Home » video game

Tales of the Tales of Monkey Island

A New Hope


In 1982, George Lucas, wanting to expand his company Lucasfilm into new entertainment fields, opened Lucasfilm Games. As the parent company’s software branch, Lucasfilm Games did some early work with Atari and Activision to create and distribute games like Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus, which brought the company some success. A few years later, however, Lucasfilm Games sought to make a name for itself by publishing games themselves, rather than merely helping other companies develop them.



One of the first games the company put out on their own was 1987’s Maniac Mansion. A point-and-click adventure game, Maniac Mansion told the story of a trio of college students venturing into the mansion inhabited by the reclusive and slightly evil Edison family in order to rescue the kidnapped girlfriend of the game’s main character. The game featured a number of innovative ways for the player to interact, most notably choosing the two companions to accompany the game’s hero and switching between them at any time. All of the potential allies had individual strengths and so no two playthroughs could be the same. There were also multiple endings to the game, different ways to solve its puzzles, and the threat of possible death – always a great motivator to playing with caution. Maniac Mansion was hugely successful, even spawning a three-season Canadian TV show of the same name, and eventually gaining its own game sequel, Day of the Tentacle, in 1993. But Maniac Mansion’s biggest contribution to the Lucasfilm Games may have had nothing to do with the video at all, but the engine used to create it.



A video game’s “engine” is central to the entirety of what is seen on the screen. The game engine renders the game’s visual elements, determines what sounds to play and when, establishes character and environment animations, performs hardware management, even chooses what hardware operating system it runs on. It’s the basic matrix: with an existing game engine, two programmers could each make routines with completely different stories, characters and in-play items – using the same engine to provide all the tools for both games without needing to build everything from the ground up. To put it simply, the engine comprises the skeleton, internal organs and muscles of the game, whereas the video itself might be the skin tone, hairstyle and personality, everything makes the game identifiably unique. In the creation of Maniac Mansion, Lucasfilm Games’ engineer Aric Wilmunder and programmer Ron Gilbert built what they called the SCUMM engine, which stands for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion. The idea behind it is simple: games created with it use a verb-object design paradigm, with the game’s main character maintaining an inventory of items, most of which are used or combined to solve puzzles at different times. The character can also converse with other non-playable characters (NPSs, for short) to solve further puzzles, gather clues, or expand the story. Most of Lucasfilm Games’ titles from the release of Maniac Mansion onward would use the SCUMM engine or one of the many SCUMM recreations edited and upgraded by Wilmunder (who’s sometimes referred to as the “SCUMM Lord”), including games like Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, an adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the musical adventure Loom.

The Year of the Monkey

In 1990, Lucasfilm did a reorganization of its companies, integrating Lucasfilm Games, special effects companies Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound to form Lucasarts Entertainment Company. At about this same time, Lucasarts released its newest adventure game, one headlined by the programming trio of Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer. Gilbert, inspired by the Disney ride Pirates of the Caribbean and the 1988 Tim Powers’ book On Stranger Tides, wanted to do a pirate-oriented adventure game, and so The Secret of Monkey Island takes place in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly the mid-17th century), and follows the story of Guybrush Threepwood as he arrives on the fictional Melee Island in a grand quest to become a pirate.

 

Guybrush is a wimpy sort, and while you get the feeling that the story’s Pirate Leaders send him on the Three Trials of piracy (“swordplay, thievery, and er, treasure hunter-y”) for the sole purpose of getting him out of their hair, Guybrush actually manages to handle everything thrown at him, armed with little more than self-determination, wit, and the ability to hold his breath for ten minutes. In the meantime, he meets Elaine Marley, the Governor of Melee Island, and also the evil Ghost Pirate LeChuck, who in life had tried to impress the Governor by sailing off to discover the secret of fabled Monkey Island before his ship was sunk, leaving no survivors. He’s a dead pirate now, but no less dangerous, as he spends his time plotting to make Elaine his undead bride. When the tale is complete, Guybrush has passed the three trials, bought his own ship, sailed all the way to Monkey Island, attempted a rescue of the Governor (who turns out to be more than capable of taking care of herself), and defeated the Ghost Pirate LeChuck for good (or so he thinks).



