-free gameplay is another feature Secret of Monkey Island borrowed from an earlier game (in this case Loom) and built a whole new concept on it. One may question this decision and argue about the validity and the long-range consequences of this gameplay mechanics, but there is no doubt it became hugely popular thanks to this very game. People were getting tired of the annoying deaths in Sierra games, and were grateful to LucasArts for letting them try out crazy item combinations and select the rudest dialogue choices purely for comedic purposes without any penalty. This new design approach took the genre by storm: only a fear years later, Sierra would obediently comply to it in most of their games. Of course, this policy eventually froze adventure game design, depriving those games of the much-needed inner tension in the age of first-person shooters, but that's a whole different story.

The game's puzzles are not overly tough, and the fact you cannot get irrevocably stuck no matter what you do further reduces the difficulty level. That said, the puzzles of Secret of Monkey Island are so elegantly entertaining that you won't mind the relatively low challenge, which is anyway heaps above the obtuse ease of Last Crusade or the elementary simplicity of Loom. Beautifully balancing amusing inventory concoctions with dialogue-based tasks, the game remains unsurpassed in its natural flow, in the way it keeps track of the bigger picture while making you busy with smaller objectives at any moment. Later acts may be slightly below this quality, but the entire Melee Island is one of the best examples of puzzle-solving, exploration, and discovery coming just in the right doses.

Earlier LucasArts games had their funny moments, but it wasn't until Secret of Monkey Island that they were able to declare themselves the comedy leaders for generations to come. Until now, this game remains one of the most endearingly humorous products ever to grace our computer monitors. Between the aggressive wit of Steve Meretzky and Sierra's harmless charm on one side, and the impending visual comedy with its cartoony gags on the other, Secret of Monkey Island stands on the golden middle ground, having just enough different types of humor for everyone without being too biased for any category. Witty dialogues, cleverly placed pop culture references, hilarious breaking of the fourth wall and unforgettable jabs at game design and software in general (the "insert disk #..." stumps in the forest are priceless) decorate what is decidedly one of the most tasteful, ironically presented, yet warm and sweet comedy in the history of video games.

Indeed, with all its merry and oft nonsensical attitude, Secret of Monkey Island remains a genuinely atmospheric, romantically flavored Caribbean adventure. Such is the genius of its designers that this game can be enjoyed on multiple levels: even if you don't understand the jokes, you'll love the tale of a simple young boy pursuing an unlikely romance and overcoming all obstacles with his cunning rather than the sword. From the very first screen, you are being gently enveloped by the warmth of tropical islands and the sea breeze, drawn to the ever-youthful stories of pirates, treasure, and grand journeys. And it's not at all overly cute and cuddly, either: there is place for darkness in this game, with spooky undead pirates, voodoo, and cozy exploration of an island perpetually submerged into the night.

To top it all, Secret of Monkey Island comes with stellar production values. The graphics are the perfect manifestation of the old realistic style enhanced by the then-revolutionary 256 colors. Almost every area breathes life and oozes atmosphere. The full-screen portraits are marvelous - talking to the least important pirate in the SCUMM bar is a visual experience hitherto unmatched in adventure games. And who could ever forget the delightful reggae-ish music and not wish there were more of it? By the way, the ultimate version of the game is either the FM Towns one or the later CD re-release, with audio tracks and a nicer-looking interface.

The Bad
Finding flaws in legendary games is not always an easy task - particularly when they are designed as well as Secret of Monkey Island. I don't think there was ever another LucasArts adventure I enjoyed as much as this one, but that doesn't mean everyone are bound to love it unconditionally. Those who like nitpicking may point out minor balance issues - the "meat" of the gameplay is concentrated mostly in the first act, which is also by far the longest. The second act, for example, is a somewhat disappointing convoluted puzzle confined to a tiny location.

The real argument against Secret of Monkey Island, however, is the safe trend it started. It popularized a controversial design move, eliminating death from an adventure game - paradoxically, all while dealing itself with the dead (and the undead) quite a bit. Making death less frequent and random, but still present, would have contributed to the sense of wonder and danger when exploring, for example, the mysterious titular island in the third act. A bigger gripe of mine is the verb interface: much more responsive and flexible than the stiff and awkward thing we had in Last Crusade, it is less intuitive than Sierra icons, and the highlighted objects associated with it reduce interaction possibilities and the amount of unique text feedback.

The Bottom Line
A classic is not always one who creates a new path, but more often one who reaches perfection on a path someone else first stepped on, the one who dominates without being a pioneer, through the sheer power of design excellence and personality. Secret of Monkey Island is a classic for those reasons. It is the purest, most perfectly crafted manifestation of LucasArts philosophy, rightfully hailed as the king of comedy adventure.

