The Curse of Monkey Island 1997: Break The Curse And Save Elaine
October 31st, 1997
Third in the legendary Monkey Island series of graphic adventures
Film quality animation, voice, sound, and music--the undead come to life before your very eyes!
Incredible high-resolution (640 x 480) graphics!
A barrel of gameplay--estimated 30-plus hours!
Two difficulty settings: regular and Mega-Monkey (now with more puzzles goodness)!
New and improved insults suitable for swordfights and other fun occasions!
The Curse of Monkey Island is a classic film. It is still considered one of the best adventures ever developed, and its cartoon graphics will live on for decades to come. The only adventure that has ever been better than Monkey Island 3 is Grim Fandango, but Monkey Island has probably shaped more childhoods and brains than any other.
But it’s the humor in The Curse of Monkey Island that we like the best. The majority of it goes from smart and brilliant jokes to laugh-out-loud moments. We mean, this game is hilarious, and if it doesn’t make you laugh a few times, we don’t know what would. And we find that this makes the game a lot easier to play because the conversation is so amusing that you want to hear as much of it as possible while playing, ensuring you never miss any key tips. The writing is some of the greatest we’ve seen in any game, with a few Star Wars references thrown in for good measure. A good example of the game’s humor would be When Haggis McMutton (voiced by the late Alan Young of Scrooge McDuck fame) explains the origins of his name to you and informs you his given name was “Heart Liver and Kidneys Boiled in the Stomach of the Animal McMutton,” Guybrush answers, “so your parents were expecting a girl.” Or when you discover the roots of Skull Island’s moniker (which we won’t divulge because it got us laughing so hard the first time we saw it).
What we appreciate most about The Curse of Monkey Island is the designers’ evident attention to detail and how game mechanics are integrated into the game’s world so skillfully that you don’t even realize it most of the time. The Curse of Monkey Island game is filled with small subtleties and amusing “in-jokes” that add to its charm and individuality. It’s evident that the people who worked on this game had a good time with the setting and did everything they could to make it memorable and engaging, as well as a witty and energetic environment. Nothing in the game feels blatantly dangerous; there’s always a sense of joy beneath it all, even during the darkest parts of the game, and that cozy and inviting feeling about this game makes it so hard to put down and so relaxing to play.
The most brilliant aspect of The Curse of Monkey Island game, which applies to pretty much all Lucas Arts games at the time, is that the puzzles are designed in such a way that you’ll never find yourself in a situation where you can’t proceed because you missed an item or important piece of information, which makes the game still very playable today.
The controls of The Curse of Monkey Island are about as simple as you’d think. The game foregoes the typical scumm interface of the first two games in favor of a simpler “coin” that you may access by holding down the mouse button on things. This coin features three contextually relevant icons: The hand symbol allows you to physically engage with objects by pushing, opening, or doing other things with your hands (no… not that…). The eye sign allows you to inspect or gaze through objects by using your face. The final symbol is the mouth, which is mostly used for talking to others but can also be used for eating or otherwise engaging with your mouth (again… not that…). It’s a really intuitive interface that was also employed in comparable games from the time period, such as The Longest Journey (another one of our all-time favorites) and Day Of The Tentacle. And experimenting with all three options on items may frequently result in some amusing lines, making it immensely fun to just interact with stuff in the game, which is fortunate because that’s what you do most of the time.
The Curse of Monkey Island’s graphics aesthetic is also excellent. While it departs from the more realistic drawing style of the prior two games in favor of a more cartoony approach, we believe it matches the game’s ambiance and contributes to a very distinct vibe that you probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. The characters all have really emotive motions, and the background art is sometimes breathtaking, with very well-done coloring. At moments, it feels like you’re playing a classic cartoon, and we enjoy every minute of it. Of course, playing the game now makes it feel fairly low-res, and we truly wish there was an HD recreation of the game, similar to Grim Fandango Remastered, with remastered artwork in high resolution, comparable to the HD remasters of the first two titles. However, we believe that the game’s artwork is among the best in the franchise. We especially like Guybrush’s look in this game, which has a more lanky aspect than the prior two.
And the sound… we can’t say enough about how fantastic this game sounds. The voice acting of The Curse of Monkey Island is simply fantastic, and we adore how much individuality the actors bring to the characters. Dominic Armato, who plays Guybrush for the first time in the series, is our favorite (although he did go on to voice him in the HD remasters of the first two games as well). His comedic timing is so spot on that it stings, and his voice has become so synonymous with the character that we can’t fathom anybody else playing him. He has a bumbling demeanor, but he is never mean-spirited, and he comes across as a well-meaning but unlucky (and unlikely) hero most of the time. Elaine is also excellently voiced by Alexandra Boyd, and it’s a shame she’s mostly silent for the majority of the game. Because, of course, Alan Young must be praised for his famous portrayal as the Scotsman Haggis McMutton (and, if you’re going to have a Scotsman in the game, there’s honestly no greater Scotsman to voice him than Alan Young). Everyone else is also doing an excellent job, and the voice acting is one of the game’s greatest points, particularly for the Voodoo Lady, whose voice alone helps give her an even more impact than in prior games (despite her short appearance).
And we don’t believe there are enough superlatives to express how much we adore the music of The Curse of Monkey Island. It ranges from reggae-influenced Caribbean music with steel drums and organs (ideal for the Caribbean environment) to cinematic mood compositions. All of it suits the scenario flawlessly, adds a lot of atmosphere and personality to the game, and, much like Grim Fandango’s score, has a style that perfectly complements the game’s setting and it’s tough to imagine the game without it. Also, this game’s rendition of the series’ iconic theme is arguably our favorite of the entire franchise, and we feel goosebumps every time it plays during the opening credits. It’s easily one of the best video game themes ever created.