The Secret of Monkey Island. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Eddie Huffman
Obviously, The Secret of Monkey Island was designed as much for fun as for nail-biting adventure. That it manages to provide a healthy amount of both is testament to the resounding success of its design.
"We believe that you buy games to be entertained, not to be whacked over the head every time you make a mistake," reads the manual to Lucasfilm Games' The Secret of Monkey Island. "We think you'd prefer to solve the game's mysteries by exploring and discovering, not by dying a thousand deaths."
They got that right. Blessed forgiveness is only one of several virtues that make The Secret of Monkey Island such a thorough delightful adventure game. It loses none of its edge in excitement or challenge by offering multiple chances at success, and in doing so it gains a friendly accessibility that keeps it from becoming frustrating and irritating the way other adventure games can sometimes be.
The game begins on Melee Island, where amiable goof Guybrush Threepwood has come to seek his fortune by becoming a pirate. The first stop is the Scumm Bar, where Threepwood endures the first of many cracks about his silly name and learns firsthand from three important-looking pirates what he must do to begin a life of robbing and pillaging. In very satisfying detail, the adventure-game hero gets to dish out as many wisecracks as he takes. "You're a bunch of foul-smelling, grogswilling pigs!" Threepwood can bark at his pirate mentors.
Initially, Threepwood must learn about and complete a series of tasks designed to acquaint him with pirating. These tasks include sword fighting and treasure hunting. Ultimately, he must assemble a crew, obtain a ship, and embark for Monkey Island in search of the secret that gives the game its title. Among other frightful encounters, Threepwood has to outfight Melee Island's hottest sword slinger, outwit a pack of frothing piranha poodles, and navigate a dark, dangerous forest.
Controlled by arrow keys, joystick, or mouse, Threepwood moves briskly through an impressively cinematic graphic landscape. Melee Island's village looks cartoonishly ominous beneath a lovely, star-strewn sky, with shady pirates and their pet rats hanging out or roaming the streets. Back in the island's inner recesses, there's an impressive circus tent glowing with inner light and a dimly lit shipyard called Stan's Previously Used Vessels. Unexpected and humorous touches abound, some cornier than others: "If there's one type of piracy I don't like," says one character, "it's CONS-piracy!"
The Secret of Monkey Island is good fun and may have you laughing as you study to become a high-seas terror, so hoist the mainsail and post a lookout. For cutlass-swinging adventure, Monkey Island is somewhere on your horizon.