For many, classic gaming evoke memories of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and other arcade treasures. For others, though, their nostalgia lies in the point-and-click adventures from the likes of LucasArts and Sierra. While there are many favorites, most would agree that Monkey Island 2 stands at the pinnacle. Superb writing, a sweeping soundtrack, and exotic locations have all been revamped for the second in LucasArts’ special edition series to make the best even better.
We thoroughly enjoyed LucasArts first stab at recreating the original Monkey Island. Even on the iPhone’s small screen, that humerous tale of silly swashbucklery was given new life thanks to the overhauled visual presentation and the addition of voicework to all the dialogue. This, though, is the first time the series has come to the iPad, and what an absolute pleasure it is.
While the iPhone version has almost everything that the iPad version has (some special features are missing), this type of game is simply better to play on a larger screen. As you need to tap on oftentimes small objects, the extra real estate makes item hunting less of a chore on the iPad. This, coupled with the fact that you get to take in the gorgeous scenery (even better than the first special edition, in our book) on the larger display makes this the undeniable winner.
The original graphics have great nostalgic value, but you just can’t beat high definition artwork.
The controls in general are better in this sequel. Gone is the cumbersome text menu at the bottom; in is a new graphical layout that provides immediate access to your actions. Everything has transferred from the original (use, open, push, pull, and the like), with your inventory tucked away in the corner. Any frustration you had with The Secret of Monkey Island has been washed out to sea.
Furthermore, some new gestures are in place that make a few of the game’s key features more accessible. You can instantly switch back and forth between the special edition and classic versions by simply swiping up or down with two fingers. It’s an astounding transition, as both graphics and music instantly change. You can opt to have voice acting in the classic version, as well, which was a splendid idea for those that want to reexperience the old graphics engine.
Monkey Island 2 also introduces a second control scheme. On the iPad, we found the standard controls to work just fine, but there is also a direct control mode: Tap and drag to create a mouse-like feel on the screen. For an ultimate nostalgia factor, you may want to give this a try.
The hint system has been refined, too. Tap and hold with two fingers to have all the interactive objects in the room glow so that they’re easier to find. Tap and hold with three fingers to activate the hint system. It starts with basic hints, but the more you do it, the more detailed the hints become.
We love the original graphics, too, so it’s nice to be able to quickly take a peek.
While it took a bit longer than we would have liked for Monkey Island 2 to finally be released, the end result was well worth the wait. The visual polish here outdoes The Secret of Monkey Island in every way. The awkward Guybrush from the first game has set sail, and a more confident pirate has emerged; in fact, all of the new character models are lovingly drawn, staying true to their ancestry but successfully bringing them into the HD realm.
The voice acting, too, is exactly what we expected: top notch. Many from the original cast (which started in The Curse of Monkey Island) have returned, and new cast members were expertly recruited. It’s always a crap shoot when you put a voice on a favorite silent character, but LucasArts has surpassed our expectations with fan favorites like Largo LeGrande.
The music has received the same attention. Switching to classic mode is a good idea to see just how far it has come. The tunes remain the same but now feature real instruments and a full score. The game’s original iMUSE system (which allowed music to change dynamically with room changes) still holds up in present day, even if it was underappreciated in its time.
He’s especially good at expectorating (after a swish or two of grog).
Monkey Island 2 is by far one of the funniest games you’ll ever play. The writing team was at the top of their game, which is no surprise considering the people behind it. In fact, in addition to enjoying all of the witty banter of the characters, we get the addition of audio commentary. Hit the commentary button at the top right whenever it glows to listen to Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman talk about their memories of the game and the TLC they put into it. For fans, this feature cannot be stressed enough. These fellas are hilarious and provide insight into one of the greatest games in history that you’ve never heard before and won’t hear elsewhere.
Throw in original artwork from both the original and the special edition versions of the game, and what you have in your hands may very well be the single greatest collection of fan service a Monkey Island enthusiast could ever ask for.
If you have never played Monkey Island 2, you must, must, must buy this special edition. If you, like many of us, have played through the classic numerous times, you will be overjoyed to find out just how much fun the game can still be. The addition of voice acting alone makes it worth a revisit, but considering entire collection of extra goodies, your mind may very well be blown.
You can’t rush to the App Store fast enough. Get it now.