The Secret of Monkey Island – Original and SE Review Comparisons


Last year The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) was released as an upgraded remake, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. The second game in the MI series Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is also getting a Special Edition release this summer (and naturally I’ll be getting it on Xbox 360 as before). Now I decided to compare my reviews of the first game and its Special Edition just to see how much the original game improved in Special Edition and in what aspects it might have gotten worse…

In the following review the scores are ordered original/special edition and of course the score maximum for each part is 5…

Gameplay: 5/4 – It’s kind of hard to give a gameplay score to a point-and-click adventure game because at least on the PC the controls always work. You point, you click, stuff happens. Also unlike later games in the series there are no real-time actions you control. The Special Edition’s score went down a little bit because dragging the cursor on the screen with the analogue stick felt really laborious for some reason. However, the Xbox360 version had some dandy command-shortcuts which was a nice touch from them. In MI2:SE Guybrush is going to be moveable with just an analogue stick so this should get rid of the cursor-dragging in the console versions.

Graphics: 4/5 – Now here I have to admit the Special Edition made the most improvements on the original. It’s not just that the graphics are now in higher resolution, but LucasArts also added a lot new graphic elements to areas and in my view managed to accentuate the graphic contrast between areas better than the original game which I always felt had very standard colour-schemes depending where you were (blue on Mêlée, green on Monkey, red in the Hell Caverns). However, SMI had excellent graphics for the time and the old 256 colour versions still looked nice even by today’s standards.

Animation: 5/4 – Somewhat ironically the Special Edition’s animation score suffered. Now the SMI:Special Edition was literally built on top of the original game’s engine which meant that they didn’t add any new frames of animation. Now SMI is not the most liveliest game from an animation point-of-view but it would surprise you with close-ups of characters faces, with Guybrush getting shot out of the cannon, little things that stood out because they had such unusually vivid detail for an early PC game. However, when you attempt the same with higher resolution models the end result actually looks rather choppy and here I feel the Special Edition could have perhaps been a bit braver in redesigning the cutscenes and animations.

Music: 5/4 – Another area where the original game stood out better was in the music. Now the new arrangements were nice but I always felt they couldn’t quite match the force of the original MIDI renditions from 256 colour version. I especially felt the new version of the game’s theme was way too relaxed and didn’t have the same mysterious and powerful sound as the original. None the less, the themes are still recognisable and for such a small number tunes the soundtrack is still very impressive.

Sound: 2/4½ – However in the audio department the Special Edition has the added advantage of voice-acting. The original game suffered from a lack of audio effects. There was the occasional sound-effect here and there, but on occasion when you were in an area with no background music, the game would just be complete silence. By comparison the voice-acting in the Special Edition livens up the game tremendously though there still are a few occasions of extreme silence which is why I only gave the Special Edition a 4.5 and not a full 5.

Plot: 3/3 – Well obviously the plot is the same in both games so there really couldn’t be much difference. I always felt that while SMI is an extremely rewarding adventure game experience its plot is a little too straight-forward.

Scores: 80/82 % – So as can be seen, the Special Edition of The Secret of Monkey Island is a tad better than the original, but only a little. The added graphical elements and voice-acting are what liven up the game to a degree but it really hasn’t changed that dramatically from its original incarnation. Getting the Special Edition though, you’ll naturally get both it and the 256 colour version as well.

Either way, The Secret of Monkey Island  is a classic game and worth a try.

See also: The Walkthrough To The Game