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Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition for iPhone

by Jon Rettinger | November 9, 2009November 9, 2009 12:48 pm PDT

monkey1Many years ago when I purchased my first PC, LucasArts had just released the third installment to its cherished Monkey Island series of computer-based adventure games entitled Curse of Monkey Island. At the time I had little experience with computer gaming, but this particular title had drawn critical acclaim, earning rave reviews. The accolades and hype won me over and I soon ran out and bought a copy. Ten minutes into the game, and three diet sodas later, I was completely hooked. The characters were well constructed, the dialog comical and witty, loaded with tongue-in-cheek humor, and game play was so immersive and atmospheric that you literally couldn’t walk away. Start to finish, this game was a classic that still stands, I believe, as one the best adventure game ever made. Needless to say I was a fan.

When smartphones later came into being it seemed only natural to me that this game series belong on mobile devices. The form factor was just right for simple 2D adventure games, combined with touch-finger interaction. And sure enough developers had soon ported LucasArts’s SCUMM engine – the source code under Monkey Island’s virtual hood – onto Windows Mobile and other devices. Unfortunately these were usually community efforts, not commercial releases from LucasArts. Far from perfect, but for many diehard adventurers this was the only way to experience classic Monkey Island games on a device that fit in your pocket. Until now.

Recently LucasArts released a special edition re-release of Secret of Monkey Island, for various gaming platforms, including iPhone. This particular title is a re-imagining of the original 1991 DOS game, giving this timeless classic a well-deserved makeover; adding refreshed graphics and spoken dialog. Don’t shrug your shoulders, the the original Monkey Island featured primitive 8-bit color graphics and didn’t even support audio.

“I’m Guybrush Threepwood, mighty Pirate!”

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LucasArts paid loving attention to detail in the iPhone version of this special release, including voices of the regular cast members from later Monkey Island installments. Namely Dominic Armato, who reprises his role as the voice of central character Guybrush Threepwood, and Earl Boen, who lends his voice once more as evil archenemies, the zombie Pirate LeChuck. Murray the talking pirate skull is a no-show in this game, for obvious reasons, but you will see one or two references to him throughout the game.

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The story remains true to the original, including the same plot and characters, even the same dialog. The differences are primarily cosmetic – replacing dated DOS-era bitmap characters and artwork with refreshed high-resolution graphics. Unlike the original however, you don’t slog your way around by way of a mouse and keyboard, but instead use your fingers to guide your character along, tapping on objects to activate a set of contextual options (like “speak to,” “pull,” “use,” and “give”) by means of an always-onscreen icon.

The game begins, just like the original, on a mountaintop on the remote Melee Island where Guybrush makes his grand entrance, proudly boasting his interest in pursuing piracy as a vocation to a startled elderly island inhabitant – who then directs him to the proper channels. From there, it’s deja vu all over again.

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You finger your way through the game completing various quests and levels, interacting with other characters, gaining information and such. The usual adventure game minutiae. What really makes this game special is its voice acting, that delivers many laugh-out-loud moments and hours of genuine enjoyment.

There are a few downsides to this game, on iPhone that is. For one the graphics are something of a disappointment — not quite on par with the PC and Xbox 360 versions. Granted that is to be expected on a tiny device that lacks all the fancy pixel pumping hardware found on those gaming platforms, but at times characters look somewhat jagged in appearance. Then again, maybe it’s all the fingerprints on my screen making them appear that way . Where did I put that Windex bottle? Another more annoying issue I have is with the onscreen navigation, which is sometimes less responsive than it needs to be. I find myself having to tap repeatedly on any particular point on the map in order to make Guybrush respond and move in the direction I indicate. Granted, that is a minor nitpick, but an hour of this will have you grinding your nails into the display in frustration. Work damn you!

Conclusion: “Look behind you! A three-headed Monkey!”

If you are new to adventure gaming, or haven’t yet experienced this classic game, then Secret of Monkey Island is well worth its purchase price of $7.99. For those who have played the original (several times over) this remake, no matter how cute and prettied up, will feel much like watching the original Star Wars on DVD, again. Still, it’s a fantastic game filled with fun little puzzles and magical charm and offers a great way to kill time while waiting at the doctor’s office.

Pros:
It’s Monkey Island for fraps sake!
Excellent voice-acting
Brain-teasing puzzles
The same memorable game, retold and repainted.

Cons:
The same memorable game, uh… retold and repainted.
Fidly onscreen controls.
Graphics aren’t as good as PC and Xbox 360 counterpart.
Screen response is sometime sluggish
Price: Eight bucks is a bitch much for this game

I rate this (out of 5):

4-star1

You can find out more about this game and purchase a copy on the iTunes store.


Jon Rettinger

Jon, perhaps best known by his YouTube alter ego Jon4Lakers, has a love for technology that can never be quenched, no matter how hard he tries. If...

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