DOS · by Unicorn Lynx (181780) · 2014

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

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 original and best. Influential and brilliant

The Good
A damn lot. Even to this day it still has more atmosphere than most games. The characters are (were) immortal. Very good plot with a solid theme, i.e pirates; classic soundtrack that once heard, never left your head; clever puzzles that weren't too hard, and the graphics look very good in their rugged way, sure beats the adventure games today where even the dirt looks like it's been polished. Also this game stamped things into the memory of gamers forever, anyone who's played the insult swordfighting should be able to quote you a line. "How appropriate, you fight like a cow". It threw in a working-class-kid-makes-good love story, whereby your scruffy urchin with amusing trousers gets it on with the govenor of the island by behaving like an idiot. Beautiful. Other than those points (no small amount), it's hard to say why this game is so good. But it is. Lets just say it does nearly everything better than nearly every other adventure game, and it was made in 1990.

The Bad
It's my mission to never say that there is never a bad point in a game. But this is proving hard. Um...Guybrush is a bit of a loser really. Sometimes the game doesn't give you direction as well as it could have done. Le Chuck bears more than a passing resemblance to Chaos from another Lucasarts game from the same year. If you don't really like the swordfighting, it's tedious to go through (probably). The worst bit is that the game comes to an end and the ending doesn't last 9 hours, more like a few minutes. Damn

The Bottom Line
The classic that sealed Lucasarts reputation for all time and brainwashed the majority of the public into believing they could do no wrong, even when they destroyed it's own legend in the future and turned the series into a parody of itself. The self-appreciation was charming then though: look out for all the Loom references ("I'm Bobbin, are you my mother?"). The only adventure game that I think is better than this is Grim Fandango, but that is really something else.

DOS · by Shazbut (163) · 2002

What is the secret of Monkey Island anyway? Too bad nobody knows

The Good
I thought that I ignore the games I had in my playlist, only to play the first game of the Monkey Island series again; not because I had forgotten what it was like, but because LucasArts announced that they are planning a special edition of the game, a full talkie using the same voice actors from The Curse of Monkey Island. I also thought that I would play this new version after I completed the game.

In the game, the player controls Guybrush Threepwood, a wimpy-looking dude who winds up on Mêlée Island seeking to become a pirate. He is told that in order to become one, he must complete the three trials which are sword-fighting, thievery, and treasure-hunting. Once Guybrush completes these trials, he learns about the ghost pirate LeChuck who kidnaps Elaine Marley, the governor of Mêlée Island which whom Guybrush falls in love with early on. After the trials, he focuses on rescuing Elaine from the clutches of LeChuck, who has Elaine in his secret hideaway on Monkey Island.

The first thing that I liked about the game was the copy protection scheme. I am glad that LucasArts didn't follow other companies and ask users to “type in the x word that appears on line y on page z”. Lucas's copy protection, known as “Dial-A-Pirate”, asked users what a pirate was hung; and users would find this out by turning a wheel until the pirate on the screen matches that on the wheel. If an incorrect answer was given three times answer, users are thrown out of the game. This was a sneaky scheme because it would mean that anyone who disagreed with copy protection would have a hard time copying the wheel.

I tried out the CD-ROM version of Monkey Island so I did not have to worry about Dial-A-Pirate. This version has the same interface as that of Monkey Island 2, replacing words with pictures in your inventory and removing the unnecessary commands such as “Turn on” and “Turn Off”. For the sake of this review, I will refer to the original game with the 12 commands as the “original game”. I played the original game as soon as it was released, and I don't even remember using the above commands, so I did not see the point in these commands anyway.

The game is split into four parts; and during these parts, Guybrush will meet strangest (and funniest) characters, but I think that most of the characters players can be more familiar with, as most of them appear in the next four games. First up, there are those crazy Fettucini Brothers, who do nothing but argue who gets in their cannon; Stan, the obnoxious salesman who wants to make every one of his customers go away happy; Meathook, the biffy dude with the cool talking tattoo painted on his chest; and Herman Toothrot who, along with cannibals that he has disputes with, is stranded on Monkey Island’ and is waiting to be rescued. Herman must be the most annoying character in the game, since he bugs Guybrush wherever he goes.

During the game, I saw some amazing backgrounds starting from the village on Mêlée Island and ending with LeChuck's underground lair. The graphics were the best that I have seen at the time and they made me feel as if I was on there. I enjoyed walking throughout Monkey Island, because the islands is mainly covered with jungle and I always quite liked the idea of getting lost in a jungle.

