Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge – The PS3 Attitude Review
Until recently, PS3-owning graphic adventure fans haven’t been getting catered for, so their hearts must have leapt with joy when they found out they were getting Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playground, Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition and Tales of Monkey Island. They must now be on the verge of a full cardiac arrest with the release of Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge.
This is arguably the greatest adventure game ever made, so we’re delighted to have it. The only question is, does the special edition add to the original game?
Before answering that question, let’s take a moment to explain what Monkey Island is for those unfamiliar with the series, or the adventure-game genre. The series follows the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood. When we first met him in Secret of Monkey Island (which we reviewed recently), he was a naive and quirky wannabe pirate, even though he clearly didn’t know what a pirate is.
In his quest to become a buccaneer he found himself falling in love with Elaine, the governess of Mêlée Island, who ends up getting kidnapped by the ghost pirate LeChuck. He assembled a crew and then sailed off to Monkey Island, where he discovered the island’s mysterious secret and banished LeChuck from the land of the living forever – at least that’s what he thought.
LeChuck is back in LeChuck’s Revenge and he’s angry, and it’s Guybrush’s fault he’s back. Since the events of the last game Guybrush has become more narcissistic and cocky. He boasts to everyone about killing LeChuck and carries his victim’s beard as a trophy, but this backfires when one of LeChuck’s old followers, Largo LeGrande, finds out that Guybrush was responsible for his master’s death. Largo steals the beard and uses it to resurrect LeChuck.
Guybrush is informed by the Voodoo Lady (also in the first game) that the only way to stop LeChuck is to find the famous treasure of Big Whoop, which is on the little known Dinky Island. You spend the rest of the game searching for the Big Whoop in a desperate bid to save your life from a vengeful LeChuck.
The first thing to note about LeChuck’s Revenge is that it’s much bigger than Secret of Monkey Island. The first game had two islands, but this has five: Scumm. Phatt, Booty, Dinky and an unknown island where LeChuck’s fortess is located.
You start on Scumm Island, an island reminiscent of Mêlée Island from the first game; the pirates are kept in check by the nasty Largo LeGrande. Largo takes all of Guybrush’s money and possessions, which leaves him trapped there. So the first part of the game is spent trying to get away from Scumm Island and trying to teach Largo a lesson. Once this is done another two islands are opened up: Phatt Island and Booty Island.
The former is ruled by the aptly named governor Phatt, who runs a tight ship. Its main attraction is the town’s Library, but we’ll cover that later. Booty Island is a livelier island where Mardi Gras is constantly being celebrated. With cross-dressing antics and spitting contests, you’ll have fun here. It’s ruled by Guybrush’s ex-lover Elaine, who left him after he defeated LeChuck because she grew tired of his increased self-confidence. The final parts of the game are spent on an unknown island containing LeChuck’s fortress and on Dinky Island, where Big Whoop is.
With Monkey Island 2 you’ll notice that it has many more characters and much more dialogue than in Secret of Monkey Island. With the first game, the team lacked experienced making a game almost completely based around dialogue. It’s clear they have much more confidence with LeChuck’s Revenge; the conversations flow better and the characters feel more fleshed out as a result. That last point is essential because it’s the characters who are the main attraction in Monkey Island.
The second game always had the best cast of all the games. Guybrush’s new self-assured personality is a much better fit for him than the wide-eyed naive youth he was in the first game – that’s not to say he isn’t still hapless. LeChuck’s role as the evil Nemesis feels much more developed this time round as well, and the new Guybrush-hating Elaine also works perfectly . There’s one great scene where you have to antagonise her; it’s probably fair considering she named her dog Guybrush.
That philosophy isn’t worth my time.
The new roles for Stan and Herman Toothrot are well chosen. Stan was the fast-talking used boat salesman from the first game who had impossibly fast flailing arms. This time round he’s on Booty Island, hard selling used coffins. He has great lines such as “need a bin for your next of kin?” Hermon Toothrot you may remember as the senile old castaway on Monkey Island, this time he’s landed on Dinky Island where he’s teaching philosophy classes. Toothrot isn’t the best teacher, it must be said. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, what colour is the tree?” He’ll asks. You’ll spend over a minute going through every colour imaginable before Guybrush comes to the conclusion that philosophy is a waste of time. Herman agrees. It’s having wonderfully quirky characters like these is what makes LeChuck’s Revenge so charming.
The new characters compliment the old perfectly, especially Wally B Feed, a young cartographer on Scabb Island. He’s a luckless character who Guybrush steals a monocle from, leaving him blind. His association with Guybrush also leads to him getting tortured. His suffering highlights the amount of hell Guybrush brings about for those around him. It always makes for good comedy.
The next key component to a Monkey Island game is of course the puzzles; it is a point-and-click adventure game after all. LucasArts show an incredible amount of imagination with the puzzles in LeChuck’s Revenge. Everyone who played the game first time round remembers trying to win the spitting contest. To win the contest you have to find a way to thicken your spit so it will travel further, and a little cheating helps as well.
