The Secret of Monkey Island
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I saw your request for RPG suggestions on Twitter. There are so many! I don’t know where to start. From my point of view, I’d love to go for one of the classics I’ve never played. Betrayal At Krondor would fit the bill perfectly. Or failing that Might and Magic 1 or Wizardry 1 would be great. There is a tool available to add automapping and other bells and whistles to those last 2 which makes them way more accessible.
I’d also quite like to play Superhero League of Hoboken or any of the gold box games. The same goes for Darklands. RPG’s are always such a time investment that there are loads of classics like this I’ve never got around to having a go at.
Origin games are kind of my specialist subject and you wouldn’t go far wrong with an Ultima. They did a few more obscure RPG’s in the 80’s if that’s what you are after. 2400AD is a fun little game in the Ultima style except with a sci-fi instead of fantasy setting. The best non-Ultima RPG they did was AutoDuel which is a car combat RPG based on Steve Jackson’s Car Wars in a Mad Max setting. Autoduel is a bit of a classic for it’s time. I’d definitely recommend it if you don’t mind a 1985 game.
The Legacy is an underlooked gem. It’s a Lovecraft inspired first person horror RPG. Would be a good one for an October.
I could keep going but I’ll stop at that.
The 5 from Telltale only really add up to the one game but it’s clearly way too much gaming. I’m not going near another PC game for at least a week.
I’m with you on Monkey Island 2 yet I remember absolutely loving it when I first played it. It was probably the first Lucasarts adventure I played so I’m wondering if that coloured my opinion. A couple of the puzzle solutions are so stupid that the answers are jokes in their own right. The only way through those is trial and error really. This sort of design is really unusual in a Lucasarts game and I can’t think of any other examples outside of MI2.
I’ve made it through the rest of the Monkey Island games so I may as well give some opinions on them. Escape From Monkey Island used the Grim Fandango engine which meant 3D characters and Alone In The Dark style tank controls. This interface is fairly horrible with Guybrush bouncing around all over the place when you try to walk down narrow paths. It was a massive step back and clearly designed with consoles in mind at the expense of PC gamers. As for the game, there were sections I liked but a lot of the jokes were painfully unfunny. I really didn’t enjoy the whole tourist resort theme – it just didn’t feel like a Monkey Island game any more. The game as a whole was maybe slightly above average but a huge step down from previous entries. It’s arguably the worst adventure game Lucasarts ever did, the only competition being Labyrinth and I have far more sympathy for a game that had to run on a C64. MI4 was the game that killed off adventure games at Lucasarts and we should probably be glad Sam and Max 2 and Full Throttle 2 never happened on the whole.
I really enjoyed Tales of Monkey Island on the other hand. It had the most plot of any of the Monkey Island games, some great puzzle design and a lot of fun new characters. I’d go as far as to say that out of the 5 games, this was the one I had the best time with. A large part of that was not knowing it inside out already of course. I just wish Telltale were still doing these sorts of games. They were my favourite developers for a while in the noughties but I got bored with their modern day interactive movies years back.
I have to say I find it hard to believe just how little I remembered about these last two games given that I’d played them both before. This may as well have been the first time so that’s one advantage of a dodgy memory.
I had a very quick look at the Secret Of Monkey Island remake. I don’t know what anyone else thinks but I absolutely hate the new character designs. The originals almost had an oil painting look about them in closeups, I don’t know what Lucasarts were thinking about with these angular cartoon versions. The backgrounds look nice enough at least. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the voice acting either, I think it always works best in games where it was designed that way from the start. It seemed quite stilted and unnatural to me but I didn’t play very far. Maybe as a new player the remake is an improvement but I couldn’t see it myself.
That was way too many games in a short space of time anyway. The constant rain recently was a large factor but if I ever try something like this again, I’m pacing myself a bit better.
I’ve played way too much Monkey Island to be able to offer a first impression any more. I’m amazed how well it still holds together though. The humour is still fresh, the puzzle design spot on, the graphics have aged well and the music is as catchy as ever. It’s a game where everything seems to have gone right. About the only criticism I have was the amount of silence there was in the soundtrack which surprised me a bit going back. The version I was playing didn’t even have most of the sound effects if you were playing with MT-32 music.