I enjoyed listening to the reggae-style music that accompanied each scene. They are much better in the CD-ROM version than they are in the original. If you play the CD-ROM version, you can hear additional background noises which add atmosphere to the game.

Monkey Island has a fair share of jokes, which is noticeable right at the start of the game. Almost every character mispronounce Guybrush's surname (from “Thriftweed” to “Peepwood”). I love the joke with the rat belonging to the Men of Lower Fiber (He is scared of the mouse cursor being placed over him.) as well as the insults that you use to fight pirates. All of these jokes are nothing compared to the one that I discovered on Monkey Island. You walk Guybrush off a cliff, and a a result, a Sierra dialog box appears and Guybrush mysteriously appears again and says "Rubber Tree".

The Bad
Hmmm...

The Bottom Line
The Secret of Monkey Island is the first game in a great series. The objective is simple enough. Do what it takes to become a pirate and prove that you are not a wuss by going after a damsel-in-distress. Before you can do that, however, you have to put up with the amazing copy protection, a feature that was removed in the CD-ROM version. When you get to play the game, you will encounter the characters that you will get to meet again in future Monkey Island games, tap your feet at the reggae-style music, have fun with the easiest puzzles such as throwing insults at strangers, and do other stuff you could not think of doing in an adventure game before.

If you have obtained the CD-ROM version of the game, you will hear some background noises that add atmosphere to the game as well as listen to many reggae soundtracks that are much better than those n the original game. For this reason, I prefer the CD-ROM version to the original any day.

DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43091) · 2009

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?

DOS · by Boston Low (85) · 2005

An unforgettable tale in the Caribbean seas

The Good
Monkey Island was the game that started my passion for graphic adventures. I played it in the old 286 days, and I loved it. I played again a couple of years ago and I felt the same feeling of playing an incredible game. You will play as a pirate wannabe while you indulge in some fights (with insults!), wander through different places, assemble a crew and many, many things more. It was one of the first megahits from LucasArts, the game that gave them a virtual golden medal for "Best graphics adventures".

The Bad
Nothing in this sector. Nothing to complain about.Even with the outdated graphics it's still a blast to play. If you never played it, forget about the out of date graphics and go and play it. You won't be disappointed.

The Bottom Line
Come on!! Give me some Grog, practice some insult fights and let's play!!

DOS · by Emepol (212) · 2019

The one that started it all!!!

The Good
Where should I start? Soundtrack? Graphics? Puzzles? Everything was great!!! Imagine that this adventure game was released in 1990 and competes with adventure games of the 2000 era!!! The music is great. The reggae-type tunes are difficult to forget. I was whistling that theme song (outstanding) for weeks!!! The world-known SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) game engine works perfect. The graphics are fast and screen scrolling is smooth.(and that was 13 years ago!!!) The familiar Lucasarts interface is easy to adopt and well designed. One of the greatest things in the game is you can complete The Three Trials in any order you want. If you get stuck on one of them, you can always try another. The puzzles are brilliant. They are so well written that when you finally find the solution to them, you have to hit your head against the wall thinking "How come didn't I figure that out in the first place?" Guybrush talks a lot and always has something to comment on about everything. (It looks like the game makers had fun writing the dialogues) One of the greatest moments in adventure game history is the sword fighting sequences, where you have to verbally insult your opponents in order to beat them. The highlight in the game is definitely humor. The Secret of Monkey Island has basically invented the concept of humor in computer games. There is a previously used boats salesman, vegetarian cannibals, hermites, etc.... What a great adventure game!!!

The Bad
Personally, nothing!!!

The Bottom Line
A must have for all adventure game lovers and LUCASARTS lovers!!!

DOS · by ggfournar (5) · 2003

The most memorable, humorous, goofy-as-hell adventure game you're likely to play in your short life.

The Good
The Secret of Monkey Island is just about the most hilarious game I've ever played. The reason? Ron Gilbert doesn't go for the obvious gags good for maybe a gut-chuckle. It's apparent he and the LucasArts team spent a lot of time working out the game's concept. You play a young, naive loser named Guybrush Threepwood who "wants to become a pirate!" I love the premise - Guybrush is a dweeb who dreams about becoming something he isn't - this is a great subtle swipe at adventure gaming itself. And pirating (not the SEA type) is a subject inherently rich in humor value - it's got peglegs, grog, and of course, monkeys!

The characters are some of the most memorable in gaming - who could forget Stan the used ship salesman or the cannibals trying to watch their fat intake? Guybrush himself is my favorite protagonist to grace the pc - his dialogue options are hilarious. Keep an eye out for when he mentions his special skill - it'll help you find an easter egg that breaks the golden rule of LucasArts adventure games!

