Title  : Escape From Monkey Island
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2, Windows
Publisher  : LucasArts
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 7.5
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Escape from Monkey Island is the fourth game in a long-running computer game series, and the first one LucasArts has ported to the PlayStation 2. Video gamers unacquainted with its computer ancestry can expect a uniquely witty — but at times, detached — experience. [PS2 version reviewed here] 

The hero of Monkey Island is Guybrush Threepwood, dim-witted do-gooder, famous vanquisher of the Demon Zombie Ghost Pirate LeChuck. Upon returning from a three-month honeymoon, his wife, the piratical governor Elaine Marley, finds her island being overtaken by a mysterious land developer. While she fights the courts, it's up to players as her loving husband to get the bottom of this mystery — which proves to be deeper than anyone suspects. 

This quest is conducted across rendered landscapes. Guybrush can walk where he pleases, switching to a larger island map when he leaves the general vicinity of a city or other location. Walking is not what will occupy most of Mr. Threepwood's time, however. 

The main activity on Monkey Island is interrogation. The tropical residents have clues to Guybrush's quests, but only if he asks the right questions. Players will need to talk to every person on every topic, sometimes more than once. 

Each line of dialogue is spoken with some of the best voice acting heard in a video game. Each character is a walking mass of comedy, with just the right voices, tones, and inflections to deliver his or her lines. Some jokes are predictable, others unexpected (especially for a video game); you'll be laughing — and groaning! — your way through this game. 

This acting occurs in an equally comical setting. The cartoonish appearance of Guybrush's world is courtesy of computer animation. The pirate and his cronies are colorful, but outside the full motion video sequences, many are incapable of a range of facial expressions. The finest details populate the surroundings, from the twitching of the bartender's hand to the small items resting on a desk. 

Monkey Island's sense of humor pervades the gameplay. Guybrush finds himself in such riotous situations, he'll need some help to get out. To solve puzzles, players will need to be creative in how they use their inventory. Combining a duck with a broom and a bottle of Grog is not something expected of the average gamer. Get used either to such zaniness, or to getting stuck. 

The strength of this game is that anyone can play without fear of losing. There's no demand for quick reflexes or the memorization of long strings of commands. You can monkey around as much or as little as you like; the game will still be there when you're ready to proceed. 

The downside is that there's not much to do on Monkey Island other than talk and listen to people. The questions that in other games would seem a waste of time, in Monkey Island might reveal essential clues. You'll spend more time sitting back listening than actually exploring and solving puzzles. The genre could best be described as "interactive mystery," better suited to a radio play than a video game. 

If you enjoy working with your brain (and the occasional banana), as opposed to aping around with button-mashing, set sail for Monkey Island. There's plenty to see and hear, if not do, in this game that's funnier than a barrel full of… you know.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 02-Jul-01