So I go to start typing and I realize—this is one of my top 10 favorite games ever! Listed alongside other greats such as Sensible World of Soccer, Suikoden, Call of Duty 4, and Secret of Mana, and it’s considered by many to be the pinnacle of point-and-click gaming. For me, that title alternates between this and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but that’s for another issue.
You’d think that Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge would pick up where MI1 left off, but it just doesn’t. Sure, LeChuck is still around, you’re now a mighty pirate, and you still have your lady Elaine hanging around (quite literally hanging around) but there’s not much else follow up. The game throws you right in the deep end by showing you where Guybrush is at the end of the plot, and then having you play through the storyline that shows how he gets there. It’s a nice touch for a p’n’c game and really gets you involved from the beginning.
The storyline, as with most of LucasArts’ classics, is a beauty. Guybrush begins the game (after the prologue intro) on Scabb Island. He’s looking for clues to the treasure of Big Whoop and thinks the island will be as good a place as any to start. Of course, it’s never plain sailing for Mr. Threepwood, and he has to deal with an embargo set upon the island by Largo LeGrande, which ensures that no ship can enter or leave the island. The storyline weaves and twists its way off the island, takes Guybrush across the tri-island area, and, as the game title would imply, ends with Guybrush on Mon–…DINKY ISLAND??? Yeah, you’re not going to find Monkey Island itself in this game, a fact that not a lot of players have ever clicked on to. But Dinky’s a suitable substitute for now, until the real secret is unleashed.
The storyline is gripping, in so much as you never feel bored, even after you’ve only just realized that you’ve spent a couple of hours on the same island trying to figure out all its puzzles. And the puzzles can be VERY difficult. It takes a real brain to put two and two together to figure out exactly how you solve the skeleton puzzle in LeChuck’s fortress. The puzzles in general are much harder than in the first Monkey Island. Without any help, you may be reduced to a gibbering mess just trying to figure out how exactly you win on the spinning wheel in one of the alleys on Booty Island. It’s fun to work through the puzzles when you’re playing with someone; only attempt it on your own if you’re a member of Mensa with an IQ as high as the number of floors in a New York skyscraper.
Other than the puzzles, the gameplay is pretty much the same as in MI1, but it’s a lot more polished. The SCUMM interface was given a mighty makeover, and all the verbs are chunkier and the items are far more detailed and don’t look as generic anymore. The action screen itself is also far more detailed, which means that the puzzles can be intricate. Remember the annoying handle on the shopkeeper’s safe in MI1? Wait until you have to spit your way out of death in LeChuck’s fortress! This particular puzzle feels like it’s really you who’s making the decisions, because, depending on how and where you spit, you’ll have various reactions occur around the room. Most of MI1 revolved around using items together or on parts of the screen. MI2 advanced this by including more timed puzzles, puzzles involving more than two items, and even making you study various items up close to figure out solutions. And just wait until you actually have to battle LeChuck one-on-one….
Graphically, the game is stunning, even today. The detail that went into every location is beautiful, and each area can be almost viewed as a work of art itself. Sure, the whole thing looks pixelly by today’s standards, but a lot of today’s games don’t put the effort into their visuals that LucasArts did with MI2. Each character feels like they’re real through their different visuals, and you’ll feel that you’ll never see the same person twice. Because you won’t. Except for the dream sequence when Guybrush witnesses…but then that would be spoiling.
One thing that would have been welcome in this game: NPCs roaming around town. In MI1, when you walk around the town center of Melee Island, you often see citizens roaming about. Sure, they’re lifeless, and you can’t exactly interact with them, but they make the town feel like it’s alive. MI2 loses that and seems to leave in only the characters that are important to completing the puzzles and progressing the storyline. So while the scenery will seem static as a result, at least you can admire it for how it looks.
Some of the best songs in gaming can be found in MI2. The Underground Tunnels, which you come across at the end of the game, is just fantastic and chilling. Each island has its own little ditty, which helps give each their own character. And the music sounds so much more advanced than MI1. You’ll find more than just MIDI tracks here, because suddenly it sounds like the game is filled with horns, tubas, and bass guitars. It’s a nice departure from MI1 and definitely means the MI2 soundtrack can stand on its own legs. There’s still no voice-acting here—that was left until MI3—but the music is good enough on its own. There are sound effects, don’t get me wrong, but they’re nothing more than the occasional thudding sound, smash, or explosion. So while the game has a wonderful musical score, so much more could have been to make the environment seem a little more alive because, as it is, it all sounds a bit dead. Except for that graveyard. I think that is dead.
It’s a long game, especially if you don’t use any guides or tips. Help from a friend will cut down the time because you’ll work together and find you use your heads a lot more, testing each other’s suggestions. You’ll still be playing the game for a couple of weeks, though, because there’s a LOT of difficult puzzling to be had here, whether you play the normal mode or the hard mode. Will you want to come back to it? Well, every few years I always head back to Scabb, Booty, and Phatt Island just to run through the game another time because the dialogue, music, and characters combined make for an experience that I enjoy time and time again. MI1, while a classic, never had me running back to it every few years. It now seems more limited after playing some of the other more advanced p’n’c games out there. MI2 just has some attraction about it that the likes of Maniac Mansion, Loom, and even later ones like Full Throttle and The Dig can’t hold a candle to. It’s probably on a par with Indy: FoA for the best LucasArts game ever.
If you haven’t played MI2, please do. You’ll laugh, you’ll scratch your head trying to figure out where the hell a bucket of mud plays into all the chaos on Scabb Island, you’ll love being a mighty pir–…well, a pirate, and, most of all, you’ll just love Guybrush Threepwood. Screw your silent protagonists like Link, Crono, and that Harvest Moon farmer. Guybrush is a quick-witted guy who will always remind you of the times you failed in life but managed to rise from the ashes and overcome. Or just looked stupid trying. He’s everyone’s favorite loser, and it’s a pleasure taking him through his quest to find Big Whoop. Especially when you can finally do to Stan the (now) coffin salesman what you’ve probably always wanted to.