The insult driven swordfighting might be reason enough alone to check this game out, but it's perfect writing, puzzles, and pleasing SCUMM VGA graphics and interface make it impossible to pass up.

The Bad
It's difficult to find anything wrong with The Secret of Monkey Island. Hard core adventure gamers may find the puzzles too easy, but it's likely they'd be having too much fun to notice.

The Bottom Line
The only thing keeping The Secret of Monkey Island from being my favorite game of all time is that I really don't like adventure games all that much! In fact, I'd recommend it to someone who's trying to get a reluctant spouse, friend, or newborn to get into computer games. It was my first pc game - and look what happened to me!

DOS · by Nathan Kovner (49) · 2000

Why am I even writing this, everybody knows this is brilliant.

The Good
The humor. You are Guybrush Threepwood, who wants to be a pirate. There's only one problem: Guybrush isn't quite the pirate type. He's clumsy and skinny. During his journey he comes across many weird and funny characters such as the beautiful Elaine Marley who's the Governor of Melee Island, Stan the sneaky Boat Dealer and LeChuck a ghost pirate captain hopelessly in love with Elaine even though he died after going into her mansion. After Maniac Mansion this was one of the games that used the SCUMM point and click interface used in many adventure games. However, Monkey Island is probably the best of all adventure games (It also could be Monkey Island 2) . It's got a story that is pretty simple at first sight but it's told in a funny way making it still worth it. Graphics are also great. Especially the in VGA version. There's lots of items to be collected such as the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle, the treasure of Melee Island which is nothing more than a t-shirt and much more. They may come in handy in surprising ways and you'll need to think logically to use them and solve the puzzles. Another nice fact is that this game is the first adventure game in which it is impossible to actually die or get stuck.

The Bad
The point and click interface can be a bit awkward at times and some puzzles can be really hard so that you really need to think in weird ways to find the solution.

The Bottom Line
This is simply the standard for adventure games. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! One of the finest games ever.

DOS · by Rensch (203) · 2005

The ancestor of many a great great LucasArts adventure... and it still stands up today!

The Good
For the time, AWESOME graphics and sound... I bought this when it first came out, and only King's Quest V could compete at the time (it was released the same month, if memory serves). The storyline is funny and logical at the same, the difficulty level is just right (most of it is logical, and the fact that you can't die or do something that you might regret later is a true relief to Sierra adventures, etc.) The characters are lovable. Guybrush the dork-turns-hero, Stan the sleazy used-ship-salesman, the fat free cannibals give this game a very personal touch... I play it every once in a while again, and it feels like visiting old friends.

The Bad
That dang Grog machine stole my gold piece! One of these days I'll call LucasArts and demand a refund... :)

The Bottom Line
Simply awesome, and this nowadays you can get it in various compilations (I personally own the LucasArts 10 adventures on 2 CD's thing, and there's also a compilation with the first 3 Monkey Islands available for under $20), so it's a true bargain as the game still holds it's own today. By the way, this was the first improved SCUMM game and would spawn such classics as Monkey Island 2, Indy 4, and Day of the Tentacle. Sure, they were Maniac Mansion, Indy 3, Zak McCracken, but Monkey Island 1 was the first Lucasfilm adventure that had various improvements which would later become standard: right-click on the mouse to execute a command, the visibility of items by merely passing over it with the mouse etc. made gameplay much more fluent then in it's predecessors.

Also interesting: at the same time Sierra released King's Quest V - ALSO featuring an updated system, just at the time when Lucasfilm updated their engine. Sierra and Lucasfilm - the eternal rivals when it comes to adventure games (at least in the eyes of many) were trying to surpass each other again and again, and the adventure-loving gamer benefitted tremendously, as both Lucasfilm/Arts and Sierra produced a plethora of awesome adventures during the 80's and 90's that are still loved by many today.

DOS · by Gothicgene (66) · 2001

The Secret of Monkey Island is probably one of the best games of its genre, heck it's probably one of the best games period!

The Good
The Secret of Monkey Island is hilarious! I have never laughed so much because of a computer game! The interface is easy to use, unlike some games of the era. I have to say that when I first played it (a friend recommended it to me) I was a bit sceptic as to how good of a game it was but the moment I had my first conversation in the Scum Bar (Harg,Harg,Harg, sorry Star Control 2 moment there :) ) I knew that Monkey Island was going to be filled with gaming goodness. The puzzles are challenging enough to make the game enjoyable and last a while, they are not so hard as to make you spend frustrated hours stuck on the same problem. The jokes and gags are all very funny, the edition of swordfights being determined by the best insults is one of the funniest that I have ever seen in a game. The Secret of monkey island is just filled with gags, jokes, fun puzzles, hilarious characters (such as the "Men Of Low Moral Fiber, (Pirates)" ), and a creative (and funny) plot.

