Adventure Game Corner - Monkey Island
Welcome to this weeks blog, the first in a series looking at some cool adventure games we're fond of.
It goes without saying that the we're super excited to be making an adventure game of our own and are big fans of the genre, so we thought it would be nice to share some of our favourites, old and new.
To kick us off what better place to start that the first graphic adventure game I played as a young upstart and still one of our faves to this day - The Secret of Monkey Island.
If fact you can see how much I like it - I even have some prints of the original background paintings (before they were digitized for use in the game) on the wall of the study where I work. (In case you were wondering the middle print is from a graphic novel called Surface Tension by Jay Gunn)
'So what', I hear you ask dear reader, 'is so special about this game?'
It was the first time I'd experienced a narrative of any real scope in a game, prior to that I'd be surviving on a steady diet of Repton and Chuckie Egg. I was 10 when the game came out and it blew my mind that I could be placed in the center of an evolving story in a video game.
The game world and background art were enchanting and really created a strong sense of place. Melee island felt like a living breathing island (islands don't technically breathe but you get the point), all the locations were connected spatially and it even had pirates roaming the jungle paths looking for trouble! Interestingly Melee island is always depicted at night-time adding to the sense that the pirates sleep with hangovers all day and only get going again once the sun sets!
The humor was knowing and glib, it didn't play down to it's audience like the patronizing Saturday morning children's cartoons I was hoovering up at the time. Sure there were moments of slapstick humor but the situational comedy and subversion of your exceptions in the game to comedic effect were a step up from my usual fare.
The sword fighting is a great example of this. Instead of controlling Guybrush by flinging physical attacks with your blade, you instead hurl insults to turn the tide of the contest.
Another favorite moment is the reveal of the sword fighting training machine. There's a quite a scary build-up and when you get the big reveal the end resilt is little unexpected (SPOILERS AVERTED).
I think that was one of the game's strengths was that it had some truly memorable secondary characters.
Although the animation capabilities at the time were pretty limited the characters still manage to pop off the screen and come to life. Le Chuck, your ghost pirate nemesis, has an impressive writhing ghost beard and Stan (with probably my favorite bit of animation in the game) looks like he's had far too many cups of coffee with his wildly gesticulating hands and motormouth lips.
I'm note sure that when I first played Monkey Island I'd considered being an animator (I was ten, give me a break) but I'm sure something there planted a seed in my tiny barely formed pea brain.
It's also nice that it isn't a sausage-fest (packed full of dudes) but has some awesome female characters. Both Elaine (the more than capable governor of Melee Island) and The Sword Master are streets ahead of Guybrush (apart from in maybe the ability to hold his breath) in pretty much every aspect.
Considering it's age (the original was released in 1990) the game plays remarkably well today and does a great job of guiding you on your adventures with minimal frustration.
Our good friend Binster sent us a link to this video that does a deep dig into the games design and it was pretty fascinating to watch, especailly now we're knee deep in fashioning an adventure game of our own.
And finally the music! Michael Lands soundtrack is packed to the brim with ear-worms that really do a lot of the heavy lifting in bringing the game world and characters to life.
I did find a YouTube video that had the main theme on loop for 10 hours, but thought that was maybe a bit over the top, so you can check out the music for a less relentless period below!
I'm sure many of you know that The Secret of Monkey Island spawned a few more games in the franchise, some more successful than others, but maybe we'll get to them another day.
We hope you enjoyed this trip down adventure game memory lane. We'll be back for a look at another cool adventure game at some point in the future. Maybe next time we'll do a more contemporary entry for contrast.
Have a good one,
Alex & Tom