The story of how Guybrush Threepwood got his name is almost as convoluted as the origin of the game itself. Early in the production, before a name had been chosen, Lucasarts artist Steve Purcell was busy at work illustrating the character sprite – how the character would look on someone’s screen – using the Deluxe Paint software application. When he saved the work, he saved the filename as “guybrush”, “guy” being what he was called since he had no name yet and “brush” since it was the brush file for the sprite. Thus Guybrush was born. “Threepwood” was the result of a company contest to name the character and specifically seems to have been derived from the P.G. Wodehouse family of characters by the same name. In particular, the simple-minded Frederick “Freddie” Threepwood seems to share many of Guybrush’s qualities. The resulting moniker planted itself immediately into the minds and hearts of those who played SMI.



But possibly even more farcical than Guybrush’s unique name – which characters in the series of games laughably mispronounce unintentionally and intentionally throughout – is the universe within this fictional representation of the Caribbean. While many of the stereotypical elements of pirate society are represented in the game (buried treasure, pirate shanty-towns, long sea-going voyages), there are also quite a few outrageous, ridiculous items such as a traveling Italian circus helmed by the Fettuccini Brothers, or Stan’s Previously-Owned Shipyard. Such in-game chuckles abound, and nothing is sacred, and that’s the fun of the game. Instead of being subjected to a politically-motivated drama involving the Spanish Armada or sacking and pillaging, we’re allowed to throw history to the wind as a wimpy and simple but determined kid becomes a pirate, defeats the ghost pirate, and gets the girl in a world that would be barely recognizable to Jean Lafitte or Henry Morgan.



One of the better sequences in the game takes place when Guybrush trains for the swordplay trial to become a pirate. In order to defeat the Swordmaster of Melee Island he must learn one of the Caribbean’s most popular methods to solving disputes: Insult sword fighting! After getting training in how to wield his sword, Guybrush must seek out pirates strolling around the island and challenge them to a fight that involves issuing insults and witty comebacks. You automatically remember new insults you’ve learned and can use the same insult on the next guy you face. You might lose many fights in the beginning, but as you learn more you can handle your foes more easily and eventually you’ll be ready to face the Swordmaster herself. Learning all the insults was never necessary, but the player often can’t resist getting in that one last bit of repartee. It never gets old, and the insults themselves were penned by none other than acclaimed sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, doing a great job of taking a significant piratical aspect – sword fighting – and redefining it to fit this mixed-up cosmos. It adds a whole new dimension to ‘rapier wit.’



 

This isn’t to say that Gilbert, Grossman and Schafer sat on their funny bones to get a game made – just as much work was put in to making the game’s atmosphere feel realistic and amiable to any who would partake in such an adventure; fun was emphasized. This playfulness included the inability of the main character to die (except for one Easter Egg, or hidden joke, to be found in the game), no immediate “Game Over”’s and the non-linearity of much of the game-play, meaning several objectives and puzzles could be solved in any order for success. Much of the game’s original artwork came from Steve Purcell and Mark Ferrari, who managed to encapsulate the essence of the game into interesting and beautiful set-pieces, as well as unique character visuals. And Lucasarts’ resident composer Michael Land created sweeping original scores and pleasant background music that have become hardwired into the players who have heard it. All these things combined to form what gamers might call a vortex of enjoyment for those who booted up their computers (and later the Sega CD gaming console) to enter this new world.



It’s no surprise that The Secret of Monkey Island met with such commercial success and positive reviews – it had the good fortune to be released during the Golden Age of Adventure Gaming. Equally unsurprising, then, the next installment of the franchise very quickly appeared, to gamers’ delight. Released in 1991, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge was produced by mostly the same team that put together the first game, with Gilbert, Grossman and Schafer once again in charge of the development. In this game, an indeterminate amount of time has passed since the end of the first, with a new, more mature Guybrush once again the game’s muse. Having bored nearly the entire Caribbean with his exaggerated tale about how he defeated LeChuck, Guybrush is on a new quest: to find the legendary treasure known only as Big Whoop. Like Monkey Island in the first game, most of what is known about Big Whoop by the general pirate population is speculation and legend, guaranteeing no easy search over the course of the game. It’s of course Guybrush’s dogged determination that leads him to this ultimate prize. 



Possibly the most striking difference between the two games is the portrayal of Guybrush. Besides the cosmetic physical changes he has undergone (including now sporting a beard), Guybrush seemed to have a little more edge to him, openly committing theft, destruction of property and even sawing the peg leg off a pirate for the expressed purpose of completing the necessary tasks ahead of him. He’s still goofy and simple, but he’s obviously been reveling in his pirate status. His hunt for Big Whoop has changed him immensely, even driving Elaine, the love of his life, to quit her job and move away without leaving a forwarding address. There were also visual differences; though the art was done by the same team, advances in computer graphics result much more detail-oriented set pieces and more varied character design.

