I found the Secret of Monkey Island

I’m typing this after finishing Return to Monkey Island last night. I’ve had some time to let it sink in and I’m ready to write my thoughts on the game.

But first I’m going to recount my memories about the first game in the series. The Secret of Monkey Island was the first game I played on my first MS-DOS PC. It was actually the main reason I convinced my parents to buy a computer to begin with. I sold my Amiga 500 to partially fund it. Of course, Monkey Island was also released for the Amiga, but I was a kid who couldn’t afford to buy new games and none of my classmates had a copy of it for the Amiga. They only had platform games and action games. I guess they weren’t interested in Monkey Island, or maybe the game just came on too many floppies to sacrifice other games by copying over them. Anyway, one classmate had a copy of Monkey Island, but it was for MS-DOS. I went over to his house a couple of times to play it. I actually borrowed a copy from him to play on my KCS Power PC Board for the Amiga. That was way slow and could only do CGA graphics. I also didn’t have the manual in which I could have read that there is a key on the keyboard that you can press to skip immediately to the ending position on a new screen without the excruciating slow scrolling that I had to endure. And although good, the music from the PC speaker wasn’t very impressive to my Amiga attuned ears. That wouldn’t do of course. And thus the upgrade to a real PC.

Like many gamers of my age, The Secret of Monkey Island, or maybe its sequel LeChuck’s Revenge, was the first point-and-click adventure game I played. And it has made a lasting impression which has always been one of the highlights of my gaming life so far. And like so many gamers my age, I highly anticipated playing Return to Monkey Island.

My experience seems to be the same as most players. I think I would have enjoyed the game more with a different art style. I find the facial expressions a bit too abstract. And I think Guybrush looks like a drunk with his red nose. But, it doesn’t bother me too much.

I think that most of the puzzles are too easy. I couldn’t fathom why there was a key just lying around to open a gate on the same island for instance. That’s not a puzzle. They could just as well have left the gate unlocked in the first place. But maybe I’m missing something here. There were a few more moments like this throughout the game. Like distracting the queen by building a fire. I would have thought that this would be the easy mode, and that the hard/normal mode would require an additional hurdle to overcome. The same goes for the eating contest. I would have thought that simply pulling a portion of fish out of your pocket would get noticed and that you would need something to distract the audience. And the last puzzle also didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
But to be fair, there are also a fair amount of puzzles that are just right and make you feel clever when you solve them.

The dialogue and the characters are funny. The story is great, but it all feels a bit rushed. It could have done with a little more padding.

That leaves us with the ending. Last night I felt a bit underwhelmed. But after thinking about it, I felt already more at peace about it this morning. It also helped to read the afterword from the designers to put it in the right frame of mind. There are probably multiple ways to interpret the story and the ending, which is probably a good thing, and is something the designers deserve credit for. I’m currently on the path of believing all games in the series are just stories that Guybrush tells his son. But maybe I’ll think different in the future.

I’m definitely going to play the game again (and again) and I’m looking forward to discovering new things that are in the game. And who knows, maybe I’ll write some more about it.

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