The Curse of Monkey Island by LucasArts
Reviewed by Laurence Fenn
After The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2:Le Chuck's Revenge comes the third pirate adventure game featuring Guybrush Threepwood. Now the game has moved onto the Windows 95 platform, and the runs at the higher 640x480 resolution. The requirements are much the same for standard Windows 95 use, namely 16Mb RAM, Pentium 90 or higher processor, Quad speed CD-ROM drive, 16-bit soundcard, PCI graphics card and 1.2Mb of hard disc space. The games uses DirectX 5, which is included on the disc, but the installation just adds the launcher program and links to the LucasArts website at http://www.lucasarts.com, and nothing else. As the game runs in Windows 95, there's no soundcard settings needed, and the only extra space required is around 500k per game save.
The program features full digital soundtrack read from the CD-ROMS (the game is split over two discs) and does not use the midi channel of your soundcard. That means you get all the voices and music sounding the same no matter which soundcard you have, and it sounds very good. As you move from location to location the music changes it's themes, and this is part of the iMuse system that was developed from the first game. From the launcher program you can play the game, install DirectX 5, View the readme file, View the troubleshooting guide, Uninstall the game or exit. Choosing the first option gives you the only big choice you'll have to make - play the normal version of the game or the Mega-Monkey version. The latter includes more puzzles but follows the same storyline. After a high quality intro sequence you settle down to the story of the game. Guy Threepwood (the character you control in the game) is locked in the hold of the ship of the undead pirate LeChuck. He has fought (and killed) him in the previous games, in his quest for the love of Elaine Marley, the governor of a tri-island area of Mêlée, Scabb and Plunder. After escaping the ship Elaine turns into a gold statue, so your goal is to change her back to her normal self and destroy the evil LeChuck.
As with most point an click adventures, as you move the cursor over an item of interest it is highlighted, and its name appears at the bottom of the screen. To interact with the items you use the action interface, by holding the left button mouse. This looks like a gold doubloon and has a grabbing hand to pick up, push or use an item, a bug-eyed skull to examine items and a talking parrot to talk to, eat, drink, blow or bite an item. You can access your inventory by clicking on the right hand mouse, which shows your treasure chest with your collection of objects (tools, weapons, food, etc.)
You can combine objects by using one with another, such as a hook with a cannon ramrod to make a gaff to reach far objects. The other main feature is talking to the characters, by choosing one response from those listed on the screen. This is used the most when you are attacking other ships. In part of your quest you need to attack Captain Rottingham, a pirate who has stolen a map that you need. As his ship has powerful weapons, you must sail the seas and take on other pirates to get their treasure, and buy better weapons. Once you destroy their ship, you appear on the deck ready for a sword fight, but with insults. This idea came from the first game, where your response to your opponent's insult determines who wins. You have to play for a long time to learn all the insults and the correct comebacks, before you can attack the Captain, and this is the only part of the game which could get repetitive.
As with all the other LucasArts game, you cannot die in this one (even though you appear to do so at least twice in the game) and the characters in the game even discuss this point when you first 'pass away'. You can make mistakes, but you can always try again. For example, if you are falling down the side of a cliff and don't try to stop yourself, you just fall into the sea, climb out and try again. The solution is to use the umbrella that you have to break your fall. If you try to collect some animals in an airtight jar, they will die, but if you make some holes in the lid you can go and collect some more. There is a tremendous amount of humour in the game, even down to using a helium balloon, where your character speaks in a high pitched voice for the next few minutes. Guybrush Threepwood even takes the mikey of Captain Kirk near the end of the game. The cut scenes fit perfectly into the game, and the style of animation is the same as in the game play itself.
Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern have created the story, with no work from Ron Gilbert, who created the first two stories. Despite this the content is true to form, with characters from the previous games. Wally, a cartographer from the second game, is now back as one of LeChuck's pirates, with a fake beard, eye patch and hook. Stan, the salesman, reappears from a coffin (which is how you got rid of him in the previous game), and the Voodoo Lady who lived in a swamp has moved to a different island, but still living in a swamp. She is there to help you understand what must be done at that point of the game.
Moving from area to area is simply a matter of pointing and clicking, but there are some quick jump points where your cursor changes to a large red arrow, which you can double click on to cut out the animation of Guybrush actually walking there. This works with the large island maps as well as within the locations.
You can save the game at any point, with a thumbnail picture of where you are and a text description. You can also adjust the music and voice levels as well as a 3D acceleration mode (this is part of the humour element as there are no 3D scenes, just try and click on the button to find out). The end of the game was a bit disappointing as it very quick, and relatively simple to destroy LeChuck, but of course this leaves the game open for another sequel. The style of the game is very good, and the music adds to the atmosphere. This has an even more cartoon feel to it than LucasArts Full Throttle, but it is not limited to such a linear storyline. The only question one can raise from playing this game, is how they manage to make it work so well without using 40Mb or more of your hard disc space, as is the case with so many other games.
Alternatives: Monkey Island 1 & 2 on Virgin White Label £11.99), Broken Sword 2 by Virgin Interactive £29.99.
Review first appeared in ROM Newsletter of the Guildford PC User Group in March 1998 (Vol.8,No.3)Back