GAME REVIEW – Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge

By Marty Mulrooney

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Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, an adventure game that many gamers still consider to be one of the greatest of all time, has finally been re-released and given the same HD makeover treatment that The Secret Of Monkey Island received last year. However, by attempting to  remake a game that remains precious to adventure gamers worldwide even today, LucasArts has not only faced the tremendous challenge of updating a classic without diluting any of the ingredients that made it so special in the first place, but also the task of improving upon last year’s Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which split fans down the middle with its bold graphical updates and somewhat clunky controls.

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So let’s get all the bad stuff out the way first. Yes, the reports are sadly true. The iconic opening credits sequence featuring the dancing monkeys is completely absent in the Special Edition… and the way the game completely misses it out hurts tremendously. It was just so iconic. Also, there is a slightly awkward moment later in the game when a certain musical number features out-of-sync vocals. However, everything else is present and correct (although there is no longer a ‘lite’ mode). Sure, a line or too may have been changed for copyright reasons (and sometimes an ‘easter egg’ LucasArts character hidden in the original mode’s artwork has been swapped in the Special Edition) but overall this is a hugely faithful representation of the original game.

The original game. In case anyone out there is playing for the first time, Monkey Island 2 takes place some time after The Secret Of Monkey Island. After defeating the evil ghost pirate LeChuck with a spray of root beer, Guybrush Threepwood has finally become a bona fide pirate. Now on the trail of the legendary hidden treasure Big Whoop, Guybrush will soon cross paths with many familiar faces including Governor Elaine Marley, the mysterious Voodoo Lady and of course, his arch nemesis LeChuck, this time returning to life in zombie form.

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I would hazard a guess that LeChuck’s Revenge is about three times as long as The Secret Of Monkey Island, making it a fairly lengthy game. It starts off great and progressively gets even better as the game continues onward. Initially exploring the town of Woodtick on Scabb Island (above) is a treat for long time fans: LucasArts have truly captured the essence of what made the island so special all those years ago. It is a promising start that quickly makes up for the missing introduction. And when you finally charter a ship, the magnitude of the game still hits home even in 2010.

A simple click of F1 (much more convenient than last year’s F10) switches between the original game and the updated version: I couldn’t help but grin as I began to play and realised that, unlike The Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition, this time the updated backgrounds are practically 100% faithful to the original game. Everything overlaps perfectly and fine detail suddenly leaps off the screen with the click of a button. LeChuck’s Revenge was always a far more detailed game that its predecessor, with the downside being that some severe cases of pixel hunting were created as a result. The Special Edition rectifies this problem and portrays the game world with the fine detail it deserves: this is quite frankly the most gorgeous adventure game I have seen since LucasArts quit 2D all those years ago.

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The music has also had a major update, although there are some oddities. The music in classic mode doesn’t sound quite as accurate or as great as I remember (I think the soundtrack has been converted to actual digital recordings now) and the iMuse effects just aren’t as good. For those who don’t know, iMuse made the musical transition between any two screens seem seamless. It still works (on the PC and PS3 version, although I’ve heard it doesn’t on Xbox 360) but it just takes a while longer. To be fair it is a hard effect to recreate digitally and I felt that in the new Special Edition  mode, it worked quite well. However, the updated music in the Special Edition mode sounds out of this world and will have you humming along. Other scenes actually have no music at all (whereas they do when you switch to classic mode) yet I actually thought this was okay: it is usually in a screen where the old game had no sound effects anyway. Instead, we are now treated to sounds of sand, sea and jungle.

The voicework here is where Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge truly shines. The new characters are all voiced to perfection (Largo LeGrande now looks and sounds very much like Robert DeNiro!) with highlights including Neil Ross returning as Wally (although he sounds slightly different than he did in Curse Of Monkey Island) and Phil LaMarr as Captain Dread (he also voiced Vamp in the Metal Gear Solid series). Of course, Dominic Armato is back as Guybrush Threepwood and he easily tops his performance from last year in Secret. He has a lot of dialogue throughout to voice and it always sounds emotionally accurate. Also, this is the darkest game of the series (think Temple Of Doom) yet due to Dom’s vocals it is hard not to like Guybrush even when he is doing some pretty mean, questionable things. Alexandra Boyd has far less dialogue as Elaine but still does an excellent job and Earl Boen as LeChuck just sounds perfect as always. You can now listen to the voices in classic mode as well and there are no longer any annoying pauses between lines.

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One of the most amazing additions to the Special Edition is the Audio Commentary. When prompted, pressing ‘A’ will allow players to hear the original design team talk about the game in silhouette, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 style. Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman are all living legends in my opinion and to hear them banter about the design of both the original/new game is worth the price of admission alone (I am sure any other Monkey Island geeks will agree). They wisely avoid discussing the controversial ending, instead offering some fascinating insight into their time creating the game: it provides a compulsive listen. The only downside is that sometimes the commentary will play over dialogue when you initiate it too quickly. Luckily, the game autosaves often so you can always go back to a few minutes earlier if you want to play again without interruption. There is also plenty of unlockable artwork: I simply cannot describe how awesome it is! This is Monkey Island heaven.

