Monday, August 20, 2012

VGR The Curse of Monkey Island

And finally after all this time, I decided to go back to some of my older interrupted review series!

Time for some adventure, bucaneers!
Time to spill some blood and drink some grog!
Time for swashbuckling action!
Time to explore MONKEY ISLAND 3! 

Don't miss out my previous Monkey Island-related reviews!
VGR: The Curse of Monkey Island
From LucasArts
Played on PC
Also available on /

Type Adventure/Point & Click
Year 1997

You thought Guybrush Threepwood lost for good at the end of Monkey Island 2?
Well, that wasn't the end of our hero, the spell wore off and Guybrush is off to new adventures in....

The game opens with our hero lost at sea. The game briefly alludes to the confusing (for some) meta-ending of Monkey Island 2.
Worry not cause it will go back to these unresolved questions much later, you see the game is full of allusions of the "continuity" of the series.

Anyway, Guybrush, our wannabe pirate, is wandering at large.
Narrating outloud his famous journal The Memoirs of Guybrush Threepwood: The Monkey Island Years. (an on-going series of tales written by Guybrush, usually written at the back of the games' cover)
He ends up arriving on Plunder Island...

That is when things start...

Mmmmmmh... maybe some bananas....

As usual, in this new episode you play as Guybrush Threepwood.
Your typical adventure game hero, you know, the kind who goes through the whole game stealing objects around, stocking an infinite amount of stuff in your "magic" pants and using these either combined or through actions in the game to resolve puzzles and progress through the story.

This game was the last one to use LucasArts' Maniac Mansion engine, aka the SCUMM engine.
Fresh off Tim Schafer's Full Throttle game.
As such this upgraded version could support movie-quality animation, more rich dialog trees and long thorough complex puzzles.

Other than that it's a pretty standard point & click game.
Easy to understand and to handle. (we didn't need no hint system back then! ha!)

Sure you are, later, in the "park"...

Long story short, the zombie-pirate LeChuck is back after the governor Elaine Marley's heart.
But Guybrush escaped from Monkey Island last time.
LeChuck gets blown up.
Guybrush proposes to Elaine finally.
...aaaaand that's when things go down!

LeChuck is resurrected as a demon-pirate, now stronger than ever!

Oh... there's... a... monkey in my pocket / And he's stealing all my change / His stare is blank and glassy / I suspect that he's deranged! 

This time around the game features plenty of upgrades since the two previous installments.

Aesthetically, the game looks great!
The cartoon look give the series a very distinct and unique Disney-esque quality that makes it stand apart from all other adventure games of the time. (and even now)
Seeing this cartoon universe comes to life is a big part of its appeal.

Also the game uses the much simple verb-coin system over the more complex menu of the past games.
Talking and touching things, that's all Guybrush needs to do to go through life anyway!

We'll surely avoid scurvy if we all eat an orange.

Speaking of which, the voices is also a great addition to the series!

The original two were great and hilarious already, but giving voices to the characters really made it all come to life.
(it was bound to happen, Monkey Island 2 was one of the last non-talkie games from LucasArts, the following Fate of Atlantis and Sam & Max were dubbed)

Curse is also the game that introduced Dominic Armato to the series, and to the fans.
Dominic Armato was already a big fan of the series and really got the part because how impressive and convincing he was while reciting from memory all of Guybrush's dialogues from MI1 and MI2.
He really IS Guybrush, he gave our hero is definitive voice and tone.

Worth mentioning, Alexandra Boyd does also a great job at Elaine in this episode, while Earl Boen makes the perfect LeChuck both terrifying and evil.

The game is 9 chapters long, over 2 CDs originally.
Though some are longer than others, while two of them quite shorter.

The game was developed by a new team, the original three (Gilbert, Shafer and Grossman either going on their own directions or on other projects).
Ron Gilbert was reportedly on the project originally, in a completely different Monkey Island 3, but it never left of the early concept stages.
Instead, it was lead by Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern, veterans at LEC.

Also a big part in defining the look, the tone and universe of the game was artist Bill Tiller. Who started as the game's lead background artist.
And much like Steve Purcell in the past, went on designing characters and working on commercial artwork such as the game's cover.

On the music,  composer Michael Land returns for this game's soundtrack.
He is THE guy behind the Monkey Island series!

Thanks to the CD-support, this time it's a more organic, orchestral score.
The music makes a lot of use of tribal and exotic sounds, not constrained to simpler 8-bit channels.

The game still uses the amazing interactive iMUSE software to propose a unique experience, following the player and evolving along the story/places/scenes.

The game offers a lot of fun locations to explore, lots of great characters to talk to and several puzzles to occupy the player.

There's lots of new encounters, some returning faces like Stan, the Voodoo Lady, etc.

The game offers a lot of memorable scenes, musical numbers, pop culture allusions and more!

You won't get to know what the Secret of Monkey Island is, but at least there's a Curse heavily involved in the story this time around!

And Murray!
The most fun, original and unique sidekick foe you'll ever find in an adventure game!

Overall, a most unique memorable experience!

It's one of these games you can find yourself easily going back to year after year.
It's like one of these greant cult animated movies.

Funny enough, after the great success of this game originally there was a planned animated Monkey Island filmd.
Which would have been ILM's debut solo project (which would end up to actually be the CGi movie and TV series Star Wars: Clone Wars instead).
Lot of work was actually done on that, with concept artist Tony Stacchi on the project. It followed closely the ideas and design from Curse, only darker.
Oh, well...

Anyway, the game redefined the story-driven adventure genre for a while (lots of similarly animated point & clicks were released after that). And the series kept Bill Tiller's mark for all future episodes and remakes.
There's also a lot of little improvised moments by Dominic Armato that made it past the recording, such as little songs Guybrush does here and there.

Let's be honest, had the series continued with its original creators on board, the way the story resolved the cliffhanger from MI2 would have no doubt been the same.
Anyway, a must try experience!

I give it:
 2.5 / 3 Murrays!

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