I’ve moved onto the sequels and while it’s still a classic, I enjoyed Monkey Island 2 less than I expected. Guybrush was a less sympathetic character and there seemed to be a good deal less humour with more high adventure in its place. The production values were certainly better with a full iMuse soundtrack and more animation. It could just be a case of playing it to death years back having spoiled it for me these days but I think it lost a little of the charm. Some sections were quite dark really so maybe it was going for the moody second entry in the series like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. God knows there were enough references to both of those elsewhere. Some of the puzzle design was definitely worse than anything in #1 (e.g. the infamous monkey wrench).
I might even prefer Curse Of Monkey Island which isn’t something I expected to say. The humour fell flat on a few occasions but it had enough memorable sections to make up for it and the graphical and audio overhaul were fantastic for the time. I particularly loved the sea shanty bit and the banjo dueling.
Playing all these games back to back, it’s noticeable how inconsistent they are with the characters and world. Personalities change every time and each sequel appears further removed from the original. Monkey Island was vaguely true to the historical period of the game but by Monkey Island 3 we’ve got beach clubs with cabana boys, amusement parks of death with roller coasters, radar guided cannons, etc.. It isn’t just the graphics that got more cartoony as the series progressed.
I’m on to Escape From Monkey Island now which is going to take far longer as unlike the first three I don’t already know how to solve all the puzzles. I did play it back in the day but only once and I’ve forgotten it all. I’m hoping I like it more now than I did then but I’m not hopeful.
Yes, I played Ecstatica at the time but haven’t been back since. I think it was basically the work of one person who had spent years on it. Those sorts of games tend to end up being a little odd and this was no exception. I can’t say I remember much now other than a werewolf wandering around that made life a misery. I don’t think I got too far without a walkthrough. It did have a really unusual elipsoid based engine where everything looked a bit like balloon animals. There was even elipsoid nudity which got it a bit of press back then.
I’m way more familiar with Alone In The Dark. We seem to be on a roll of some of my favourite games from back then at the moment. Definitely looking forward to going back to this series again.
I used to play this one loads on my “trusty” Sinclair PC 200. It’s a bit of a classic, another one of those games that seemed to come with DOS as it was on every PC at the time. Definitely wouldn’t mind revisiting it.
I’d like the idea of doing a month with a few smaller CGA games such as this. Another two I used to play loads were Flightmare and Sopwith which were great fun at the time if a little difficult to control. I’d be really curious to see what people make of Flightmare, it has you controlling from above and side on simultaneously which takes some getting used to.
That’s great and strangely accurate. I suppose it takes one really successful game spawning a load of copies to create a genre and it didn’t happen until Dune 2 came along.
One of the first games I ever played on PC was The Ancient Art Of War which I’d consider an RTS and that came out in 1985. You couldn’t build anything in that one though so were stuck with your starting units. It would be a fun series to cover one month (not that there is any shortage)
They are from my collection. I rescued a box of my old magazines from my parents a few years back but most of them are from a small van full I got cheap off a guy on Ebay. For some reason UK PC magazines seem to be neglected by most of the scanning sites. The consoles get well represented but there doesn’t appear to be much love for PC gaming. I’ve been working on scanning in PC Zone for some years myself to plug this gap a bit. There’s an archive of everything so far at http://www.pixsoriginadventures.co.uk/PCZone. I’m adding one a week with a view to finishing off the early issues which I’m not missing before the end of the year.
Bit of a long shot but if you happen to have any of the issues I’ve not got at your parents and wanted to help out it would be much appreciated.
I finished off the orc campaign last night. There were two more missions as it happens which were certainly bigger and more challenging with air based units being sent at my bases and the introduction of dragons on my side. The levels definitely did get better as they went on but there was also more setup and destruction required so they took forever.
If there is a bug with the AI not building units, I ran into it every single time. It would still build workers and oil tankers but rarely anything agressive. It would never rebuild buildings other than town halls and oil wells. It seemed like once I started attacking (usually clearing out the sea first), it stopped sending anything new at me but I don’t really know where the units came from before this since I couldn’t see the map.
I’m not going to go and play the human campaign now as I’ve kind of had enough already. I do have the expansion pack so I could carry on the orc campaign which would be more tempting but for now at least I’m just going to stop here.
