As Guybrush Threepwood celebrates the 20th anniversary of his arrival on the adventure game scene, the Monkey Island series continues to enjoy a renaissance with the release of Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck's Revenge. Like its revamped predecessor, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, this game takes a classic point-and-click adventure and spruces it up for the modern era. Once again, you guide Guybrush through traditional pirate activities, such as searching for buried treasure, making voodoo dolls and competing in a spitting contest. The quirky humor and involved puzzles are engrossing regardless of whether you're playing with the original visuals and subtitles or enjoying the attractive new art and full voice acting. A few new additions make this Special Edition even slicker than the last, ensuring that treasure seekers from all walks of pirate life can enjoy this entertaining adventure.
The outset of LeChuck's Revenge finds Guybrush in a tight spot, dangling midair with a treasure chest in one hand and a lifeline in the other. Of course, there's no better time to begin a lengthy retelling of how he managed to get himself into that predicament, and soon enough, you are whisked into the past to live out Guybrush's tale. Your first port of call is Scabb Island, a pirate haven inhabited by washed-up swashbucklers and local businesses that cater to the corsair crowd (including a woodworker specializing in peg legs, a nervous cartographer, and the International House of Mojo). There's also a pirate bully running extortion rackets, and dealing with him is the first major step in an adventure that spans multiple islands and features an array of memorable characters and moments. Monkey Island is a series known for its quirky characters, strange situations, and bizarre puzzles, and the irreverent, inventive humor is still a standout 20 years later.
As you go about your business, you are introduced to (or reacquainted with) the tenets of Monkey Island puzzle logic: Grab anything you can, be on the lookout for mischievous opportunities, talk to everyone you meet, and look at every named object. These tactics not only give you clues about what you need to do, but they also open up opportunities and prepare you for challenges to come. You may not have a good reason to cut someone's pet alligator loose at the time, but you'll be glad you did it soon enough. Many puzzles unfold through conversations and observations, while others present you with a straightforward list of tasks. Of course, nothing is particularly straightforward in Monkey Island 2 SE, and you may have to resort to trial-and-error or random wandering to get back on track. Or you could use the helpful hint system that gives you three progressively more specific hints as to what to do next, so you'll never be truly rudderless. If you prefer an even lighter nudge, you can highlight all the interactive objects in any scene by holding a button.
Monkey Island 2: Special Edition LeChuck's Revenge uses the same clever presentation method as The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. By tapping a button, you can instantly switch between the original visuals in all their pixelated glory and the special edition visuals, which not only preserve the whimsical detail of the environments and characters, but also add a lot of nice new touches. To switch visuals is also to switch audio. The light calypso MIDI tunes of the original still retain their charm, though the revamped music and sound effects are much richer. The new version boasts full voice acting, which, though not without its weak points, does a lot to liven up the action. You can also turn the voiced dialogue on in the old version or add subtitles to the new version, depending on your preferences.
Switching between old and new is a novel treat that never really gets old, and it's fascinating to see how well the new visuals capture the essence and detail of the originals. Jumping between eras also has an impact on the control scheme. Monkey Island 2 SE incorporates manual control, so you can move Guybrush around with the analog stick if you so please. This addition feels welcome and natural, despite some occasional pathfinding awkwardness. Using point-and-click controls is always an option as well, and using contextual commands like "look at" and "pick up" is a simple matter of moving your cursor over your target object and pulling the trigger to call up a radial menu. Inventory management is also quite easy, though later in the game, the sheer number of things in Guybrush's miraculous pockets can be a bit unwieldy. There are also a few puzzles that involve tricky feats of timing, but these finicky instances are the exception to the norm of simple, intuitive, and capable controls.
Guybrush's treasure-hunting escapades can last you quite a while depending on how frequently you call upon the hint button, so those looking for a hearty adventure will find it here. The original material holds up remarkably well and is sure to elicit delighted groans and giggles alike, depending on how sympathetic you are to unscrupulous coffin salesmen. The new visuals and sound not only do justice to the classic presentation, but they also beautifully enhance it and add their own appeal. And the developer commentary from Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman provides an amusing glimpse into the minds behind this quirky classic. At the very reasonable price of 800 Microsoft points ($10), Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck's Revenge is an adventure well worth adding to your inventory, no matter how stuffed with hubcaps, voodoo dolls, and cheese squigglies it may be.