I just finished playing Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. I was a huge fan of the The Secret of Monkey Island and later played both the third and fourth games, but somehow I missed the second one, and after being reminded of the games by Ed recently, I decided to hunt it down.
I ended up beating the game in about five or six hours because I kept using a hints website. It made me wonder if one of the things that hurt the adventure game industry was the wide availability of hints once the Internet became easily accessible. When I first played The Secret of Monkey Island, I had to either spend $1 a minute calling the Lucasarts hint line (with my parents’ rare permission, of course) or spend an hour figuring out how to get onto an online bulletin board (once we had a modem). As I played Monkey Island 2, I was able to tab between the game emulator and a walkthrough every time I got stuck. Yes, simple willpower should have sufficed here, but in my defense, MI2 had some of the strangest and counter-intuitive puzzles I’ve ever seen in one of these games, coupled with a tiny game screen (due to the game’s age) that made it very difficult to see, for example, when a minor character would put his monacle down on the desk to rub his eyes. I was supposed to pick up the monacle when he put it down, but dear Lord, it was maybe two pixels wide. I’d need my own monacle to see it.
Nonetheless, it was a fun trip down memory lane, and it does make me wish Lucasarts would take another crack at the genre. Grim Fandango seems to have put the genre to rest, though Tim Schafer moved on to create Psychonauts for the Xbox, PS2 and PC, though I haven’t played it yet (I intend to eventually). But I’d love to see Monkey Island come back. Sadly, adventure games seem to sell terribly—possibly due to their lack of viable replay value. This is one place where the online gaming revolution might make a difference. If developers can spend a little less to create a game that can be purchased online, downloaded (or perhaps even pay-to-play online), then one doesn’t get stuck in a situation where a gamer is at a store, looking at a shooter or fighter that offers endless replay value versus a adventure game that will be bought, played, and then sit taking up space on the games shelf for years, never to be played again.
It’s also possible that the GTA revolution will inspire some new enterprising young developer to conceive an adventure game in the style of the Lucasarts classics that can have many, many different options and narrative directions—like ten or twenty adventure games rolled into one—so the player may enjoy picking it up again a month or a year later and discovering a very different game. This has been tried (Fable, for instance), but only in a limited way.
In any event, it was fun to take up the mantle of Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate, once again. This is the only Monkey Island game not to feature insult-swordfighting, though, which was a bit disappointing. It also has a truly bizarre, surrealist ending that I’d never heard about. Very odd.
EDIT: Of course, a few hours after typing up this post, I come across a recent interview with Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell which includes this comment:
Some people have expressed concerns about the fact that the game will be episodic. How do you feel about this? Do you see episodic gaming as the future of adventure gaming, perhaps revitalizing the genre?
If there’s a wider audience for adventure games I would guess that they’re not as interested in sitting down for fifty hours of game play all at once. I love the idea of episodic content, especially for Sam & Max. It allows you to try some different things without spending as much money and effort. If a story line is working you could expand on it or if it’s less successful you can change direction if you need to.
I’d forgotten about the upcoming new Sam & Max game…it sounds like it might do exactly what I was suggesting above, and perhaps revitalize the adventure genre in the process. Looking over the FAQ, it looks like they’re trying something really interesting here—videogames meets episodic television, in a way. I’ll definitely be trying this one when it comes out.