I’m really struggling to see the big appeal with Warcraft 2 and feel like I must be missing something. Strategy games aren’t exactly my thing which may be a large factor – X-Com is torture as far as I’m concerned. I’ve played a good few RTS games over the years though from Ancient Art Of War, through Dune 1&2, the C&C series, Total Annihilation, etc and I honestly prefer all of them. I’ll have a dig through my old magazines next instead and see how many reviews I can turn up.
I finished the single player campaigns back when I was a student but haven’t been near this since. At the time, I remember being underwhelmed compared to Command & Conquer but I was expecting I’d appreciate it more going back. It’s not terrible but if anything I’m liking it less now than I did then.
The interface is really quite labour intensive and requires lots of micromanagement with units getting stuck, not using abilities automatically, not being able to stack builds, etc.. The opponent A.I. is frankly terrible. As far as I can see, the CPU never actually puts up new buildings once they are destroyed. This means for instance that in the later levels you can just go around clearing out the oceans and your base on another island has impunity from attack from there on out.
The Command and Conquer CPU enemies cheated like blazes rebuilding anywhere they liked but they offered more of a challenge than this. The whole level setup basically acknowledge how useless the AI is with a huge base with loads of units built in advance. If the CPU didn’t keep sending one or two units at a time and just attacked flat out at the start every level would be completely impossible.
This sort of gameplay can still be fun but it doesn’t do any favours to the pacing of the game. The start of a level offers some challenge in establishing a base and surviving the early attacks. Having got through these stages though, the levels drag on for ages when you are clearly in a winning position. In fact, I reckon that’s where I’ve probably spent most of my time, with the speed set to maximum trying to clear up units and buildings all over the map. There isn’t any strategy involved to this and it’s just a matter of patience.
I’m up to what I think is the last mission in the orc campaign now and it barely feels like the game has got going. The campaign has felt almost like a tutorial in all honesty. I’ve never tried it but I can only assume Warcraft 2 comes into it’s own as a multi-player game. It is no doubt a very different experience against a real opponent but I’m really not struck with it as a single player game so far.
This definitely doesn’t match my experience. When fighting heads, if I was in the correct spot and got pushed back. I wouldn’t be able to strike them as a rule. I could get pushed back several times in a row and they would still stop outside my range.
The same goes for the jumps. It wasn’t just about timing with some jumps as they were literally impossible without changing my starting point. It was as though the game was trying to hold back my jump until the tile edge but screwing it up so I would run off the end first.
Maybe POP2 is susceptible to what hardware you are using? There’s plenty of DOS games with timing bugs on faster machines. I’m glad to say I’m not running into this sort of thing on Prince Of Persia 3D.
I also got the impression that it was intentionally harder, presumably after some criticism about the first game being too easy. I’ve never actually saved my game in Prince Of Persia 1 as I didn’t even realise it was an option when playing a pirated version back in the day. Assuming it works the same as in POP2, you would be able to complete the game pretty quickly using saves I would imagine. In POP2, I made constant use of saving/loading.
Other than the heads/snakes, I don’t reckon the combat is necessarily much harder but there is way, way more of it. There are sections where you must have to get through a dozen guards at a time. The snakes seem to have the same problem as the heads where you need to be in the right position to be able to strike them. Combined with the jumping it smacks of a minor bug to me where the player can get out of alignment with the tile positions. The game is hard enough without having to deal with this sort of stuff. So much of beating POP2 seemed to come down to learning by rote exactly where to stand for each fight or start each jump and I was having to use trial and error to figure it all out. It’s akin to playing the likes of Dragon’s Lair.
I was also getting a good number of crashes on my PII which rubbed it in when they happened after one of the mid-level checkpoints that I’d struggled to get to for ages. Maybe I should have tried slowing my PC down a bit in hindsight.
For all of this it’s still a good game with some memorable moments but I’d question whether it was actually an enjoyable experience. The main emotion I had on beating it was relief. The difficulty did work for it on a few occasions. There was a lot of satisfaction to cleaving through a load of goblin heads after getting a full length sword again.
I’d guess I’ve had this one for 15-20 years now. It wasn’t all that easy to get hold of even back then or I wouldn’t have ended up with the Mac version. If there are any on Ebay, I can imagine trying to find them among all the sequels being a nightmare.
You should have time to run clear if you start immediately after tapping the ceiling (as long as you run in the direction you are facing). You can sometimes knock out the ceiling on the adjacent tile if you are near enough the edge. This seems to work when you have just climbed up a ledge and then turn around and jump.