The Monkey Island games were a series of point and click adventures back in the 1990s released on the PC. They were, and remain, rather unusual compared to most other titles being churned out, with an emphasis on experimentation, genuinely excellent scripts, humour, exploration, and puzzle solving.
The Curse of Monkey Island (20 years old this year!) is our favourite, but many others will claim Monkey Island 2 to be the best of the lot. Back in 2010, the 1991 game was remastered and put back on Steam for a new generation, and existing fans, to enjoy (as the series’ creator, LucasArts, did for Grim Fandango) – this is excellent for everyone, as the titles are so wonderfully charming and genuinely funny. Thusly, me hearties, here we go in celebration of a swashbuckling classic!
Monkey Island 2
Before all the largely tedious Pirates of the Carribean stuff started, and continues to lumber on a like drunken football hooligan heading to a chip shop for a pie, pirates weren’t quite as popular. In 1995, Geena Davis pirate vehicle Cutthroat Island bombed at the box office, but quietly in the video game world, the brilliant LucasArts was delivering a series of masterpieces.
The Secret of Monkey Island arrived in 1990 across the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST, and Macintosh. The sequel followed in 1991 and was immediately hailed as a classic, the same for the next installment in 1997 just to hammer home how impressive the games are, and they’re now a much-beloved part of 1990s gaming nostalgia. So much so, this warranted a complete overhaul in order to update the graphics and (brilliantly) add in voice over acting which so elevated the Curse of Monkey Island over its predecessors. You can see a bit of the remake process in the clip below.
The most important theme to establish is the humour. The games are genuinely funny and have an incredible charm and warmth about them – the scripts are just inspired and feature some of the sharpest, most impressive dialogue in video game history. Asides from this, the titles essentially interactive video games, as the player you point and click on parts of the screen to find out more, solve puzzles, talk to the (usually bizarre) individuals you come across, and advance the story.
You star as the hapless pirate Guybrush Threepwood, who is a bumbling, amiable sort looking for the legendary Big Whoop treasure. He’s completely ineffective as a pirate, but has a sunny disposition and sardonic wit in order to deal with the many deranged individuals he comes across.
This is all, by the way, complemented by beautiful hand drawn graphics, so you simply have a gorgeous and endearing video game which, with its silly but witty humour, stands as another fine example of what video games are capable of. This is a title for all ages – everyone from all walks of life can enjoy something about Monkey Island 2 thanks to its accessibility, and all we can do is bask in its loveliness.
LucasArts in 2017
George Lucas formed the company in 1982 as Lucasfilm Games, but it was rebranded as LucasArts in 1990 and promptly went on to be one of the most beloved developers of the 1990s, thumping out a mixture of point and click adventure games, simulators, Star Wars titles, and other gubbins. The finest of the lot, surely, has to be the wonderful Monkey Island series, two of which were remastered for re-release a few years ago.
Unfortunately, and weirdly, the Walt Disney Company took over LucasArts in 2012 and most of the staff was immediately laid off in early 2013. The developer still exists, but it’s only maintained in order to function as a licensor. According to the source we read, it has only a basic structure of 10 staff at the moment so again (as with other creative 1990s force Rare) we have a situation where a truly talented development studio is no longer creating work. There doesn’t even seem to be a possibility of a Curse of Monkey Island release on Steam, despite the wonderful title just reaching its 20th anniversary. It’s madness, we tell you!
Let’s not get too negative, though, as if you’re on Steam, why not head over there now and buy the bloody thing? Yes, Monkey Island 2 is available at a super cheap price and you could be playing away and guffawing like a fool within 10 minutes. What are you waiting for, me hearties? Get to it!