 



The sound was also improved, with Michael Land introducing what became known as iMuse, an interactive music system that incorporated the ability for the game to synchronize its musical tone based on what was happening on the screen. In simple terms, when the character moves to a different scene or interacts with the environment in a certain way, the music adjusts to fit the mood of the scene by smoothly translating from song to song. This is easily evident in the town of Woodtick, on Scabb Island, where the game begins. When in the town, the Woodtick theme plays, but if Guybrush were to move into one of the approachable buildings, say the local bar The Bloody Lip, the music transitions from the Woodtick theme to the song that plays when you’re in the bar, with a little transition and no stutter, pause or gap between the songs. Land had become frustrated with the audio system Lucasarts used in the first game, and with fellow composer Peter McConnell set about the daunting task of putting the new system together. The result was a wonderful success, adding atmosphere to the entire game. Lucasarts was so happy with their work iMuse (which Land and McConnell patented) was used on every adventure game onward, and even on a few of Lucasarts’ non-adventure titles.



But one of the best new features of the game was a free-roam inter-island travel. After being basically stuck on a linear path between Monkey and Melee Islands in the first game, players now had the option of traveling between three different islands, each with their own distinct personalities. Besides Scabb Island’s pirate and rebel haven, there’s Booty Island with its all-year Mardi Gras jamboree, and Phatt Island, a straight-laced locale ruled by the bulbous despot Governor Phatt. The ability to freely travel between these places in your search for clues to Big Whoop was a huge improvement over the previous game’s inflexibility and helped to make it more accessible. Wanting to attract new, younger players to the mix, a “Monkey 2 Lite” version was available at the start of the game, keeping the story intact but taking out many of the more intricate puzzles, allowing more fun for those on the younger side or those simply wanting more story for less work.



Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge was a huge success. Even though anticipation was high so soon on the heels of the previous game, it easily outpaced those expectations, consistently ranked high in reviews and is still considered not only the best adventure game in the Lucasarts catalog, but often cited as the best point-and-click adventure ever made. Between the animation and sound improvements, streamlined interface, expanded universe and brand new memorable characters like the friendly cartographer Wally B. Feed and the diminutive terror Largo Lagrande, the Monkey Island franchise was improved in every single facet in what remains still today a classic game.

Video Killed the Adventure Game


After Monkey Island 2’s release, things changed at Lucasarts. Gilbert, lead on both Monkey Island titles to this point, left the company to found the children’s software company Humongous Entertainment and later Cavedog Entertainment. Shafer and Grossman remained with the company for a time, but neither did any work on a sequel to continue the story after the first two games. This isn’t to say that the franchise was abandoned, however; Lucasarts was looking to expand their adventure games market. After MI2 was released, Lucasarts released sequels to two of their other successful games, with the all-original Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, both excellent games. Day of the Tentacle, a humorous sequel to the scarier Maniac Mansion involving time travel and toxic sludge, was produced by Shafer and Grossman, and was Grossman’s last game at Lucasarts before he left in 1994. In 1993, Lucasarts also released Sam and Max Hit the Road, another adventure game based on the Steve Purcell-created Eisner-award winning comic book characters, Sam and Max, Freelance Police. The dog and rabbit duo had made many cameo appearances in previous Lucasarts games, but this was the first game in which they were the front and center attraction. The game was both hilarious and quite successful, even spawning a short-lived cartoon series, but Lucasarts never made another game based on the franchise, and it would ultimately be thirteen years before a sequel was released.



In 1995, after a full year hiatus between adventure games, Lucasarts released two titles that were very different from their very humorous predecessors. Tim Shafer, the last surviving member of the original Monkey Island team, released Full Throttle, a game centered on bikers in a dystopian future where the hero has been framed for murder and left for dead. The almost-humorless title was a far departure for Shafer, borrowing more from Mad Max than Sam and Max, but it was nonetheless a brilliant game, and it garnered many admirers. The Dig, released the same year, was less so. Plagued by a long production time, the game had many heavy hitter contributors, most notably Steven Spielberg and Orson Scott Card, who were both credited with the game’s writing and dialogue. It was the most serious game to date from Lucasarts, having none of the humor of any of the previous games. Initial players and critics were put off by the humorlessness of the game, even though it featured beautiful graphics, music and an interesting original storyline involving three astronauts finding themselves stranded on a far-off planet where the indigenous race seems to have died off. If nothing else, it had the brave, unique concept that Lucasarts was known for, but something of a game that failed to live up to the sum of its parts.



