In general, gamers are a surly, contentious lot. Whether the subject is the best “spec build” in WoW or the love life of Master Chief, there will be heated argument. One of the rare points of agreement between gamers of all stripes, colors, and ages is that the classic LucasArts, SCUMM-based adventures represent a high water mark in the history of videogames and that Tim Schaefer is a genius. Schaefer, Ron Gilbert and their team created games that were genuinely funny, sometimes convoluted, but always clever. Some missteps aside (Brutal Legend, anyone?), the fact that Schaefer, et al, were able to catch that illusive lightning in a bottle at least a half-dozen times makes them the stuff of legends.
In 2008 the folks at LucasArts took The Secret of Monkey Island and gave it a nice, fresh coat of pixels, bringing the graphics, animations, and gameplay into the world of iPods, Xboxes, and modern PCs. Older gamers sat around the digital cracker barrel and waxed nostalgic; younger gamers got to see what all the fuss was about. The general consensus was very positive, so it's not the least bit surprising that the second installment in the series, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, has taken its own trip through the magic time machine.
The serpentine story takes reluctant pirate Guybrush Threepwood on a roller coaster ride of revenge, romance, swashbuckling and treasure hunting for the elusive “Big Whoop”. Threepwood once again must battle with LeChuck while attempting to win his sometime love, Elaine Marley. A splendid supporting cast of peg-legged pirates, voodoo priestesses, eccentric shopkeepers, and petty criminals supply an endless stream of snark and wry, sometimes odd, observations and pop culture references as diverse as "Star Wars" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" Disneyland ride.
This is a world in which straightforward movement and logic take a backseat to the playful and twisted, so solving the game's puzzles can be an exercise in patience, luck, and a lot of trial and error. In the original 1991 release, the authors cheekily included a streamlined, puzzle-lite “game reviewer mode,” but for the current incarnation a handy hint system keeps things moving along.
While the content may be identical to the original, the juiced up presentation looks, plays, and sounds even better than the Secret of Monkey Island reboot, with better animations and an even richer palette of color and texture. The excellent voice actors from Secret return to reprise their roles and there is a splendid new soundtrack. Movement controls and the radial menu of options (at least on the console version) are problem-free and basically transparent. Just like with Secret, a bumper-press brings the player instantly back to the graphics, sound, and control scheme of the original game. There's even a witty, informative and insightful bonus commentary track presented ala "MST3K".
(As an aside, I also played the iPad version, and the graphics were even sharper than on the console. The control options are along the bottom of the display, but movement and everything else work just fine.)
If there's anything to gripe about it's that, even with the constant barrage of one-liners and sight gags, the pace of LeChuck's Revenge can feel a little glacial to gamers juiced up on Red Bull and used to the frenetic pace of more contemporary titles. There is simply a lot of dialogue to digest and a plethora of thorny puzzles to solve. Even with the hints, plan on sinking a good 10 hours into a play through.
With so many recent, high-profile titles clamoring for attention, what's the appeal of games like LeChuck's Revenge, remade or not? One could argue that, as with every form of entertainment, there will always be a place for the classics, the genre-defining products from developers firing on all creative cylinders. But that's academic. Make time for LeChuck's Revenge because, even after nearly 20 years, it's still funnier, more clever, and well-written than the vast majority of “blockbusters” lining the digital shelves. Relax into the slower pace and pretzel logic, enjoy the snappy dialogue and memorable characters, and give a nod of "Thanks" to LucasArts for bringing it all back around again.
First time adventuring around with Threepwood, or are his exploits old, delightful hat? Let us know on via Twitter @Gamers_Hell