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Developer:
LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Platform: PC
Release Date: 31 October, 1997

by Nimish Dubey




(Giggle)…er…tee hee…er…ahem…(giggle) ah! Right! Now that I have suppressed my giggling fit, I guess I can proceed with reviewing what I must confess has been one of the funniest games I have ever come across. Well, to be honest, it is the first game I have played that attempts to lay as much stress on the laughs as on the action. And it does not half succeed! As you might have noticed, I have barely stopped laughing.


But I am getting ahead of myself. To begin at the beginning, The Curse of Monkey Island is the third in the Monkey Island series from Lucas Arts (aye, the same lads who showed us the joys of the light-sabre in the Star Wars movies and games). It comes on two CDs and installed without a hitch on my PC (Compaq 3311 AP, Athlon XP 1.4 Ghz, Windows XP, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB nVidia GeForce 420 MX AGP, 40 GB HDD). No restarts were requested and barring once (when it crashed and took Windows along with it), the game played smoothly.


The story of the game revolves around the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, a swashbuckling pirate. Mind you, he is the only one who thinks that description is accurate. To most people, he comes across as a rather nice and thoroughly error-prone lad with not too much upstairs, if you don’t count the Rod Stewart-inspired hairstyle. While on his journeys in quest of a great treasure called Big Whoop, he meets and falls in love with the beautiful and brave Elaine Marley. Of course, his courtship is anything but smooth sailing, with competition coming in the form of undead captain LeChuck.


The game gets underway with Threepwood lost at sea, out of food and water, and way too busy to notice all the eatables and drinks floating by – because he is busy updating his captain’s log. Fortunately for him, land is not too far away. Unfortunately for him, he lands smack in the middle of a gun battle between Elaine and LeChuck and ends up getting captured by the latter. What follows is sheer mayhem, with ribs and brain being tickled in equal measure.


The Curse of Monkey Island is primarily an adventure game. The aim is to help Threepwood get out of his troubles by wandering around, talking to people, picking up stuff and then putting it all together to make sense. There are four different islands to explore, each with its own mix of eccentric characters and handy objects. And there is even a trip to a creepy graveyard crypt as Threepwood dies (!!) and chats up the odd ghost or two! You progress through the game by basically solving a series of puzzles. These vary from the utterly simple to the amazingly ridiculous. Here’s a sample – Threepwood’s attempts to recruit a crew for a ship involve defeating potential crewmembers in log-throwing and musical contests. Mind you, he does not always play fair and whenever possible cheats his way through. A word of advice – talk to as many people as possible and pick up whatever you can. You never know when something might come in handy! At one stage, I was saved by the only legible page of a soggy encyclopaedia.


What separates The Curse of Monkey Island from the typical ‘wander around, talk and collect stuff’ type of adventure game is its vast quantities of humour. The conversations are laced with liberal doses of irreverent wit and one finds oneself talking to people even after accomplishing an objective just to listen to their reactions. There is very little violence in the game itself, barring a few naval battles and of course, the amazing sword fights. While the naval stuff is more action oriented, the sword fights are anything but. In fact, the only way you can defeat your opponent is by insulting him thoroughly. So even as swords are crossed, you have to decide which is the right insult to inflict. For instance, “You are more loathsome than a monkey in a negligee” can be effectively blunted by “Do I remind you so much of your fiancée?” He who insults the most wins!


The graphics are pretty good, considering that this is a 1997 game. The locales are colourful, the characters right out of a good comic book and only the supremely nitpicky might feel that the animation is a trifle jerky and repetitive. That said, even they would struggle to find fault with the voice acting, which is simply outstanding. There are accents galore but never at the cost of clarity. The background score starts off sounding nice but does tend to get a bit boring towards the end.


Like all things human, alas, the game also has its share of headaches. The biggest is the one that plagues most adventure games – that of getting stuck. There are stages when one simply does not know what to do next and is reduced to mixing and matching everything in Guybrush’s inventory and trying it out on everything and every one in hope of getting a solution. And some of the solutions do need seriously lateral thinking – there is one about obtaining a map to Blood Island that gave me a severe headache. The linear nature of the game also means that if you do not pick up the right things, you could end up at a dead end. Mind you, the game does attempt to drop hints on what to pick up and what to dump – Guybrush helpfully refuses to pick up anything that is totally unnecessary. Still, there are going to be times when you will have no option but to resort to a walkthrough.


There are other niggles as well. Guybrush can speak to a person only from a certain position. So if you happen to ask him to converse with someone, he very elaborately walks to the right place before starting to speak. All you can do is twiddle your thumbs in the meantime- unfortunately, Mr. Threepwood cannot run! Then there is the matter of the climax. I cannot give too much away but it seemed to be a bit of a damp squib to me after all the fun that had preceded it.


But these are all mere pinpricks in what is actually a thoroughly entertaining romp. This is one of the few games that actually perks one’s spirits up when they are a bit on the lower side. I simply cannot recommend it enough.


Now, excuse me while I go off and have another giggling fit!


Final rating: 85%


System requirements:
Windows 95, Pentium 90 or greater, 16 MB RAM, PCI graphics card, 4x CD ROM or greater, 100% Windows-compatible 16 bit sound card required, DirectX 5 required (included on CD), 1.2 MB hard drive space (20 MB for multiple save games).




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