Sunday, April 28, 2013

VGR Monkey Island 4

It's time to return to Monkey Island where we last left it.

It might not be the best adventure game ever, but that doesn't change how enjoyable a ride this is.

Don't miss out my previous Monkey Island-related reviews!
VGR: Escape from Monkey Island
From LucasArts
Played on PC
Also available on PS2

Type Adventure game
Year 2000

Three shorts years after Curse of Monkey Island while the adventure genre started to die out in America (while they slowly continued their merry way over Europe), LucasArts decided to try bringing back their most popular IP to date, Monkey Island.
LucasArts last attempts offered great ideas but went overseen with most gamers now focused on console gaming.

If there was a chance to sell more adventure games, it would be with Monkey Island.

Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman had all three moved out of the company by 2000. Monkey Island 3's Bill Tiller originally proposed a continuation of Curse in the same artstyle but moving the characters into 3-dimensions. He had an idea that would see our three main characters turned into cursed ghost pirates.... but he joined the production of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine as lead designer and wouldn't use those scrapped Monkey Island ideas until several years later...

Instead it was Sean Clark and Michael Stemmle, co-designers of the famous Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Sam & Max Hit the Road that took this project.

The story actually picks up where Curse left us.

Our mighty pirate Guybrush Threepwood and his bride Elaine Marley are back from their honeymoon.

After a quick first puzzle in pure LucasArts tradition, our heroes arrive on Mêlée Island only to find out Elaine was believed to be dead. There's an election to decide the new governor.

While she tries to get back her job, Guybrush wanders off adventuring.

A rich Australian Ozzie Mandrill wants to buy the Caribbeans to turn it into a tourist attraction.

The rival would-be governor Charles L. Charles turns out to be the Demon Pirate LeChuck back from the grave once more!

Guybrush has to find a new crew, get a boat and travel around the Caribbean Islands until he find himself back where it all began.

Now Guybrush Threepwood must... Escape from Monkey Island!

LeChuck is back!

He is seen now changing back and forth from his Ghost to Zombie to Demon form. And wants to get his hands on the Ultimate Insult™!

Several characters from the franchise are back. Most with their Curse of Monkey Island voice actors. Earl Boen is back as LeChuck. A role I couldn't imagine otherwise. While Elaine is now voiced by Charity James who does a plain simple American!Elaine over the previous British!Elaine from part 3. It doesn't "shock" that much, but it's different.

Monkey Island 4 sees the return of the awesome Dominic Armato as Guybrush. This time he got to improvise several random lines and play with his dialogues. Guybrush has a TON of stuff to say. Random comments about everything and anything. Really. That's why the game originally required 2CDs.

Guybrush is back in right and due form. He sounds a bit stupid sometimes, but it's more of a genuinely naive fun, like he's exploring all the things he sees for the first time, new and exciting.

This episode marked the series first leap into 3D.

MI4 used the "all-new" (at the time) GrimE system. The Grim Fandango Engine. Which replaced SCUMM completely.

That means they replaced the SCUMM language that was used to make the old DOS adventure games with Lua programming - a move that is acknowledged within the game with a joke.

Compared to other old adventure games that made the similar transition from 2D to 3D, this is one of the better examples to be honest (compared to, say, Simon the Sorcerer or Broken Sword).

Because MI4 does still feel like a Monkey Island at heart and kept the same gameplay basically.

First the gameplay was much improved and the dialogue trees complexified since Grim Fandango. And the controls, now via keyboard/joystick over the old point & click feel much more precise.

The characters are all rendered in 3D while the backgrounds are well designed pre-rendered. Which makes the game similar to a Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil in way.

But the game doesn't feel as "aged" as Resident Evil 1 for example.

Thanks to its cartoony art direction, it didn't age as much. It's a colorful game with well detailed characters and backgrounds.

It doesn't take much to get used to Guybrush's new controls. You can either play it "tank-style" (like Resident Evil), or camera-wise. Guybrush will then look at what he can interact with, you can select those options via a text, moving up and down the suggestions.

It makes the old pixel hunting possible within a 3D environment.

You can still combine stuff, a trademark of the Monkey Island series (which was absent in Grim Fandango).

There's literally tons of puzzles. Some will make you use your smarts, other more obvious and plain laid out in front of you, others really head-scratching will require some out-of-the-box thinking.

Some objects are carried over several scenes over until they are finally surprisingly required. And most of your inventory will be used immediately - never forcing you to go through an enormous list of items.

The game's most memorable scenes are easily the strangest puzzles. They're great and never expected.

You end up not missing the point & click interface much since it still feels the same (unlike many modern adventure games that either simplified too much the original point & click system or are just tailored for game consoles).

MI4 sees the return of the insult swordfighting duels... in a subversion of the old system.

First with an insult armwrestling variant. Then an unwinnable duel with Ozzie.

Finally with the all-new Monkey Kombat. A sort of rock-paper-scissors-based combat system which will make you use some grey matter. With simple "oop ack eek chee" words. My advice? A little notepad.

The game is a delight for old Monkey Island fans and newcomers alike.

The game is full of fanservice for long time fans.

Guybrush meets a lot of familiar faces, there's several inside jokes and references to the rest of the series.

Sure, there's some controversial points that nerds might point out (Elaine's father...). But it doesn't ruin the adventure.

This brand new tale is sort of the Monkey Island series as interpreted by the Sam & Max game creators. There's a lot of jokes, puns, one liners, parodies, anachronistic references.

The game does feature a giant steam-powered robot...

The game features a modernized iMUSE interactive music system. To make use of modern quality MP3 files.

Michael Land returned to score the game. Probably my favorite MI soundtrack alongside the 2nd one. There's a lot of familiar cues and great themes.

MI4 kept the spirit and look of the series.

Even if it is a bit blocky around the edges, one or two puzzles a bit to difficult for some people (the non-conventional ones) and the controls that need some practice at first.

Still, it's a perfectly fine and fun adventure game.

I can't understand the recent hate it gets, mostly from people who never played it or don't know the series for that long. Give a chance, you won't regret it.

At the time the game got great reception. Easily better that most of its contemporary titles.

It even received the award for Best Action/Adventure Game at E3!

Overall, it's a pretty fine adventure.

With some classic great voice acting that brings all these fun characters to life.

Let's be honest, it has some flaws. But nothing that detracts much from the enjoyment.

Even with some mild controls problems, it still plays with no much trouble. Sure, it needed some getting used to - losing the point & click interface has become a standard in most modern current gen adventure games from the US - but if you can't make it through with the keyboard just try a gamepad for a change.

Thanks to a timeless cartoony art style, it is easily one of the best looking games from 2000 in my eyes (alongside Rayman 2, Jet Set Radio or Code Veronica)

Like Secret of Monkey Island before it on the Sega CD, Escape got a port on a home system. The PS2. It's pretty much the same game. On the plus side there's a lot of 3D graphics over the pre-rendered material from the original and Monkey Kombat got a tutorial, but on the downside it suffers from a tacky framerate and lower resolution.

Another hilarious adventure for a Guybrush at the top of his form! Recommended for any Monkey Island and adventure game fans!
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Murrays!

No comments:

Post a Comment