In 1997, fan’s cries were answered. Despite both Gilbert and Grossman having left the company and Shafer working on other projects, The Curse of Monkey Island was surprisingly released to adoring fans who by this time had been convinced that a new Monkey Island game might never be. Even more surprising was that despite the project being led by relative newcomers Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern, the title had everything fans of the series wanted: clever dialogue, a unique story, and more madcap pirate humor than you could shake a monkey at. It was also the last game to use the SCUMM engine, as soon after Lucasarts would make their remaining games using 3D technology.



With a brand-new look, CMI started immediately after Guybrush’s escape from LeChuck’s Carnival of the Damned (in which he had found himself trapped at the end of MI2); he’s lost at sea, only to find himself once again in between LeChuck and his prize, Governor Elaine Marley. After a brief scuffle in which Guybrush one more time seemingly manages to snuff out LeChuck’s existence, he accidentally turns Elaine into a solid gold statue when he proposes to her using a cursed diamond ring straight out of the treasure hold of LeChuck’s ship. This begins a quest to get rid of the curse he accidentally put upon his new fiancée – a quest that, in true Monkey Island form, takes him on a rollicking adventure that pleases the player on all levels.


 

CMI little resembled its predecessors. With a new streamlined design taken from Full Throttle and all-new art and character designs by artist Bill Tiller, it looked much like something you might see on a Saturday morning cartoon show. And true to that format, CMI was the first game in the series to use dedicated voice acting. After a long search for the man who would voice Guybrush Threepwood, the producers selected Chicago-based voice actor (and Monkey Island fan) Dominic Armato to play the iconic character. Some fans were initially worried how Armato would take to the voice of Guybrush, who had become so beloved that everyone had their own idea about how his voice should sound. Fortunately, Armato proved to everyone that he could handle the part with ease; his success at it was a huge part of what made this version of the game so popular.



The game revisited many of what made the first versions so great, and not only with the series’ trademark humor. Insult sword fighting makes a reappearance, though this time paired with a ship combat mode that involved attacking rival ships and firing at them with cannons, after which boarding the target and challenging the captain to insult sword fighting. The ship combat received the most criticism, although an “easy ship combat” mode was available for those who didn’t care for that aspect. Although several popular secondary characters returned (insurance salesman Stan, cartographer Wally B. Feed, and the Monkey Island cannibal Lemonhead), this version is probably best known for its introduction of Murray the Demonic Skull, who started out as a minor character in the first act before strongly positive playtests helped the team decide to expand his role. Murray is a member of LeChuck’s undead pirate crew when a cannonball hit that reduces him to just a skull. Naturally, this makes him even more evil, plotting world domination despite his disability. Basically, he’s not so different from Brain in the old Pinky and the Brain cartoon, maniacally spinning plots regardless of their feasibility. He manages to steal every scene he takes part in, making the game so much better with his mere presence. Finally, the rest of CMI also came with an easy mode for adventure game neophytes and younger gamers who didn’t want the hassle of the game’s harder puzzles.



The Curse of Monkey Island got almost universally positive reviews after its release. Some of the plot twists were called far-fetched, the game’s abrupt ending also came in for some knocks (it was a result of rushed production towards the end, with a music duet between Guybrush and Elaine failing even to get recorded, due to deadline cuts). But most people saw it as the perfect post-Gilbert addition to the franchise, with more than enough to recommend it to both diehard fans and new gamers alike.




After CMI’s surprise release and subsequent success, Lucasarts decided to make a technological leap in their games, abandoning the constantly-retooled SCUMM engine in favor of a new engine that used 3D elements. Created by Brett Mogilefsky for Tim Schafer’s excellent “Day of the Dead”-inspired Grim Fandango, GrimE (short for Grim Engine) handled the new 3D graphic needs the company wanted to build due to the perceived lack of commercial interest in 2D adventure games.  In fact, the company had begun to pump out adaptations by the truckload based on their Star Wars license. Most of those didn’t compare in quality to even the worst of Lucasart’s adventure titles, but they were low-risk ventures that almost always made more than they cost to produce. The idea was to advance the technology for adventure games to compete with the other games in the market, so they would not be perceived as too old-fashioned for the average gamer.