The Bad
As with most adventure games it doesn't last more than a few days, but every minute is filled with tons gaming pleasure. Otherwise, a flawless Lucasarts production!

The Bottom Line
Same as above. It is the duty of every gamer to play this game.

DOS · by Ben Swan (2) · 2000

Lucasarts first true masterpiece.

The Good
The year is 1990. Lucasarts adventures 'till then had never really cried masterpiece before. Sierra was still the king of adventure games and seemingly had the genre in an impossible grip. Then Monkey Island happened. With its hilarious jokes, ingenious puzzles and intuitive interface, it took the adventure community by suprise. Everything about the game oozed class. The story is simple enough, save the beautiful governor Elaine from the evil ghost pirate Le Chuck and become a pirate yourself in the process. What makes it so special is that the story is so hilariously done with clever jokes and memorable characters that you can't help but become enthralled by it. A fantastic feature of the game (and all Lucasarts adventures) is that you cannot be killed. With most adventures of the day, walking down the wrong path or picking up a sharp object would kill you but in Monkey Island you are free to take your time on the ingenious puzzles without the worry of being nuked, melted etc while you do so, adding to the fun factor imeasurably.

The Bad
Monkey Island has aged quite a bit and so graphics and sound are pretty crummy these days but what do you expect?

The Bottom Line
This is the game that converted me to Lucasarts adventures way back when I was ten at the time of release and I still love it even today. It's aged technically but in all other ways it's as fresh and funny as it was 12 years ago. No adventure gamer can afford to miss it.

DOS · by Sycada (177) · 2002

A Pirate I was meant to be

The Good
The Secret of Monkey Island is without any doubt one of the greatest games ever made. It marked the beginning of LucasArts "golden era" which ended with Full Throttle (ok, Grim Fandango was a masterpiece and the latest Monkey Island was quite good but the company's heydays were long since over, but enough about that). The Secret of Monkey Island lets you take the role as Guybrush Threepwood, a young man with one wish; to be a foul-smelling, grog-swilling pirate. On his quest to achieve this goal Guybrush meets all sorts of interesting and funny characters such as; Otis, a notorious thief with a fetishism towards flowers. Elaine Marley, the independent and beautiful governor of Melee Island, Stan a dealer in used-ships and of course LeChuck, the most evil undead pirate you'll ever have to misfortune to gaze upon. LucasArts have always been good at creating a memorable cast for their games and The Secret of Monkey Island is no exception. Between the ordinary puzzles you must also engage in the Monkey Island series trademark: Insult Swordfight. The idea that sharp, witty insults are more important in a duel than your sword is (at least in my opinion) creative, also, this was as far as I know the first adventure game where you couldn't die (well, there's one point where you can but you must be a really bad gamer if you can't get past that certain part on your first try).

The Bad
The ending felt a bit rushed, that's all I can think of at the moment.

The Bottom Line
One of LucasArts finest games.

DOS · by Colonel Olrik (7) · 2005

I love the sea, I love the grog, I love the sound of a swords fight!

The Good
Guybrush Threepwood is the silliest and the funniest character I ever saw in a game. The game has perfect graphics, which can't be surpassed by "Unreal 2"! (LOL!) The story is like in an Indiana Jones movie. One hero, one woman, and lots of grog ;)

In this game, the programmers created a wonder. The story of "Monkey Island" is better than all the stories in other adventures until today. It's more funny than a movie with Monty Python. In this game, I saw the biggest three-headed monkey in the world! Bigger than my teacher! ;D

The secrets are too good for an adventure. Only God could have made that!

The Bad
What can be bad here? It's MONKEY ISLAND!!!!

The Bottom Line
Buy it or die ==> ! <== =o)

DOS · by Eugen Andreev (4) · 2002

One of the best adventure games ever.

The Good
The graphics are good even by todays standards. The sound is good (for the full version) and the story is excellent. The dialogue is funny and the characters are as well.

The Bad
There isn't much I don't like about this game. Aside from a few technical problems that can arise with any game, the only thing that comes to mind is when you beat the game the credits will role then after that a line saying : "Turn off your computer and go to sleep" will appear and there is nothing you can do but press CTRL-ALT-DEL. this will take you back to windows. But with older computers it might be a problem. Other than that there is nothing wrong with the game itself.

