The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition (XBLA) Review

Nostalgia is a funny beast. It can make you go to great lengths, and yet leave you hanging right at the end. Take me, for example: I’ve gone to great lengths to re-live my Sega Saturn days. I’ve re-bought a Saturn, and re-bought many of the games I used to own on it (except Sonic R. Never again.) – and yet I’ve probably spent about half an hour actually playing the games.

It was with such an attitude that I leapt into the Secret of Monkey Island remake. With updated graphics and the voice talent from Curse of Monkey Island, surely this would be a winner! Well hey, it kind of is – and it really helps that the original game still holds up, for the most part.

So, I hear tell that some of you out there aren’t Monkey Island fans from way back. 1) For shame! 2) Here’s a quick summary: you play as hapless wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood. In your quest for both piratehood and the affection of a certain Governer, you must solve all manner of puzzles and overcome the forces of the ghost pirate LeChuck. This is complicated by the fact that LeChuck is also after the Governer.

What follows is a mix of mind-bending puzzles and a lot of well-written humour. After however many years, this is still one of the better-written video game narratives around. The irreverant tone, lovable characters, witty dialogue, and more all combine to create a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

So that’s the original. The remake adds a coating of high-definition artwork and animation. However, because it’s technically running right on top of the original version, it still has the same (limited) frames of animation, which can look a little jarring. You soon get used to it, however – and you can toggle between the old and new versions with a single button press, which is pretty cool. I think more remakes need to do this – it gives newcomers and veterans alike a chance to see how things have changed.

And now that the game can take up more space than a few floppy disks, the Monkey Island voice cast has been brought on board. They’re good, but here it feels a little stilted – but then, it’s not like the original dialogue, or the timing, was written with spoken voice in mind.

There are two ways to look at this game. The first is through rose-tinted glasses: if you played Monkey Island back in the day, then grab this version (it’s cheap!) to re-live your younger years. Nostalgia aside, however, newcomers will still find an adventure game that is really satisfying (and cheap!), even if I do think it falls apart a bit at the end. Either way, there’s value to be had in this product – it’s been remade with affection, and it’s aged far better than something like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you appreciate hilarity and good puzzles, check this out now!

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