The Curse of Monkey Island
It's Hard To Believe That Five Years have gone by since the most wondrous adventure of all time appeared on game shelves, ready to woo and tempt all and sundry to a life of sparkling gameplay, ingenious puzzles and a hilarious dose of self-deprecating humour. Monkey Island 2 was an out and out winner, a triumph for LucasArts, a game worth getting married to. But then all went quiet on the simian front. Not a wimper. Not a cry. Not a peek. Not even a glimpse of pink bottom. The Monkey series was over, dead and buried, kaput - LucasArts concentrated instead on new escapades which didn't involve four-legged primates or drunken pirates, moving into the higher echelons of greasy, head-bangin' bikers and smart dog/rabbit defective duos. The latter was excellent (and merits a sequel), the former was ever-so-slightly snorey. But the clamouring for "more Monkey" would not subside, so the imminent birth of the third game in the series was announced... and the world rejoiced. Hoorah!
Wimps R Us
Well, Monkey Island 3: The Curse Of Monkey Island - has arrived. It stars all our favourite characters from the last game, as well as a collection of new ones. Guybrush Threepwood, the ponciest pirate in history takes his place once more as the unlikely hero in a new salty sea-dog adventure. His nemesis from the first game, the heinous ghost pirate LeChuck, is back and looking for action as well as a new bit of stuff. He's got his eye on Elaine Marley, a rich bitch if ever there was one, but - hey - sassy and sexy too, and the gal who's always held a place in LeChuck's villainous heart. LeChuck wants to make her his demon bride, despite the fact that Elaine, for all her obvious charms, is clearly insane - she loves none other than old wimpo features, Threepwood. This unbelievable fact comes to light during the highly impressive, beautifully animated intro sequence. That special brand of 'Monkey1 humour kicks in immediately...
Hapless Guybrush is sitting in a bumper car 'boat' in the middle of the ocean, dreaming of survival and all sorts of tasty food and drink. He begins to whine on about how he'd love a bottle of spring water, a tasty chicken, a pint of grog etc, and the aforementioned items begin bouncing along in line, while the gormless Guybrush, busy bemoaning his fate, fails to see them. He's suddenly startled from his dream, however, when his 'boat' is caught in the crossfire between two pirate ships. Aboard one hovers the unsavoury LeChuck, desperately declaring his love; on the other stands the feisty Elaine, looking suitably bored as she delivers some classic put-downs: "I'm washing my hair tonight" and "Can't we just be friends?" for example. Eventually, she gets mad with LeChuck, tells him how he took her away from her only true love - Guybrush (yeuch) - at which point LeChuck spots Guybrush and captures him. The game proper begins here, with you, as ponce pants, trying to break out of your ship's 'cell'. Not only do you meet up with Wally here - he of the giant bladder from the last game - but moments later, being the dunderhead that you are, you only also manage to turn your girlfriend into gold. But hey, now I'm telling you the plot...
Suffice to say that the characters are just what you come to expect from a classy LucasArts adventure. An inventive, engaging and often absurd bunch of folk await, from the hairdressing pirates who work at the Barbery Coast Salon, to the luwy pirates in the theatre to the terrifying new tyrant, El Polio Diablo (the Devil Chicken). The new characters are every bit as enticing as the old, and their voices work a treat. Not only is there a great range of accents - from hicksville redneck to tossy toff - but the lines are all delivered with gusto, which really makes it feel like you're witnessing a play. The attention to detail is brilliant: the game's packed with puns, self-mocking irony, witty dialogue and anachronistic repartee.
The biggest changes from Monkey Island 2 lie in the graphics and the interface. Out go the slightly primitive but ultimately endearing rough-edged graphics and in comes a smooth swish style of animation worthy of Disney. Lush. Big. Meaty. Juicy. But somehow I can't help feeling that for Monkey devotees of the first two titles something tiny and almost intangible has been lost - rather like in that ridiculous episode of Dallas when the new Miss Ely appeared or when Brookside suddenly got a new Leo Johnson. The new characters are so much more polished than the old that they're almost unrecognisable. And I'm not too enamoured with the cartoony style the characters are drawn in; they're a bit too Dragon's Lair for my liking. Okay, so that's my own personal gripe, but I'm disappointed with Guybrush and LeChuck in particular - it's almost as if a weighty wodge of personality has been drained from their faces. Call me old-fashioned. Call me nostalgic. Call me old even (and I'll smash your face in) - but then I've always been a bit of a retro chick.
As for the interface, it plays like a dream. Easy to get the knack of, it's based on the one used in the last two LucasArts' adventures, The Dig and Full Throttle. No tedious typing of text as in ye olde adventures of yore is required,
instead it works by holding down the left mouse button to call up a large gold coin, which sports a fetching picture of a hand, a skull and a parrot's head. The hand stands for "pick up' or 'use', the skull means 'examine' and the head stands for 'talk to', 'eat' or anything else you care to do using your mouth (Cheeky - Ed). Your inventory is displayed in what seems like an ever-expanding case -one click with the right mouse button and it appears, then you can either left-click on it and drag it onto the 'scene' or decide to give it a command within the case using the gold coin or drag it over to combine it with another object in your inventory. When you talk to other characters, just like in the last game, a choice of questions and answers appear and you simply click on the ones you desire. Oh, and although this is a 'talkie', there's a Luddite option which allows you to view the text on screen too.
Another bonus is the fact Monkey 3 is huge and - like Monkey 2 - you get two games for the price of one. Even I, the highly revered Queen of Monkey Island, who was too proud to play the easier version and plumped straight for the Mega Monkey setting, found a fair few stumbling blocks along the way. But the beauty of this title, just like the other games in the series, is that the difficulty level is set just right. You never get so frustrated that you don't want to carry on, that you want to lob your PC through the nearest window, that you don't give a damn whether, say, bum-scratching Blondebeard ever eats a piece of real chicken again. It's such a cutie wootie, comforting game. It's where you've been before. You know it. You love it.
It's warm. It's snug. There's nothing earth-shatteringly new gameplay-wise, yet it's impossible to put down. The jingly-jangly music that has you jigging from side to side like there's no tomorrow, the superb sound effects, the quick wit, the bad jokes, the self-mocking humour, the fantastic attention to detail, the cleverly crafted cut-scenes, the fun arcadey bits, the ingenious yet peculiarly logical puzzles - they're all here again.
Essentially, then, The Curse Of Monkey Island offers more of the same. That's no bad thing because there are still mad fools out there who've never laid their eyes on Monkey 2, but of course to us old ape hands, Monkey 3 is no longer startlingly 'new'. It's far more polished than its prequel, yet at the same time familiar and reassuringly tip-top territory. So how was it for me? Always better than the first time and slightly better than the second.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode