Review by Joshua Griffin
Escape from Monkey Island is the fourth in a long line of successful non-Star Wars games from LucasArts. This is by far the best offering of the company ever, far surpassing any Star Wars title to date. Simply put, this is a beautiful game with amazing graphics, a funny story and is quite possibly the funniest adventure game ever made.
Threepwood returns as the daring, dramatic and insulting young pirate who has everything his heart could desire. A beautiful wife, large treasures, and power over his little bit of the known world. But problems soon begin to surface right after his three-month honeymoon cruise, starting him off on a another episode of action and adventure. You'll lead the swashbuckling captain in this adventure on the high seas taking you from island to island and over the high seas.
First off, let me give you an idea of what I've been playing the game on so you can compare. I have a moderate computer, which is the one I do all my stuff on TFN for, so I'm not the hardest-core Voodoo5 Dolby Surround 25" flat screen gaming beast. But I do have a 8MB Voodoo2 (Diamond 3DII) and a 21" monitor. My P200 and 8GB of hard drive space are jammed with fun games and the stuff to make TFN and corresponding with my family all over the United States a breeze. So could LucasArts turn this humble machine into a viable gaming platform? Absolutely, and even though my hardware is near the minimum requirements for the game, it runs at a smooth 25 fps and I'm sure far better for those gifted enough to have a computer more toward the recommended level.
The graphics immediately stand out as a strong point of the title, with the backgrounds rendered in intimate detail. All of the characters are rendered on the fly with great and unique modeling for each character in the game. Obviously much time was spent (and inherited from the series) preparing a complete sub-culture for the pirates. From aboard the ship to inside the House of Mojo, you'll be impressed with the graphics. Load times are minimal the first time you see a set, but then are quickly reloaded upon multiple visits. All in all the game is beautiful, and has an artistic realism few other titles from the production company can compare to.
The biggest selling point to me was the humor. This game is gut-busting funny! I'm new to the series of the swashbuckling series of scurvy ridden sailors, so was shocked to see the quality of a Hollywood comedy unfolding before me. The muttering under the breath, the comebacks from the husband and wife team, the insult style of gameplay and more all resonate with one common goal: Don't take this adventure too seriously. It's so funny you'll want to find someone to interact with just so you can hear the dialogue!
And the soundtrack is also a strong point of the title, with unique compositions with a pirate theme for almost every situation. From the bank to the governor's mansion to aboard the pink boat, you'll enjoy catchy tunes and fantastic original music from the opening sequence to the very end of the game.
One of the harshest criticisms of any video game is the voice acting, and this is where the title really shines. The lead characters are totally convincing and immersive and others are riddled with accents from all over the world. From Australia to Ireland to the typical pirate drawl, expect top talent voice acting in this game. And there's plenty of it, with simply tons of recorded dialogue and multiple choices for conversations.
The sound effects are plentiful and well done, and complement the stunning visuals to perfection. LucasArts has gone above and beyond making this title available and accessible with lower PC power requirements, combining innovative puzzles and the classic insult fights back in the franchise.
There's quite a few great Star Wars references as well, from looking for the person who will bring balance to the Force to Obi-Wan Kenobi to the X-Wing out in the swamp. So funny, and I'm sure there's plenty more to be found within the game.
If you're looking for a great PC game for Christmas, check out Escape from Monkey Island with it's creative, plot driven story that's funny, funny, funny.
I'm not going to lie to you, the PC is not the most user-friendly gaming platform in the world. In fact, I would go as far as saying that perhaps I can empathize with the publishers of PC games for second guessing full bore development for the platform. And so while absolutely shining as a game, getting it to run optimized on your computer may be kind of a hassle. This is not to LucasArts shame, it is simply the nature of the beast when making one game for possibly an infinite combinations of hardware and software.
So to that end I must admit that I did have quite a bit of difficulty in configuration this game so it ran it's full potential. That's the nature of the beast when developing on the PC, so expect a bit of hassle when installing the game and getting it to run it's best. Again, LucasArts did a great job of getting it to be so smooth (even when I only installed 180MBs of the 1100 possible) and accessible to most all moderate computers with 3D acceleration.
And another unusual negative is that the back of the packaging and CD-ROM case was a URL for Monkey4.LucasArts.Com, which I've tried repeatedly over the past few days to connect with, but it simply doesn't work. An oversight perhaps, or maybe the problem is on my end.
Sure there's a limited freedom of paths to choose, since the game cannot be infinite, at least not yet. LucasArts has done an admirable job on all levels making a totally complete game and supporting website.
Also, be sure to download the latest patch for the game, which fixes numerous bugs in the game. It's a simple install and won't mess with your saved games.
This is the greatest Monkey game yet and I would even say the funniest LucasArts game to date. Finally the creators have enough freedom outside of their infamous license to achieve nearly a perfect game. Well balanced gameplay, superb graphics, exciting movies and rendered cut scenes topped off with perfect wit and humor make this the game to have. If you've not ever seen the series or if you're an avid follower of the franchise, you simply cannot pass up this title.
The next step for LucasArts? Imagine an adventure game this good that did use Star Wars characters and the well-known universe. Call up some funny people (I think Kevin Rubio and myself would make a good team) and get cracking! Oh my, would that be a riot. Who knows if they could get it by George, though ... :)
91 out of 100
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and thanks to Joshua Griffin for the review!