Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChucks Revenge Review (PSN)
Bold, brash, and confident. These are just a few choice words I would use to describe Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, especially when considered in light of its predecessor. As much as I enjoyed the HD remake of the first Monkey Island, its upgrade was confined almost solely to the visuals and the audio, with few meaningful additions distinguishing the modern iteration from the original. Not only are these facets hugely improved in the remake of the second game, LucasArts have exuded greater confidence in the identity of their product by inclusion of both new and original game concept artwork, developer commentaries from Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer and a more tenable, stylish presentational framework (prettier menus and inventory system abound!). As the sequel was bold, brash and confident in light of the original experience, this has been mirrored in the quality enhancement of this new release.
Here we have returning protagonist Guybrush Threepwood recounting the game’s tale in flashback whilst suspended above a deep pit, a treasure chest containing the supposedly fabulous treasure of ‘Big Whoop’ in one hand and the other clenched onto a precariously dangling piece of rope. It’s an absurd premise, though to be quite frank so are the game’s core foundations. Leave your desire for a coherent and conceivable narrative at your nearest door as the focus here is placed squarely on the humour and the colourful cast of characters. Oh, and let’s not forget about the puzzles. There are more of those too. Plus they’re harder.
New to this remake is the welcome inclusion of direct control of Guybrush’s movements using the left analogue stick, and is immediately more intuitive a control method than using the DualShock controller as a point-and-click input device, although it can be a minor hassle sending Guybrush in the right direction or the on the correct path as your freedom of movement at crossroads and in open spaces is usually limited. Adding to this new control scheme is the role of the R2 button, bringing up a sub-menu of contextualised actions selectable via the right analogue stick; letting go of R2 will instruct Guybrush to perform the currently highlighted instruction. L2 will open up your inventory, at which point the ingenious utility of the R2 button is replicated. It’s a wonderful means of control and I find it to be far more slick and simple to handle than any previous Monkey Island entry to date. With practice it’s easily possible to be confirming commands in well under a second, which is useful for the game’s few reflexive puzzles. Those insistent on point-and-click controls scheme need not fear this new devilry however, as the scheme used in the first game’s remake has been ported to here, selectable in the options menu. Also new is an object highlighting system which allows you to visualise what objects you can interact with, a neat touch if the bombardment of information contained amongst many of the game’s screens threatens to overwhelm you.
Remaining intact and unaltered is the tiered hint system, accessible via holding the square button. New players are going to appreciate its inclusion tremendously, as the difficulty of the puzzles to be conquered has been dialled up a notch. It’s a pity then, that the system doesn’t always work effectively. Whilst the final hint of a tier may instruct you what you need to do, it won’t inform you of the items you’ll need to accomplish this goal. Hints may also direct you to certain locations, but using the hint system from that place will often not provide you with any useful information whatsoever and you realise you’ve gone full circle. Without spoiling anything I can state that common to all of the most difficult puzzle chains is a straining of the boundaries of everyday logic and conceivability, with a few ditching these conventions altogether and trudging into the realms of cruelty. The overall logic in the game is firm, but will frequently require new players to piece together puzzle solutions that at first seem completely unconnected, and this can be frustrating when you know only one portion of the problem. Anyone who can navigate these puzzles and avoid using the hint system or, better still, sidestep the age old issue of choosing all possible interactions with every possible object (of which there are many) or all the various combinations of objects will earn my salutations and respect. New players should expect to complete the game in several sit-ins rather than in one fell swoop.
Sublime was my choice of word to describe the quality of the visual upgrade of the Secret of Monkey Island remake. Here I would choose ‘stunning’, the simple reason being that I believe it to be true. This upgrade renders the prior reimagining blandly competent by comparison. Environments are incredibly vivid in their attention to the small print, with once messy pixellated blobs and blob meshes now much smoother and well defined in 1080p HD output, and is a perfect complement to the more vibrant and spirited tone that permeates the game’s various locations relative to the first game. This also carries over to character animation, which is considerably more fluid here. I also prefer the artwork of the locations and characters in this game too, with Guybrush’s stockier look garnering more of my appeal.
Audibly the game does not slouch either. With the return of the iMUSE system that debuted in the original 1990′s release, music seamlessly transfers from one tune to another depending on visual cues, and this helps maintain the brisk and lively atmosphere that the updated graphics engine conveys in the opening minutes. Voice-overs are more consistent in quality this time round, with Dominic Armato and Earl Boen turning in standout performances for Guybrush and LeChuck respectively. Further modifications to the game’s engine have now filtered out the brief pauses between spoken dialogue that plagued the prequel, and the act of conversation is definitely more palatable. There is even the option to retain voice-overs when switching to the classic mode – the option to play the game using the original 16 bit graphics. Definitely a nice touch to what is a cool returning extra.
Only two things are a personal cause of disappointment in this package. Sadly the original opening credit sequence with the dancing monkeys has been omitted, presumably because the old sequence contains credits that are outdated. The developer commentary, available during gameplay through one button press and if enabled in the options menu, seemed quite limited and sparse, and in several sequences I was surprised that no commentary was available whatsoever. Though what commentary can be found is by and large quite insightful, amusing and dripping in nostalgia.
In the grand scheme of things these are quite minor gripes, as this is a game whose elements coalesce and are presented in a gorgeously stylised and individual manner. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge stands as one of the all-time greats in the adventure genre, now brought back to the modern era where time hasn’t eroded its appeal one bit. Both new and old players are liable to extract plenty of enjoyment from this special edition. It would be hard not to appreciate the care that has gone in re imagining such a treasured slice of nostalgia, and is a shining example of what some well placed boldness, brashness and confidence can create.
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