On Tuesday i went to my local EB store to check out which games came out during the weekend. Immidiately one title caught my attention: MI4. Being a loyal player of MI like i am i immidiately bought it ($70 CDN) and ran all the way home. I played both MI2 and MI3 when they came out so i really wanted to put my hands on this baby. The humour and the adventure of those games kept me glued to my monitor during many many nights when i played those games.
I got home, opened the box... 2 CDs... A nifty manual... Reg. card... Sweet! Installed the game with the full installation option (1100mb) and started the game... And well, i LIKED what i've seen. The game's main surprise is that it's NO LONGER a 2D point and click game but a 3D keyboard-controlled adventure. My thoughts about that? Well, the graphics are GORGEOUS... Check out the SCREENSHOTS (will be up soon). The background is obviously still 2D animated,
but it's VERY well animated... you can see stars falling from the sky, fog, some animals wandering in the background. But the good part is that the game strangely DOES feel 3D. Guybrush and ESPECIALY his young wife are looking good with all those poligons ;). The graphics are amazingly clear and yet cartoonish looking, looking at least 2x better than the game movies. Explosions are great, the character animation is excellent, giving a lot of details on face features and clothing. Shadows are there, the environment around you (especially in the big picture) is breathtaking, the fire looks real... The colors are rich and the entire game never slowed down even ONCE, even on max resolution on my computer even though most of the games do :/ . In short the game engine is one fot he best i've seen yet. The controls on the other hand could have been better. Not a lot better, since the guys at Lucas Arts know what they're doing, but slightly better... Turning around and trying to get to that damn door causes confusion sometimes. Not raising any fingers but Lucas Arts should have spent more time on that. But then maybe it's the Alzheimer desease kicking in ;p.
The plot in this episode of the (hopefully) neverending Monkey Island saga is the following: After coming back from your honeymoon (actually 3 months) with your wife Elain (who just happens to be the Governor of the entire area surrounding Monkey Island) you, Guybrush, find your wife being declared dead (with new gubernatorial elections coming soon), her house is under attack by a guy with a catapult who has court's order to destroy it, the entire island is almost abandoned and you hear rumours about a rich guy buying or stealing land from local pirates and taking over the entire area. And of course you have to act to save the house, make your wife "undead" (quote: "So doesn't that make you a zombie? A living dead?"), stop the catapult and find the evil guy and save the pirates. And of course during your journey you'll be captured, imprisoned and will get into hundreds of funny or stupid situations that will ultimately bring you back to the Monkey Island where you'll have to once again fight your archnemesis, (guess who?) the truly EVIL LeChuck. You'll meet many old "friends" like Carla and Ottis (your former crew, whom you've managed to leave on monkey island in MI2) and LeChuck with hordes of monkeys. You'll see a lot of familiar sights although the Monkey Island area has changed... Some of the pirates left, others went through re-education schools and sell... perfume now.
The game features great music, speech and sound effects. Of course, that's not a surprise since all Monkey Island games have been the same but i was relieved to find out that it's the same good old Lucas Arts production and not one that resembles *urgh* Force Commander. The dialogue is excellent... Just listening to Otis whimpering "The monkeys... The monkeys everywhere!" will make you laugh... And all those witty Guybrush remarks... Yes, they are great as usual. There must be at least 50 different soundtrack themes in the game as well, and all of them fit in very well while creating suspence, making you scared and simply enetartain you... An especially funny episode happens when you visit your wife's lawyers... Barocco music is playing, all 3 of them speak one after another and you hear very funny phrases like "Alibi-shmalibi", "We'll buy this very important witness", etc... The game is very funny and humorous in general... While visiting a Voodoo store you see and i quote a "4dfx Voodoo Doll" and while you're at the lawyers' you ask them if you should sue the electronic gaming industry for making games with high requirements :).
The maps are pretty big, with interesting and colourful characters you can interact with... There are also some genuinely hillarious objects to see and take, like that 4dfx Voodoo Doll and a prothese... butt. And the 3D mode DOES bring a lot of detail to all that. Generally the game is very interesting to play BUT at some places you simply get stuck and you don't know what to do next... For example it took me about 2 hours to find out how to get inside a window of a bank (And no, going through the door won't work ;p)... This is on of my main compaints about the game... It's simply too hard! Some of the puzzles were just impossible to solve without tips from other gamers. And yes, i've played a lot of Adventure games in the past but this is so far one of the hardest of them. So if you want to finish it you'll need to do some serious thinking and on some stages of the game you'll probably be stuck solving some problem... The other main concern is the size of the game.. It's just way too short... I really wanted to play some more after i finished it but that was the end :( . But oh well, i guess i'll just have to wait for the next Monkey Island to come out and grab it then :D .
My final thoughts about the game... Well, it's good but it could've been better. But no matter what i still recommend it to everyone. This no doubt will be THE adventure game of the year, and i applaud Lucas Arts on their great comeback after some mediocre and simply bad games... You're on the right track guys.
Highs: Great graphics; excellent voice acting, music and sound effects. A lot of humour; Overall very enjoyable gaming experience.
Lows: somewhat crippled controls; some hard puzzles; the game is relatively short.