Continuing the trend they began with last year’s The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, LucasArts has once again put a 21st century shine on a 20th century classic with an update of its sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. Returning from the first remake are HD graphics, full voice-acting, an updated musical score, alternate controls, and the ability to seamlessly switch between the classic and enhanced versions of the game at any time. This time, however, they’ve also added a concept art gallery, a designer’s commentary track, and the option to hear the new voices with the old graphics. With a few curious exceptions, the overall “Special”ness of the experience has generally changed for the better, making one of the best adventures of all time even better in the process.
Guybrush Threepwood, still basking in his victory over the Ghost Pirate LeChuck, but now flying single after a never-quite-explained break-up with Elaine and flush with cash from between-game exploits, has arrived on Scabb Island looking for clues to the legendary treasure of Big Whoop. Of course, as the title gives away, LeChuck isn’t as obliterated as Guybrush thinks. While our hero travels the Tri-Island area tracking down four pieces of a map, LeChuck and his agents are conspiring against him, though Guybrush remains mostly oblivious to this danger, having plenty of other problems to deal with. To succeed in his quest, he’ll need to explore the ocean depths, win a drinking contest, bring the dead back to life, and, perhaps most challenging of all, sweet-talk his ex-girlfriend. When the final confrontation with LeChuck finally occurs, it’s a heck of a difficult battle (much more so than in the first game), and leads to one of the most controversial video game endings of all time (I’m not fond of it, but your appreciation may vary).
Even without any enhancements, Monkey Island 2 is still an amazing work of art, and there are so many wonderful characters in this game. Guybrush is the gold standard of adventure protagonists, and is still the funniest character in the series. His non sequitur comments never fail to make me laugh, and that goes double when his lines are delivered by Dominic Armato. But there are so many memorable supporting characters in this game, making most modern adventures seem like unpopulated wastelands in comparison. I could mention Kate Capsize (or is her name actually Guybrush Threepwood???) or Wally the Cartographer (“My monocle!”), but even nameless characters like the Spit Contest barker are bursting with personality.
Despite having played the game several times in the past, it still made me laugh many times all over again. There is so much content in MI2, it’s incredible. I couldn’t believe how many colors Guybrush could name, many of which barely qualify, when asked to name the color of a tree that falls in an empty forest. His answer went from strange, to annoying, to absurd, back to annoying, then to hilarious. Don’t even get me started on the card catalog at the library, because one could literally spend an entire gaming session there (R – Recursion; See: Recursion). If you’ve never played this game before, and you enjoy comedy adventures, you are in for a great experience.
You are also in for an incredibly challenging one. Even as many times as I’ve gone through the game, I still got stuck several times. This has to be one of the most difficult adventures I have played, but not in an unfair way. The world is just so vast and complex, with so many things to do. Apart from a few variations, like a song that also serves as a direction riddle, almost every puzzle involves collecting, combining, and using objects in the environment, but there are quite a few red herrings (though none so literal as in the first Monkey)! But no matter how stuck I got, or how many times I sought a context-sensitive hint (each new one increasingly helpful, and only ever a button press away), in the end it always seemed like a reasonable solution.
Of course, many people know these things already, and are more interested in what the updated elements offer. One feature fans asked for the last time around has been implemented here: you can now play the game using the original graphics and full voice-acting at the same time. In fact, it’s almost necessary for playing “classic” mode in the Xbox 360 version, because whenever the autosave icon appears (as it does fairly often), the text on screen vanishes, so without voice you may lose a lot of important dialogue. If you choose to play this way, regardless of platform, you’ll be left with the original controls as well as original music—you can’t pick and choose every little thing however you want it, but it’s still a cool compromise for those who like the old-school look with the new-school sound. However, it would be a shame to miss out on the remastered soundtrack. Every time I switched to classic mode, I couldn’t believe how much I missed the fuller sound of the orchestral score. All of the compositions fit in perfectly with the (mostly) light-hearted Caribbean aesthetic, and are really enjoyable to listen to.Continued on the next page...