Review by Mark Isaacson
UPDATE: The following review is incorrect. EMI for PS2 is not the first Monkey Island title for consoles. Check our news section for the latest updates.
It stands as the best adventure series of all time, created by the masters of the genre LucasArts (LA). Now, for the first time, Guybrush and the many upon many of monkeys that populate Monkey Island have made their way to the console world.
Basically the same as the PC title of the same name, our hero Guybrush Threepwood returns with his new wife to Monkey Island, only to find that a bunch of Australian real estate agents are out to turn the Tri-island area into a big time holiday destination. And they've framed Guybrush as the bad guy. It is once again up to the mighty pirate to save the day.
When I first heard that the monkey island series would be making its way to the Playstation 2, I feared that something bad would happen. To take a long time PC/Mac title and transform it onto the control pad world of consoles is a big step.
But to their credit, LucasArts have proven that they still are the masters of the genre. Escape from Monkey Island (EMI) may not have been the strongest of the 4 on the PC, but it stands proudly along side the rest of the Playstation 2's library as the one and only adventure game that you must own.
I look at EMI (and the entire series) the same way as I do to Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2. In its time, Jedi Knight re-designed the 1st person shooter from a simple blast-a-thon to a genuine story driven action title. And the graphics, although nothing compared to the Quake 3's or the Half-Life's of today, were leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the pack.
The same can be said, therefore, to EMI. Yes it is an adventure title, but it attempts something that many have failed to achieve. A simple, yet very effective 3D engine. That and the fact that it continues a proud tradition for LA, who somehow stick to their guns even when they are one of only a handful of companies that continue to develop games for this genre.
The PS2's dual shock controller is more suited to Racing games or first person shooters, with its twin joystick system allowing easy movement of your character. LA has used this control layout to great effect, allowing you to move Guybrush around the screen using the left stick, replacing the old point and click system. Meanwhile, the right stick is used to scroll through the available actions, and the other buttons allow you to pick up items, talk to whomever you are closest to, and open the inventory screen. It's very simple to get the hang of, and many will get stuck into the game quickly because of this.
EMI is a very impressive package. You will get plenty of enjoyment out of every minute, either from the many strange and funny ways you can solve puzzles, to the laugh a minute dialogue between Guybrush and the many pirates, Australian agents and every other human (or monkey) on the island. And this isn't a simple 'conversion to console' game either. LA have also included some new mini-games to have a crack at, as well as an Art Gallery, for those who are interested as to how the characters grew from the drawing board to the small screen. There are a few more little extras here and there, but I'll leave them for you to find.
The Playstation is well known for its strange load times. Some games you don't notice them at all, other times (Quake 3 Revolution, for example) it takes forever to load a game. Thankfully, as Monkey Island has many areas to explore and many conversations between characters, the load times have been kept to a minimum, allowing an easy time getting from one place to another fairly quickly. Every once in a while there is a glitch or two in the frame rate when loading some voice overs or music, but again they are kept to a minimum. If you take notice of these things, they may get in the way of your enjoyment. So simply ignore them.
The biggest problem with this game lies with those who have played this before on the PC/Mac. There may not be enough substance in this version for you to warrant a second try. But before you leave and say, "Ok, I won't then", keep this in mind. EMI for PS2 is a different Monkey Island. The combination of the new control system and slightly improved graphics, sound and gameplay does make it a different type of game to the original. So if you are willing to try EMI again, go into the game expecting a new experience, not a game that you have played before. Allow yourself to absorb the storyline again (even if you know every single line) and enjoy the new control system. It actually adds to the experience in more ways then you would expect.
And of course, for all of you who are yet to jump into the world that is Monkey Island, this is the prefect time to join the bandwagon.
This is well worth the price for anyone who hasn't played a Monkey Island game before, and can be a great experience even for those who have played the original EMI.
LucasArts' choice to bring the series to the console world for the first time has paid off big time, and could increase the support for the series so much that a 5th title isn't as distant as originally thought.
Offical EMI Website
For comments or questions email the TFN Games Staff and thanks to Mark Isaacson for the review!