Video game publisher LucasArts ruled the world of 1990s graphical adventure games with an iron fist. Every new game offered considerable advancements, from voice-over "talkie" versions on CD-ROM to 3D graphics…and they were all riotously funny. And this nearly flawless iPhone version of The Secret of Monkey Island is just as clever as we remember.
Generally, games have gotten bigger and more aggressive, or smaller and more accessible, but they have not developed a better sense of humor. Not only are the settings and puzzles in Monkey Island amusing, but the characters are also witty in a way that we haven't seen in a long time. They speak with ironic awareness that they are, in fact, video game characters and can do ridiculous things. So once you accept it and play along, you can appreciate the humor for what it is--hilarious.
One standout experience typical of the humor in The Secret of Monkey Island is the classic "insult sword fighting," which is not based on skillful timing, but rather, on witty put-downs. One character will throw out an insult, like "You fight like a dairy farmer!" and your job is to match it with an appropriate retort, like "How appropriate. You fight like a cow."
Sword fighting is a highlight, but it's not the whole game. In this type of adventure game, you use a series of commands to navigate your way through the world. Your character, the nerdy pirate wannabe Guybrush Threepwood, can move around, talk to characters, pick up items, and manipulate certain objects in the environment. Your actions in the game are propelled by a vast amount of dialogue and cinematic storytelling techniques, such as cross-cutting.
Throughout most of the game, you'll be exploring locations, such as Melee Island and Monkey Island, often with a clear goal in mind that must be achieved in the most ludicrous manner. Because the convoluted puzzles can take hours to solve on your own, the game provides you with a very useful hint system. Just by shaking the device (in frustration, perhaps?) a gradually more-specific series of hints will appear on the screen.
Also, the great save system means you can exit out at a moment's notice and find your game autosaved right to the line of dialogue at which you quit. You can even save your progress in separate slots. These hint and save systems take out the frustration factor completely and let you enjoy Monkey Island's story, graphics, and sound design without any hang-ups.
The Secret of Monkey Island also looks great. While you can look back at the original graphics with two swipes of your finger across the screen, you might just want to keep the brand-new art style front and center. The characters are much more detailed, even if they don't move around that much, and the backgrounds are bright and beautiful. Most of your view is taken up by these new visuals, hiding your inventory and action commands behind icons in the lower portion of the screen.
Monkey Island fans may also be pleasantly surprised to hear the incredible new voice work in the game. The cast that voiced these characters in later installments has returned to give them new life in this special edition, and even the MIDI soundtrack has been upgraded to a full-on orchestral score.
With so many drastic improvements made to such an entertaining game, it's hard not to be slightly disappointed by the lackluster control scheme. Instead of tapping on an object to select it, you have to laboriously drag your cursor around every time.
The Secret of Monkey Island's new graphics, voice-over, hint system, and autosave make a great game even better. It's a truly an entertaining and memorable experience, whether or not this is the first time you've played it.
This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner SlideToPlay.com.