The Bottom Line
You play a young wannabe pirate named Guybrush Threepwood. He has traveled to Melee Island, (located deep in the Carribean and covered in a perpetual night) to become a pirate. Along the way he learns many things about the pirate lifestyle. And when the governer is kidnapped by the game's villain. Guybrush sets out to Monkey Island to rescue her. A great game to own. But own it on CD. I was introduced to this game in 1994 by one of my friends. When I got it as a birthday Present in 1996 I was elated. But it was on 3.5 discs and the sound totally crapped out. I had to use the computers internal sound. Last november I bought it again only this time on CD and I have played it eversince. So if you want this game get it on CD. It is definately worth buying. If only the second one was as good...

DOS · by Stephen Breuer (2) · 2002

This is one of the most creative endeavors that LucasArts created.

The Good
The graphics at the time were rich and to some extent still are. I had gotten the multimedia version of monkey island on CD with improved sound. It was and still is the most immersive music of any game I've played. The whole key to adventure games is the story and Monkey Island has a brilliant story that makes you want to continue.

The Bad
Not much. The only thing a little annoying was the parsar for the game, it has currently been replaced in the Curse of Moneky Island with a neat little coin thing, but at the time the game was created it was actually alot better than having to remember what words to type in.

The Bottom Line
I would describe the game as being an action-adventure game with multiple third person-perspectives. With an original story line about a boy named Guybrush, trying to make it as a pirate and gets swept into adventure when the love of his life, Elaine, becomes captured by the evil pirate Lechuck.

DOS · by Seer (55) · 2000

A complete classic in every way.

The Good
This game is halarious, and an absolute classic. Lucasarts went a large step further from their early graphic adventures such as Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken. You play the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a young pirate wannabe that sets foot on Melee Island to find his fortune. It's a game with puzzles, but a game with humor and just plain "funness" in it. It makes the game more enjoyable. And after you''ve beaten the game, you will still keep coming back and back to it. The game grows on you, and after awhile the characters are like family.

The Bad
Hey, look behing yoou! A three-headed monkey!

The Bottom Line
If you've never played an old graphic adventure and are stuck in th realm of 3-D, "cool" graphics, and all other modern stuff, do yourself a favor and playvthis game. You'll be glad you did.

Highly recommended

DOS · by Jason Harang (38) · 2001

Simply brilliant - The start of a new era.

The Good
Pretty much everything is good about this game. It is the start of a legendary series, and this alone makes it brilliant. In the VGA version, the graphics are beautiful - especially the backgrounds - and the character lines are witty and well delivered. The imagination can run wild in this game, and therefore it is ideal for all ages - from the kiddies to the old biddies. The storyline is the best feature - How could anyone have such a great imagination as to create the story of Guybrush and his Caribbean adventures? I have no idea, but it has been so well created and designed, one just wants to play this game, and play it again.

The Bad
There aren't many bad things about this game - The only complaint I have is the sheer difficulty in completing much of it. Without a walkthrough, this game can take years to complete, and lead to a lot of frustration (not as much as Kyrandia or Sierra games mind you - I lost a lot of hair over those) which can make the player turn off the computer, rather than play on.

The Bottom Line
This game is simply great. It was the start of a new era in adventure gaming, and it simply must be included in your collection. Buy it, and let your imagination run wild.

DOS · by Quackbal (45) · 2006

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

Another Monkey 1 review... Gee, I wonder if it will be positive??

The Good
What the heck do you expect me to say?? That Monkey Island is a milestone in the history of adventure games? That it perfectly merged an engrossing adventure game, rife with fantastic puzzles that challenge your imagination without becoming frustrating "click-on-stuff-until-some-shit-happens" affair, with an engaging comedic plotline that developed smoothly and provided the first really amazing comedy writing for a PC game?

That it had drop-dead gorgeous 256 color vga graphics that left every other game in the dust? That it was a groundbreaking achievement in graphics, sound, design, etc..??

Naa. I don't feel like writing all that crap!

The Bad
Bad? Well, the game needn't be so monstruously GOOD! I mean, Talk about overstatements.... Ok, ok, We get that it's a good game, but there's no need to rub it on every other game's face!! Poor guys... they have feelings, you know?

The Bottom Line
My take on Monkey Island 1? Pirates + Monkeys + Grog + Dude named Guybrush + LeChuck + Melee(Tm) Island = KickAss!!!!!!

Monkey 1 is the kind of game that you play until your brain melts, that makes you laugh so hard it hurts and that totally shatters your preconceptions about adventure games and comedy in videogames. I mean, I remember checking it out as a kid thinking:
"Man... Pirates??? How the heck can they be fun?? They don't have missile launchers! They don't even do Kung Fu!!" ... Well, it takes a particularly great game to overcome that kind of objective reasoning, and The Secret of Monkey Island is just that game. The best example of adventure gaming's golden age, a bonafide classic and the finest adventure game ever conceived to many. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for my pirate initiation course.