The Phatt Island library plays an important role in many of the puzzles. You can search the library catalogues to find books which you can check out and use to get further in the story. The catalogue contains over 200 books but most are only there for comic value, such as ‘A million and One Ways to Play Solitaire by Herman Toothrot.’ It’s fun just flicking through the catalogue. The library is watched over by a strict librarian who tells Guybrush off for being noisy; she zips around the around the library quickly in her chair when hunting for the books.
You shouldn’t expect the puzzles in LeChuck’s Revenge to be easy ride. They are hard; sometimes infuriatingly so. In the behind the scenes commentary (more on that later) the developers even admit that the door puzzle on Phatt Island was evil. It had you knock on a back alley door, a man opens the slat and asks you for a password, he shows a number of fingers on his hands but says another number before showing another number with his fingers while saying a different number again. You have to guess the relating number three times in a row. Like all these things, it’s easy when you know, but you can easily lose half your hair trying to figure it out on the first occasion.
Nevertheless, if the game was too easy you would finished it too quickly, and it would be pretty boring. The special edition does have some useful features that help limit the amount of moments you get frustrated: by holding square you can request a hint and by pressing L1 you can highlight all the interactive objects on the screen. This latter feature is great as there is nothing worse than getting stuck not knowing what to do because you didn’t spotted a small object in the corner of a room. Using the hint system does feel like cheating though.
Freshly glossed artwork
These aren’t the only improvements made for the special edition. The game now features some lovely high-definition artwork. They did the same on the Secret of Monkey Island special edition and had moderate success – the backgrounds looked great but some of the characters looked out of place. The standard is much better in LeChuck’s Revenge.
Everything is bright and colourful; it’s very appealing on the eye. Guybrush no longer sports a weird toupee. He now looks like the character we expected him to look like. It’s not just Guybrush, all the characters are better this time round thanks to the improvements LucasArts have made with movements and lip syncing. They’ve perfectly recreated LeChuck’s stilted walk from the original game and he still spits profusely. Still, as is the case with Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, if you don’t like the new style you can play the game in its original build by simply pressing ‘select’.
The voice acting also works much better this time round. Dominic Armato (Guybrush) and Earl Boen (LeChuck) have been playing their roles for a long time now and they clearly know their characters like the back of their hands. You can sense that they’re enjoying themselves. The supporting actors are also of a consistently high standard.
It’s not that Secret of Monkey Island had bad acting, it’s just that they all appear to benefit from Monkey Island 2’s better script. The fluent structure of the sentences make it better suited to having voices dubbed over retrospectively. Another nice improvement is that you can leave the voices on even when you switch back into the original build. You couldn’t do this in Secret of Monkey Island.
A lot of work has been put into improving the controls. The original Monkey Island games were point-and-click adventures but that style doesn’t sit well with modern gaming. It’s still fine to play with a keyboard and mouse but that’s a luxury you don’t get on the PS3.
The developers have improved things by allowing you to control Guybrush directly with the left analogue stick. This can lead to awkward moments when you walk off the screen unintentionally but for the most part it’s for the better. The object interaction options have been streamlined also: by pressing R2 you can make a wheel pop up giving you a selection of options to choose from. It’s a much smarter system than the one in Secret of Monkey Island because it only offers realistic options rather than giving you every option no matter how irrelevant they are. All the objects you’ve acquired can be displayed by simply holding down L2.
The most fan pleasing addition to the special edition is definitely the inclusion of the behind-the-scenes commentary. This works just it would with a film on DVD. At certain points in the game you can press R1, and you will be able to hear Monkey Island’s creators Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman discuss the game. The commentary is always entertaining and occasionally enlightening. The only complaint is that you can miss things happening in the game because the game doesn’t pause when the commentary starts. Still it’s an excellent feature for long-term and new fans alike, as is the unlockable concept art.
Overall the special edition has been a success. While the Secret of Monkey Island special edition was good, it didn’t feel like they put that much work into it. This, on the other hand, has clearly been a labour of love for LucasArts. They’ve done such a good job you often forget that you’re playing a 19 years old game.
Sure, it’s not a game for everyone. If you’re easily frustrated by puzzle games or if you want guns and action then this isn’t for you (although it is possible to kill Guybrush in one scene, and I highly recommend you do so). However, if you do want a game that will challenge you mentally and make you laugh at regular intervals then look no further than this.
We recommend all three of the Monkey Island games on the PlayStation Store but if you can only buy one then definitely go for LeChuck’s Revenge; it’s better than Secret of Monkey Island, and the more recent Tales of Monkey Island, which we also reviewed recently. It also represents a golden age for graphic adventure games.
LucasArts were hinting that we might see more Monkey Island stuff coming our way should these games turn out well. We don’t know if it would be a new games altogether or special editions for Curse of Monkey Island and the disappointing Escape from Monkey Island. Either way, we hope people go out and buy these games because the more piratical adventures we have on the PlayStation Store the better.