When it comes to point and click adventure games, you can find yourself playing all manner of genres and levels of sensibility and seriousness. When it comes to Lucasfilm point and click adventure games, you tend to know what you're going to get: humour, and lots of it, with The Secret of Monkey Island standing tall above the rest as the go-to funny game, certainly for this period in time.
Despite sequels and remakes, it was only recently when I finally saw first hand what this game presented to players, in the form of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which overhauled the graphics entirely and yet allowed you to play with more of an old school look if you wanted that bit of authenticity. It also added sound effects, voice acting and music to the mix, as well as the greatest tool in a point and click game - hints.
How many hints am I going to need in this adventure?
From the very first interaction with the very first NPC, you know that The Secret of Monkey Island is going to bring some smiles to your face. You play as Guybrush Threepwood. a wannabe pirate on a quest to prove his worth. You'll be interacting with a large cast of characters through the multiple puzzles and mini-quests that make up the meat of this game.
And it is meaty. The world is fully realised and lived in, giving you the perfect atmosphere with which to immerse yourself into the character of Thriftweed on your adventures, and the introduction of multiple dialogue choices allow you to infuse him with a bit of your own character too, responding to the many strange characters as you see fit - within the limitations of a 1990 point and click game, of course.
The original version improved upon the input mechanics by including some default actions. Hovering the mouse over something will identify it without you selecting a 'What is?' option, and clicking on a character will begin a conversation without needing to select a 'Talk' input, both handy time savers.
The Special Edition tweaks the input mechanics further, turning the game into a fully contextual point and click adventure. There are some quirks to both systems, especially if you're not too familiar with how to use them, but the great thing about The Secret of Monkey Island is that all of your faffing about won't ever lead to a death (except in one specific scenario, which you will kick yourself for not figuring out sooner).
This means you can fully explore your environment at your own pace, in your own way, slowly getting used to how Peepwood plays.
I didn't feel like I was bumbling my way through the game. There were puzzles that took me a while to figure out, as you'd expect, but it wasn't really a case of a stupid solution that you'd stumble on being the one you were looking for - though that may be the case in the later game, as I've not finished it. What's obvious to some players could well be utterly cryptic to others. That's just the nature of the genre.
I don't have the time to play this. That's the frustration. Even with a hint system, I'm going to be slow with point and click games. They're just one of those genres that I can't quite get to grips with. Thankfully, with its presentation more akin to a film than a game, watching The Secret of Monkey Island - especially the voice acted Special Edition - is worth the time.
Sure, you won't be able to choose which lines of dialogue get chosen or which order things are done in, but you will see (and potentially hear) first hand how funny and entertaining this game is.
If you're not convinced about trying out The Secret of Monkey Island and seeing where Mr Spicecake, or Droopface, or whatever his name is, ends up, then the only thing left to try and persuade you is to say that sword fights are replaced with witty insult hurling. That is how densely packed in the comedy is in this game, as you become a pirate, fall in love, battle the paranormal and more.
Games that focus on the setting, the characters and the story are - these days - often scolded for not being enough of a game. There are a lot of scenes here that have you do little but watch and click to progress, but when you're left to explore you have a detailed point and click, bringing along everything that the genre calls its own.
Some of you will like that, some of you won't, but all of you should play and/or watch The Secret of Monkey Island.
A joke in an early release of the game asked players to insert disc 22, then 36, then 114 in order to carry on with a task. It was removed when players called LucasArts helplines, concerned about missing discs.
The Secret of Monkey Island, developed by Lucasfilm Games, first released in 1990.
Version played: Special Edition, PC, 2009.
Version watched: Special Edition, PC, 2009 (The Adventure Gamer)