In 2000, not long after Tim Schafer left to create his own company, Double Fine Productions, Lucasarts came out with the fourth Monkey Island game. Using the new GrimE engine, Escape from Monkey Island was the first 3D game in the series, and the second 3D adventure game for the company (after Grim Fandango). The game didn’t have much relation to its previous incarnations, since few people who worked on the project were involved in the earlier iterations. Project leads Sean Clark and Michael Stemle had worked together on Sam and Max Hit the Road, but they had only the barest connection to the Monkey Island series through Clarke’s work on the first game. With no remaining members of the inaugural creative team present, the company had been forced to hand the reins of the project to whoever was available. The result was a game that, while entertaining, came nowhere near the standards set by the previous installments in the series.

 



Escape is a return of sorts, as the opener takes place scant months after the wedding finale at the end of the third chapter. Finishing up their months-long honeymoon, the newly-wedded duo of Guybrush and Elaine return to Melee Island, the setting of the first game. They arrive to discover that they’ve been gone so long the Governor has been declared dead, with a forthcoming new election being held to name a new Governor. Guybrush’s job is at first to travel to nearby Lucre Island to gain the help of the Marley family lawyers; a new story arc begins where he’s framed in a bank robbery by a no-nosed bandit, encounters an evil Australian land developer intent on turning the Caribbean into a family-friendly tourist destination, and, oh yeah, LeChuck once again returns from the (kinda) dead.



Many of the plot points regarded as canon in the previous versions are disregarded here in order to tell its new story. While fan favorites like Murray or Otis and Carla were sorely underdeveloped, attention to new villain Ozzie Mandrill was overdone, a side effect of the creators apparently not knowing to do with LeChuck. There were bad reactions also to the new control scheme, which ended the reign of mouse point-and-click control in favor of a game-controller method of playing. If you didn’t have such a controller for your PC, you could use the keyboard, but with a marked loss in convenience – if the decision to change the control scheme was due to simplifying the port to the PS2, it was a decision made poorly.



Such technical and narrative flaws could have been easily forgiven if the game had kept the level of humor up to the standards set by the previous installments in the series. Escape from Monkey Island lost a lot of its charm in this latest installment. While Dominic Armato was still fantastic and attacked his role with the same vigor he had three years prior, it wasn’t enough to overcome the weaker writing and jokes that plagued the script. Worse, an attempt to expand upon the Insult Sword fighting concept falls flat; Escape from Monkey Island introduced us to the hideously bad idea of Monkey Kombat. A riff on the famous Acclaim and Midway Games series Mortal Kombat, the concept was a simian rock-paper-scissors combat mini-game in which you had to mix and match monkey-inspired stances (like Drunken Monkey, Angry Ape, etc.) to gain superiority over your opponents – mostly small monkeys – with an insult system built in by interchanging the sounds ack, oop, chee and eek. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even amusing, since you had to write down the possible combinations by hand, which to most gamers was about as convenient as hammering them out in Braille. These things altogether dragged down the fun quotient of the game; in the end, only diehard fans would want to play.



Unfortunately, Escape may have been the last gasp for Lucasart’s adventure games division. The company entered production on three more games in the following years but canceled them all. Lucasart’s run as the reigning king of adventure games seemingly came to an end.

Guybrush Kicks Butt

Deciding to focus on action and strategy games, Lucasarts dismissed many of the designers and creators who were left from the heyday of adventure gaming. These creators scrambled to start up outfits of their own, the most successful of which was Dave Grossman’s Telltale, where an episodic gaming format was embraced: instead of one large narrative that tells a single storyline, episodic games involve several smaller “chapters” that can either contribute to the whole or stand independent of it. The chapters are also released relatively frequently since they take less time to develop and each episode typically cost less for customers to purchase than a full game. There are risks: some concepts, like “sandbox” or go anywhere/do anything games such as the famous Grand Theft Auto series, play out better as big stories encompassing whole cities and worlds, rather than episodes focusing on one small area. Also, if a developer charges the customer for each episode, customers may end up paying more for the entire series than they would for a single game. And there’s of course a business risk involved. If early episodes fail to sell well, the series may be canceled, leading to hundreds of thousands of people who might have wanted more disappointed because they weren’t millions.



In the meantime, there had been no new Monkey Island games since 2000 and fans were once again sure that they’d been stuck with an anti-climax, that the sub-par Escape was the final addition to the series. Ron Gilbert, who has said that he would have continued the Monkey Island games differently if he had continued past the second game (especially the relationship between Guybrush and Elaine, in which he says he meant for Guybrush to seem like an annoying little brother than a romantic interest), has never told anyone what the eponymous Secret of Monkey Island was. It’s a mystery that may never be solved, though there are countless bloggers who’d tackle the clues all over again in an instant. Gilbert did state that in his original concept he had needed to split the game into three parts, making his decision to leave Lucasarts after the second game puzzling, though he did claim burnout following four years of conceptualizing and creating the first two games. He has said that if he were contacted to work on any future MI game in the future, his concept would “blow your mind” but there seemed to be little chance of that.



