The Secret of Monkey Island: Guybrush turns thirty

The Secret of Monkey Island: Guybrush turns thirty
The Secret of Monkey Island came out in 1990, but was actually conceived in 1988. Ron Gilbert had just finished working on Zak McKracken And The Alien Mindbenders and was looking for a new idea to pursue after Indiana Jones' graphic adventure. and the Last Crusade. He wanted to do something fantastic, but not fantasy (not to clash with Sierra and her King's Quests, which sold a lot more than Lucas adventures), while keeping the same comedy tones as Zak and Maniac Mansion.

He also wanted the protagonist of the game to be different from those of the other adventures, to have more human traits. He got the idea from reading Tim Powers' novel Bewitched Seas. From there he took not only the idea of ​​a pirate scenario and the use of voodoo as an alternative to magic, but also of the main character characterized as a fish out of water, someone with whom the player could immediately empathize because at the same level of knowledge of the game world. Thus was born Guybrush Threepwood, a boy of high hopes who arrives on Mêlée Island with the ambition of becoming a "fearsome pirate", but with the manners and appearance of a dandy that immediately put him in contrast with the local fauna. , with truly comical results.

The Secret of Monkey Island development team was made up of some developers who became legendary. In addition to Gilbert were: Tim Schafer, currently the head of Double Fine; Dave Grossman; Steve Purcell (to whom we owe the stunning game cover) and Mark Ferrari. Gilbert hired them while he was still working on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

At the time Schafer and Grossman were two newbies who spent their working time studying the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) and writing dialogues, and the free one watching pirate movies for inspiration, in particular those of Errol Flynn. They immediately integrated into the team, which was made up of real perfectionists. Overall, the development of The Secret of Monkey Island took nine months and cost about $ 200,000, which is a trifle by current standards.

The Monkey Island series

The Monkey Island series is officially formed from five titles: The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, The Curse of Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island and Tales of Monkey Island. Gilbert wanted to close it with the second episode, but Lucasarts decided to continue it by creating a third more than dignified adventure, despite the distortion of the figure of Guybrush and the stylistic drift towards cartoon graphics. The fourth episode, released a few years later, marked the momentary end of the series: Guybrush was again turned upside down and turned into a stupid bum. The public, who already no longer loved graphic adventures very much, did not appreciate it at all. Years later, Tales of Monkey Island was released, an episodic adventure developed by Telltale Games that obtained permission from Lucas to exploit the franchise. Overall it is a successful title, which also does justice to the original Guybrush in the characterization.

The game

The Secret of Monkey Island is a classic point and click adventure, gone down in history as well as for the sympathy of the characters, also for some innovations made to the genre that we still carry with us today, including the impossibility of dying and the absence of blocking puzzles. Consider that up to Monkey Island, graphic adventures predicted that the player would die if he made a mistake or forgot to do something (take an object, solve a puzzle, talk to a character and more) and remain stuck in the advanced stages .

For Gilbert an adventure had to be based on pure logic and shouldn't frustrate the player with such gimmicks. The Monkey Island puzzles weren't necessarily simpler than those of other graphic adventures, but you didn't have to worry about having to start over for some forgetfulness, such as happened in some Sierra adventures.

Game design innovations aside, Monkey Island was also pretty damn fun. Guybrush was accompanied by an exceptional cast who were introduced gradually and which made each sequence memorable. Wandering around Mêlée in search of fortune, we met strange and surreal characters who seemed to come out of a Monthy Python film (not for nothing among Gilbert's sources of inspiration), such as the Fettuccini Brothers, two circus performers looking for someone to shooting with a cannon, Stan the boat seller (whose gestures are inspired by that of the Italians, even if a little caricatured), the Voodoo Lady, the shipwrecked Herman Toothrot, the three-headed monkey, the crew of slackers that accompanies Guybrus on his journey to Monkey Island, the sword master, but, above all, the governor Elaine Marley, with whom Guybrush will fall madly in love, and the ghost pirate LeChuck, his antagonist throughout the saga.

The Secret of Monkey Island was structured in a prologue and four chapters, of which the first and third were the longest. The story follows the events of Guybrush from his arrival on Mêlée until the final confrontation with LeChuck, who during the adventure kidnaps Elaine and takes her to the mythical Monkey Island, a seemingly unreachable place that is said to hide a great secret.

The story itself is quite classic, but it is the writing that is exceptional: between lightning-fast jokes, surreal puzzles and the many cinematic quotes, the work of Gilbert and associates amazes from start to finish. How can we forget the sword fights fought to the sound of insults, born because Gilbert did not want to include arcade sequences in the game and at the same time did not want to give up sword fights in a pirate game? How many times have you heard of the rubber chicken with the pulley inside? How could you not be enthralled by Guybrush pulling a giant patch from his shirt to use as a key to open the mouth of a giant monkey head? Everything was so over the top that it was sublime. Could this be why after thirty years we are still here talking about it?

How to play it today?

Fortunately The Secret of Monkey Island is a well-preserved title, in the sense that there is one. special edition, dating back to 2009, still very playable today on PC and backwards compatible on Xbox One. You can buy it on Steam, GoG and the Microsoft Store.

The game is basically identical to the original, but with redone graphics. If you want, you can still select the 1990 style, so as not to lose the vintage charm, which for many is fundamental to the experience (however both styles are exchangeable at any time).

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