Elsewhere, the controls have been drastically updated from last year and really feel great. Gone are the tacked on overlay boxes, in comes the Curse Of Monkey Island style pointer. Left clicking will move Guybrush around the screen, whilst right clicking will automatically have you look at an object or talk to someone. Holding the right button reveals any other options (LucasArts have thankfully left in all of the funny dialogue choices, so you can still try to ‘Pick Up’ a lot of people) and pressing the mouse wheel lets you access your inventory. You can even hold down both mouse buttons to highlight hotspots on the screen. This makes the game feel true to its point ‘n’ click roots and had me grinning from ear to ear. Of course, console gamers/PC gamepad owners can also control Guybrush directly now, which works fine. However, I still feel this game is best played with a good old fashioned mouse. The hint system from last year is accessible once more with a click of  the ‘H’ button and does a great job of helping players progress without resorting to a walkthrough.

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So, it this a perfect Special Edition? Not quite: there are some niggles both with the original version (iMuse, sound quality, some puzzles still insane!) and the Special Edition (missing credits, iMuse, occasional timing issue with puzzles, some puzzles still insane!) Yet when I got to the end section of the game, it really was like going back in time to my childhood as a gamer. Being able to finally hear the anger in LeChuck’s voice and the fear in Guybrush’s makes the final scenes, with their superbly updated artwork and effects, even more powerful than before. This is an amazing game that rises above any small faults. Yet I was torn when it finished: what score does the Special Edition deserve?

The best way I can explain my final score is this: although basically playing a game that is nearly 20 years old, I never once felt bored. The original game is a classic and the faithfully updated artwork and voicework of the Special Edition is just too scrumptious to miss. LucasArts have recently mentioned that they’ve been listening to fan’s complaints (mostly about the missing opening credits) and will be announcing something shortly. Whether they eventually patch the Special Edition or not, I still feel they have taken one of the finest games ever made and updated it in a faithful, honest manner. Playing either the original or the update, I doubt you will find many other adventure games that can match Monkey Island 2’s sense of discovery, adventure and humour, even today. The few missteps in the Special Edition prove negligible. You owe it to yourself to play this game: it is a prime example of interactive fiction (and LucasArts adventure gaming) at its highest peak. A mere patch away from being a perfect 10. Rediscover a classic: one of the greatest adventure games of all time.

9.5 OUT OF 10

AMO will be interviewing Guybrush Threepwood voice actor Dominic Armato about both Monkey Island Special Editions so stay tuned!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “GAME REVIEW – Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge

  1. Symbermine

    Great Review. For me this game, the original one is a classic on adventure games, I am happy to see that LucasArt has realized the legacy that has and they have listened to the fans. They have done a good job in general with this special edition. The problems you mention should not cloud the game, the graphics are great and the voices too, and music. Now we will have to see which way they will take about adventure games.
    I am looking forward to read the interview to Dominic.

  2. Matthew

    Great review, I agree with everything you stated about the game. On a sidenote, whatever happened to the interview with Dominic Armato? Did it ever happen? I can only find the interviews on Secret and Tales, but not for Monkey 2.

    • Hi Matthew, thanks for commenting! Glad you agreed with the review – sadly, the Monkey Island 2 interview with Dominic Armato fell through, although we did manage to speak with him about The Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition. Perhaps after six interviews he collapsed? (I think AMO hold’s the record for interviewing him!)

  3. Shaney Skinner

    Nice review, Having read this I will skip the 1st remake and go straight to this.

    Monkey Island is not a cartoon, the whole crux of the goodness came from the wacky monkey pirate universe it was set in, like a dreamworld and when it came to close ups the characters were always vividly human, helping create the unique bonds that brought the players of the original so close to them.

    They lost it with the later sequels and this is some attempt to flog those dead donkey’s into life. What Lucas arts should do is employ me or I fear the magic will be lost whilst persisting with their cartoon nonsense saga.

    However this one looks lots better than the last even though Guybrush is too tall, his feet too small, boots the wrong colour, strap goes wrong way across his chest, he is too upright, neck is too long, silly frilly bits on his trousers, the design of his jacket is wrong, don’t think the collar is right, his hair is way to girly blonde and largo is a hunchback who looks completely absurd. (just from 2 screenshots, I may die during the course of playing).

    • I think you’re being a little bit harsh there Shaney, but each to their own – thanks for commenting.

      However, you might find it a little bit difficult securing employment at LucasArts…

  4. jakob

    Monkey island 2 SE is lacking the rootbeer scene at the end! it is impossible to shoot rootbeer at lechuck with the rootbeer flask you find with all the boxes! in the original game lechuck will be hit by rootbeer and explain to guybrush why it is ineffective!!!!

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