DOS · by Zovni (10504) · 2001

One of the best adventure games ever!

The Good
This game is an absolute classic. Alright, the graphics may be a bit simple for todays standards, but if you're an adventure game lover like me, they're good enough. The characters are very funny, some of the conversations made me laugh out loud. Most of the puzzles actually require thinking! Also, the fights. In this game, you fight by insulting your opponent and by coming up with the right response when your opponent tries to insult you. It's original stuff like this which made Monkey Island a classic.

The Bad
Uhm...

The Bottom Line
A great adventure game, one of the best adventure games out there! If adventure gaming is your kind of thing, this game is a must.

DOS · by Robert Pragt (27) · 2001

One of the greatest adventure games of all time! Bar None!

The Good
The game which has defined it's own niche in adventure gaming history! Everything from the comedies, music, graphics(for that time; but I still love the graphics), adventure elements, atmosphere, dialogues, interaction, and even the facial expressions are outstanding! The music though sounds best with an MT-32 or using MT-32 emulation, nonetheless is still great through the ordinary SB/AdLib mode sounds and it captivates you right from the beginning. I still hum the tunes now and then, after all these years! It's that good! As for the graphics, it was great for that time, even in the original 16-colour mode version. The newer 256-colour VGA mode enhances everything. As you might have already know, the swordfight sequence is one of a kind, using insults to win. Each and every locations are very memorable. Everywhere, it's lively and colorful. All the characters have their own way of conveying their humorous dialogues. The facial expressions they show are astounding. I first played this game in my 286. Even now, it plays well in the latest machines well. Too bad other people couldn't make a game like this anymore, since all are too busy jumping into the hi-tech, eye-catching graphics band-wagon where there is deficit of good gameplay. This game has captivated me before with it's 16 and/or 256 colour modes and AdLib/Mt-32 sound modes and STILL captivates me!

The Bad
I liked every aspect of this game except for the single occasion where you have to learn the insults by trial and error till you complete your 'set' of insults so that you have all the 'required' answers. But, this game is so good that you want to forgive any shortcomings you come across. And I did! Nothing to complain about. :)

The Bottom Line
Hmmm....I guess those who have this game are already die-hard fans like me. So you guys know how GREAT this game is!! As for any new comers, if you like playing adventure games, DON'T EVER miss this game! You miss this, and you miss an important part of your life! Play this and be awed! You'll be converted to a fan of MI series on the spot! :)

DOS · by sfdf (6) · 2004

Arguably the only adventure game that could be described as a true masterpiece.

The Good
What is the secret of Monkey Island? Well, it's the unique combination of great graphics, sounds, storyline, gameplay and fun. A story with pirates, monkeys, grog and silly jokes. C'mon, nobody really knows what the secret of Monkey Island is. It is the best-kept secret in Lucas Arts history and many people would say it doesn't exist. George Lucas' game company has released four amazing games and hasn't revealed the secret.

First of all, it has to be said that Monkey Island was a revolutionary adventure game. It didn't have the same fantastic medieval story of a kindgom which made King's Quest a classic and was incorporated by thousands of other adventures and RPGs. It didn't have the uncomfortable controls which made some games virtually impossible to play. It was also technically much better than all the other games at the time. Can you remember another 1990 game with perfect graphics and sound? And, of course, it was humorous. The fine, sophisticated sense of humor of the game was something really different and became a Lucas Arts trademark. To say the least, all the other game companies which tried to copy Lucas Arts humor failed miserably, with some few exceptions.

Ah, and your character cannot die in Monkey Island. Yes, don't worry. Monkey Island is very much like a cartoon - the character simply refuses to do something that could result in his death. So... just go ahead, try to jump off the cliff... you'll get a response such as "No, thanks". Why worry then? Do whatever you will... as in a good action movie, the happy ending is guaranteed.

And you don't have to worry if you forgot to do something first: you won't get stuck because of an action you should have done, the game doesn't allow it. You may ask: so, what's the point? Where's the fun? Monkey Island doesn't need that to be incredibly fun.

Any adventure gamer should be familiar to the great storyline behind Monkey Island series. Guybrush Threepwood is the good guy who wants to be a pirate. He is not tough and avoid fighting, but has brains. Yes, this guy may look naive and coward, but appearances are tricky: he is really smart and is capable of doing incredible things. To reach the status of pirate, he has to accomplish some tasks, and that's the point of the game. There's also a bad guy, LeChuck, a ghost pirate. Both fight for the love of Elaine Marley, governor of Melèe Island, which obviously happens to prefer Guybrush. Maybe because LeChuck is scary, green and rotten. And evil. Well, that's the background. The story is too complex and develops strangely (we could say it is unpredictable), something which is rare in an adventure game.

