Nearly twenty years ago LucasArts released Monkey Island 2, the well-received sequel to the Secret of Monkey Island. As part of an effort to revitalize old franchises, LucasArts has recently begun releasing enhanced, “Special Editions” of the classic Monkey Island games. The first in line for a makeover was the Secret of Monkey Island, a game that I both reviewed and adored. Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition was my first experience with the Monkey Island games, and since playing it I have gone on to play other members of the franchise.
Monkey Island 2 SE has released as both an iPhone and iPad version, the differences between the two don’t necessitate two separate reviews so each version is covered below. Both versions sport revamped graphics, new control schemes, a more user friendly hint system and the ability to switch to the original version of the game at any time with just the swipe of two fingers across the screen.
The actual content of Monkey Island 2 hasn’t changed, and the fact that players can switch to the original version at any time means that all of the puzzles and humor you remember from Monkey Island 2 are still present. Players join Guybrush as he embarks on his journey to find the “Big Whoop.” I won’t spoil any punchlines or story elements, which is hard since the entire game hinges on both of these. The humor of the Monkey Island games is centered around witty plays on words sandwiched between huge helpings of groan-inducing puns. If you aren’t quite sure if the humor will appeal to you, go download the lite version (links below). Even based purely off of my experience with Monkey Island 2 (the non special edition) I can say that this game will have you hooked from the start, and laughing until the end. Re-visiting the SE version, I recognize that much like Monkey Island 1, the humor often operates on a level that doesn’t talk down to the player and relies on the player’s memories for some of the better jokes. The best modern cultural comparison I can think of outside of gaming is the television series, Arrested Development. I find that my appreciation for Monkey Island and Arrested Development spring from the same metaphorical, “humor well.”
What makes Monkey Island SE 2 worth purchasing over the original version is all of the special edition content. As previously mentioned, the graphics have received a major overhaul. In the same way that the original Monkey Island 2 looks better than its predecessor, Monkey Island SE 2 looks far better to my eyes than the previous SE release. The art has a softer, more painterly feel about it and I was pleased to see it scaled down well to the iPhone version. Players can still use the old graphics at any time, and new to SE 2 is the ability to listen to voice acting while using the old graphics.
My prime complaint with the first entry into the special edition series was the control system. This time around, LucasArts has rethought the control scheme to better suit modern players. Guybrush can now be controlled directly with taps on the screen, or by dragging a cursor on the screen. The previous special edition only used the cursor controls and at the time the cursor moved too slowly. In Monkey Island SE 2, the cursor is snappy and a good option for those that want to see an item’s name before clicking. Also new to SE 2 is the addition of a “verb” bar to the bottom of the screen, meaning a separate menu is not needed to bring up your actions. Slightly disappointing is omission of the verb radial menu featured in other versions of Monkey Island 2 SE, a menu that brings up all possible actions and lets the player choose. In the iPad and iPhone versions of SE 2, players only see the most appropriate action when highlighting an object and have to fish through the verb bar for any further interaction. This means that any actions that trigger a humorous one-liner have to be found through trying all possible actions on an object.
Point and click adventure games are frequently played with a walkthrough in hand, Monkey Island SE 2 makes it easier on players by including a better hint system. The hints themselves were also featured in SE 1, and the player simply shakes the screen to bring up increasingly helpful hints. What has been added is the ability to highlight the usable objects on the screen by tapping with two fingers- a feature I liked in Beneath a Steel Sky and one that is certainly useful here. If you are worried about getting stuck in Monkey Island SE 2, the hint system and object finder should have you covered.
This covers all that players will get in the iPhone version of the game, and I consider this version to be an outstanding effort on LucasArt’s part. I cannot stress enough how funny the Monkey Island games are, Monkey Island 2 in particular. Many consider this to be their favorite entry in the series, though I personally prefer Secret of Monkey Island simply because it introduced me to the series and made the biggest impression.
The iPad version of the game includes some compelling extras. Players unlock concept art for the game, viewable from the main menu. This art depicts some areas differently than the final version of the game, so series fans will absolutely love to see these hidden gems. The iPad edition also features director’s commentary in-game, allowing players to see what the game’s creators think of key scenes in Guybrush’s adventure. While it isn’t a feature per-se, the graphics on the iPad are much more detailed and this makes it easier to spot portions of the environment for those who want to play without hints.
Which should I get?
If you have the option, spring the extra two dollars for the iPad version. The artwork, director’s commentary, and lush graphics make it worthwhile. If you feel that you need to play on both consoles, or your budget tops out at $7.99, the iPhone version looks fine on its smaller screen and only a little blurry scaled onto the iPad screen.
The lack of extra artwork and developer’s commentary is disappointing. Still an impressive effort on the small screen, but not all that it could have been.
The version to get, I know that I will be replaying this more than once on the iPad. The lack of the more helpful verb system and nicer 3d effects separates this from the PC and console version, but SE 2 is still more than playable on the iPad.
This game was reviewed on a 2nd gen device and an iPad.
Monkey Island SE 2: LeChuck’s revenge is available on the app store in several versions: