Together Retro Game Club: Secret of Monkey Island

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Presented by: Fastbilly1 & Racketboy
New To Together Retro? Check out the introduction to the club

“You look like a dairy farmer” “How appropriate you fight like a cow”
Secret of Monkey Island: Sword Fighting Quote

Monkey Island is hands down one of the best series in gaming.  It is funny, good for playing as a group, and graphically unique to a time when pc gaming was not all about “owning” others.  In Monkey Island you are a happy-go-lucky pirate-to-be named Guybrush Threepwood, who’s name is constantly butchered by almost every character in the game.  When the main characters name comes from a paint programs file extension (the character design was named guy with the .brush extension) you can only imagine where the game is going to go from there.  So for those of you joining us for Together Retro, get ready for one of the best PC games of all time.

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History

Released in 1990 by Ron Gilbert, Tim Shafer, and Dave Grossman using the SCUMM engine previously used in Maniac Mansion and Zak McKraken, it is widely regarded as one of the best PC games of all time because it delivers everything a great game needs to in a package wrapped with humor.  Born as a PC game it has been released on a handful of consoles, but is also on everything that supports the SCUMMVM emulator (palm pilots, Wii, GP32/GP2X, etc.).  Full of hearty jokes and odd concepts Monkey Island is an adventure story at heart.  For those who do not know, games that utilize the SCUMM engine are point and click adventures where the emphasis of the game is on the story and puzzles.  Few SCUMM games allow the character to die and few require precision timing.  Like its brethren, Monkey Island gives the player a set of verbs that allow you to interact with the world: Open, Close, Pick up, etc.  Some will be used in conjunction with items from your inventory to solve puzzles – ie “use hamster with Microwave” is a string you can use in Day of the Tentacle, another SCUMM title.  Monkey Island really brought the set of verbs down to the common nine used with most of the other games in the genre.  While the system is not perfect, it is flexible and executed very cleanly.

Recommended Ports

Well I cannot in good faith say to play it on anything but the PC.  Sure there are decent ports, but the game was made to be played with a mouse and it just doesn’t feel right without one.  I know that sounds like the PC fanboy in me talking, and you are probably right, but I think you will agree after a few minutes on the Sega CD version.  If I had to choose a console, I would emulate it on the Wii.  While SCUMMVM Wii is not as robust as its pc cousin, it does emulate Monkey Island accurately and the Wiimote does its job well.  If you must have it on a console (we are a mostly console site), go with the Sega CD version.  It is the most accurate, in that it is the only official one that exists.

Remakes, Clones, Sequels

Oddly, this iconic PC game has never had a remake, perhaps this is due to Lucasarts keelhauling its adventure department, however it does have a legacy.  Its sequels are just as zany as the original and all are worthwhile adventures:

  • Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge
  • The Curse of Monkey Island
  • Escape from Monkey Island – the 3D one also released on the PS2

Luckily the first three have been released countless times in compilations.

The games engine, SCUMM, was created for Maniac Mansion and was used for over a dozen.  Other amazing games that used the engine:

  • Day of the Tentacle
  • Zack McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders
  • The Dig – with story by Steven Speilberg, Orson Scott Card, and Brian Moriarty
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
  • Sam and Max Hit the Road
  • Full Throttle
  • Loom
  • Simon the Sorcerer 1&2

It is also credited as precursor to the GrimE engine used for Grim Fandango.  And even today receives credit as inspiration for titles such as A Vampyre Story and Sam and Max Seasons 1&2.

Emulation:

Unless you have an older DOS PC, you’ll need ScummVM to play the PC version of The Secret of Monkey Island.  Fortunately, its quite easy to use.
This page on the ScummVM Wiki is quite helpful when getting started.

Guide

Since the game is bizarre and often your common sense will be misled when trying to solve the puzzles, a guide may become handy.  If so we recommend the  guide at The World of Monkey Island
If you are a fan of the game, or just interested by its concept, they are one of the best sources you will find on the subject.

Together Retro Discussion

Instead of posting in the comments section of the blog, we will be using the forum for all of our discussion in order to keep things more organized. So play Monkey Island and talk to us about your thoughts and play experiences in the forums. We want to know your favorite parts,  your successes and your failures

5 Comments

  1. nick says:

    what a great game to feature, this is a fantastic (if not slightly frustrating) game.

  2. Flashman85 says:

    Yay Monkey Island!

    …Just one thing, though: It’s “You fight like a dairy farmer,” not “You look like a dairy farmer.”

    I’m sure you’ve accidentally offended all the good-looking dairy farmers who read Racketboy while milking their cows, but I’ll forgive you on behalf of them.

  3. Stressthesky says:

    Best.Series.Ever.

    I played The Curse of Monkey Island just a couple of months ago and it was a great throwback to old times. Even so much I decided to pick up a couple of new games, like A Vampyre Story for example. Of course they don’t even hold a candle to this one, but I love point-and-click adventures.

  4. butane bob says:

    I never actually played this back in the day but thanks to scummvm i managed to have a crack at it recently. All these lucasfilm adventures are pure awesome! once i’ve finished day of the tentacle i’m gonna play the monkey island series straight away. 🙂

  5. It’s too bad MonkeyIV was such a bad game.
    I was starting to think the Monkey Island series would be
    an invincible series of games.