The gameplay is absolutely amazing and set new standards. Monkey Island was very easy to play and the mouse pointer was precise, something which was nearly impossible in a 1990 DOS game. The interface was really great and used the Lucas Arts SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) system. It was quite simple and intuitive: the player chooses a verb in a list of 12 possibilities (such as "pick up", "talk to", "use", "open", "close") to interact with other characters and objects. It became even better in 1991 when Lucas Arts made a Monkey Island remake and revised the SCUMM system to remove quite useless verbs (such as "fix") and remain with only 9. The interface became identical to that one featured in Monkey Island 2.

The atmosphere is outrageous. Lucas Arts managed to create one of the best pirate stories ever seen. When playing the game, you should remember of Stevenson's Treasure Island: it is creative and captivating, the true creation of a genius. And it has a plus: it's a comedy.

The puzzles were a real challenge. They were really clever and required lots of logical (or, maybe, illogical) thinking. Even if they were easy, they were something else. It may have been a pity that Monkey Island was released in 1990 because most of other adventure games (released before and after) became ridiculously obvious.

The original EGA graphics were very good for the time. But they became a little dated with the popularization of VGA and Lucas Arts released a new version to keep up with the top games in 1991, including Monkey Island 2 (which had fantastic graphics). The resolution was the same, but the game became much more colorful (while EGA graphics had 16 colors, VGA had 256). The EGA game is darker and may have a greater ambience because of that. But the VGA graphics are really beautiful (not as beautiful as Monkey 2 graphics, which was released roughly at the same time as the VGA version) and feature scenes which could have been paintings. Backgrounds were simply amazing: the player felt as if he was in the 17th or 18th century.

Monkey Island sound was impressive. It had a real soundtrack. The song was really very nice and well executed. Every classic has to have great music, and Monkey Island is no exception (well, George Lucas knows that as nobody does - what about Star Wars main theme? And the Imperial March?). Well, Monkey Island also had a great theme. The song has style and can be clearly identified. The sound effects were also nice.

Monkey Island is, in fact, a game which could have turned into a great Hollywood movie without much of effort. Instead of doing crap movies based on games (such as the pathetic Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Double Dragon, Tomb Raider and others), they could have made Monkey Island. The story seems like a movie script: it makes us laugh and cry, has subtle details, jokes and lots of adventure. In fact, Monkey Island is a cool mix of everything piracy meant to pop culture - it has elements from Stevenson's Treasure Island book, from the Peter Pan stories, from the Spielberg's Goonies movie and from Pirates of Caribbean Disney theme attraction.

Well, what else could be said? It is arguably THE BEST adventure game ever. It is perfect in every aspect - or, at least, in every aspect that really matters (c'mon, graphics and sounds always get dated, but the storyline resists to the inexorable passing of time). But that doesn't make a true classic. It has harmony, class and originality. It has something else, its own - weird - magic.

The Bad
It would be unfair to say Monkey Island has no problems. But they are so small in comparison to its outrageous qualities we simply forget they exist.

OK, the game could be longer. We get addicted to it and we cannot accept it has finished. We cannot get enough of Monkey Island!

Another problem is that Lucas Arts has not done another Monkey Island remake. It would be amazing to play it with Super VGA graphics and surround sound. And it may get really hard to find this game to buy these days.

It may not have the hi-tech features of the newest adventures, but advanced technology is all most of them offer. Monkey Island was once the pinnacle of technological achievement. It's not anymore. But - just like wine - this game gets better with the age.

There's another thing. Someone can complain about Lucas Arts way of making adventure games. What's the point if the character can't die? Is this just a solving puzzle game? No one can deny that is a valid point of view...

The Bottom Line
TRUE CLASSIC. Brilliant. Unique. Indescribable. Legendary. Really catching. The Ferrari of adventure games. To sum it up, no adventure games can keep up with Monkey Island - not even its sequels.

DOS · by Mumm-Ra (393) · 2003

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Alsy, Gianluca Santilio, monkeyislandgirl, Terok Nor, Mr Creosote, kelmer44, Jo ST, Patrick Bregger, Rodrigo Steinmann, Veniceknight, S Olafsson, BuzzBomber, Narushima, Hello X), Riemann80, Kabushi, RetroArchives.fr, Sun King, xPafcio, Crawly, Big John WV, Scaryfun, lights out party.