The Secret of Monkey Island Returns


One of my favorite video games of all time is The Secret of Monkey Island, an adventure game published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. Monkey Island successfully combined humor, adventure gaming (walking around, picking stuff up, talking to people), and terrific music. It was also notable in its emphasis on fun and puzzle-solving -- you can't die, and puzzles are always solvable. It's sort of a low-key game in that sense: though there is some light swashbuckling, it's never about jumping or clicking fast or shooting. And it's genuinely funny. That's rare in a computer game.

So the big news for Monkey Island fans is that there's a reissue of the original game coming to Xbox 360 and the PC later this year. The art has been repainted in HD -- a bit of a step up from the original 320x240 resolution -- and the interface has been updated. In a recent blog post, Monkey Island author Ron Gilbert played through the original MI and recorded his notes, along with some screenshots. It's a great read for old-school gaming fans, and gives some insight into his game design decisions. For example:

While Insult Sword Fighting is one of the first things people think of when they hear Monkey Island, I thought it seemed little tedious (but fun) as I played though it again. There is a point where you say "I get it", but your [sic] still forced to go though the motions again and again. If I was going to do Insult Sword Fighting in a future game, I'd make it more free form allowing the player to be clever and construct their own sentences. During the early stages of the Monkey Island design, we would watch old Errol Flynn era pirate movies. One thing that stood out was during the fights they always taunted each other with insults. I knew we needed to have sword fighting in the game - it was about pirates after all - but I didn't want to introduce any action game play and the old pirate moves provided the perfect solution.

So now that you're pumped up with nerdy anticipation, preview the Monkey Island reissue, read Ron Gilbert's notes on the original, or watch this amazing video in which someone plays through the entire Monkey Island game (the Amiga version). The whole thing. On YouTube. It takes two and a half hours. (Though it took me weeks.)