But in 2008 a strange thing happened. Lucasarts, surely through some sort of necrotic voodoo (or perhaps due to the failure of some of their bigger games such as their MMO-RPG Star Wars Galaxies), started getting interested in adventure games once more. To help spur interest, they decided to release a “special edition” of The Secret of Monkey Island, with updated graphics, voice, music, and a new streamlined interface to re-introduce the game to a new generation of potential fans. At the same time this was announced, Lucasarts also stated that it was working with Telltale (and the original game’s co-lead Grossman) on an all-new episodic series called Tales of Monkey Island, a continuation of the series most fans never thought they’d see. Gilbert was also involved, though only in a brainstorming capacity, and was not instrumental in the game’s final release.



On July 7 2009, the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island, called Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, was released to positive reviews that praised its fantastic 3D graphics, voice work (especially by returning Guybrush voice Dominic Armato), musical soundtrack (once again by series regular Michael Land) and story. Telling the story of Guybrush ineptly releasing the Pox of LeChuck over the Caribbean, accidentally turning the dread pirate LeChuck back into a rather charming human being while turning many of the Caribbean’s pirates into half-mad crazies, the series included some great additions, especially characters such as the evil French scientist the Marquis de Singe and pirate hunter Morgan LaFlay. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition was released a week after the first episode, on July 15, to mostly positive reviews. The main complaint about the game dealt with its remastered artwork, with the more advanced character sprites seeming out of place and not blending in well with the new backgrounds, especially the Guybrush sprite. The most consistently praised feature was that with a press of the button, you could switch from the new advanced graphics to the original 256-color version with no loss to the flow of the game.



After the initial success of these releases, fans could be heard clamoring for the Special Edition treatment to be given to what many considered the best game in the series, Monkey Island 2. However, announcements were made at the time that there were “no plans” to release such an edition. That changed this past spring, when Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge Special Edition was announced for release in July 2010, a full year after Tales and SMI. The game has been universally praised by critics and fans; unlike SMI’s conversion, the graphics on LeChuck’s Revenge are prettier and with better integration between the characters and their environment. Retaining the excellent music, voice work, hint system, and the ability to switch between the two modes, the game would have been worth its weight in (pirate) gold based on that alone. But the developers went all-out. The game actually came with even more special features than its predecessor, with unlockable concept art and a “commentary mode” allowing you to listen to commentary by the game’s original creators Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer while playing the game, like similar tracks on DVD’s. These things did nothing less than reestablished the game it as the genre’s premiere series.



Telltale hasn’t released any sales figures, but they say that Tales of Monkey Island was their best-selling episodic series, which invites the question: will there be more? For the time being, Telltale has announced that they are working on new episodic series based on the Jurassic Park and Back to the Future franchises, and branching out into new series is hardly out of the question. For now, we the fans of Monkey Island must wait, but the idea that there could be a new game in the series just around the corner is no longer a pipe dream. The brand is stronger than it has been in years and as long as there are fans willing to purchase the games and designers willing to contribute their excellent work to the medium, Monkey Island will continue to live a long and happy life.

____
John C. Anderson is a writer and gamer living in Boston. You should read his geeky blog, The Latest Issue.

One Comment »

  • Phillip A. Lobo says:

    It seems like the future of adventure gaming as a genre rests firmly in the hands of the small-scale, digital distribution company. Which, honestly, is just where it ought to be. As you point out, it’s the smaller teams with a great sense of humor both in the game and in the game’s production that make classics like Monkey Island.

    I am such a diehard Lucasarts adventure game fan. Thanks for writing this!

1 Pingbacks »

  • [...] Tales of Monkey Island | Open Letters Monthly – an Arts and … Between the animation and sound improvements, streamlined interface, expanded universe and brand new memorable characters like the friendly cartographer Wally B. Feed and the diminutive terror Largo Lagrande, the Monkey Island franchise was A riff on the famous Acclaim and Midway Games series Mortal Kombat, the concept was a simian rock-paper-scissors combat mini-game in which you had to mix and match monkey-inspired stances (like Drunken Monkey, Angry Ape, etc. [...]

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also Comments Feed via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.