Geography & Plot Errors in Escape from Monkey Island
Now as a note here, I’m actually a Monkey Island fan who likes Escape from Monkey Island, the fourth game of the series. I thought that on the level of comedy and puzzles it was on par with all of the previous games and aside its horrific continuity errors, if the game wasn’t in “icky-poo” 3D I don’t think fans would have such a huge problem with it. However, there were loads of inconsistencies with the prior Monkey Island games, not the least of which the series progenitor The Secret of Monkey Island.
Let’s start with the small stuff and work our way up to the big momma of all video-game plot-holes. Firstly there’s two major island’s that made reappearances from SMI and there were some serious continuity issues here. While Escape’s development crew stayed faithful to the general shape and locations of things, everyone can agree there’s a few things they messed up.
Firstly, Mêlée Island where the original game began and is probably the most trodden island in the series:
- While most of the recurring locations are in their proper place it seems Stan’s Ship Yard (now the Municipal Ship Depot) has somehow switched location from inside the bay of Mêlée to the (East-)Southern shore of the island. Beyond the shape of the pier and the Grog Machine, the ship depot doesn’t even actually resemble Stan’s Previously Owned Ships.
- It’s perhaps a little questionable if the Governor’s mansion was as up north the west side of the island as Escape seems to suggest. One noticeable change however is that the cliff seems to have moved further away from the house and the cliff-side behind the house has disappeared completely.
- Mêlée forest seems to have been cut down.
- Hook Isle seemed to be distinctly further away from Mêlée (plus there was a small mount on the isle as I recall). The interior of Meathook’s home is largely the same except the ladder leading upstairs is on the opposite side from the door than it was in SMI and the cave entrance at the back of the house has also disappeared.
- Mêlée town has been downsized and we only see the main street from the last game. The Scumm Bar is now facing down the road or pier to the main street (whereas it pointed away from the sea in SMI). The Voodoo Lady’s house is much more distinct looking although I have a huge problem with Guybrush referring to it as The Original International House of Mojo (the name wasn’t used until MI2).
Monkey Island itself saw some major changes which were very noticeable due to the fact that Escape is the only other game aside SMI where the player can travel on Monkey Island freely.
- The Monkey Island mountain-range has disappeared entirely which I find rather hard to swallow even if there has been volcanic activity on the island.
- Even if I was to accept that the volcanic eruption somehow leveled Monkey Island’s mountain-range it doesn’t explain why the Giant Monkey Head can only be reached from the North side of the island since the lava flow (which cuts off two wings of the island from the South and West wings) couldn’t have possibly leveled the terrain that much.
- The cannibal village doesn’t really look anything like it did in the first game.
- LeChuck really did a hell of a job cleaning up the Carnival of the Damned. No seriously, it looks like the carnival was never there. I don’t know how long palm-trees take to grow but I can’t image theyd cover the area around the monkey head in a matter of months.
Finally we come to the mother of all videogame plot-holes. Here’s my reasoning for why Herman Toothrot can’t be Elaine’s grandfather…
- Firstly, SMI clearly states that Herman sailed from Mêlée Island to Monkey Island on the Sea Monkey with his captain who later accidentally hung himself. He didn’t just wash ashore as he claims in Escape. How the Escape crew could ignore all this history (especially since you can’t really complete Part II without finding the captain’s log) is rather unbelievable. Though they were observant enough to pick out the detail that Herman was stranded “20 Years Ago” (more on that later).
- Secondly, how the Escape crew could ignore the longest dialogue scene in all of adventure gamedom in the previous game, where LeChuck categorically stated it was he who pushed Marley into the whirlpool, is also quite puzzling. Instead they decided it was Ozzy without ever explaning away this obvious inconsistency.
- Thirdly, suddenly throwing Captain Marley’s disappearance to “20 Years” into the past creates a massive time-gap in the Monkey Island series. Who ruled Mêlée during his absense? What about LeChuck’s travel to Monkey Island? What about Big Whoop? It was always assumed, though not stated, that Elaine took over for his grandfather as governor immediately after his disappearance and that these events happened much closer to the start of the series… so no, LeChuck was never a cradle robber as some confused fans have previously thought. But neither does Escape offer any reasonable explanation what the hell were Elaine’s parents doing all this time since in the painting in Escape, where Elaine is together with her grandfather, she couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. Plus, LeChuck’s ultimatum (back when we all assumed he pushed Marley into the Whirlpool) was to give him his grand-daughter’s hand in marriage, and LeChuck was all dead and stuff at this point so Elaine too had to have been an adult.
- Finally what’s so puzzling about these plot inconsistencies is that in order for them to come together the Escape crew clearly had to know about them. They obviously played SMI to know about Herman’s 20 years on the island (plus there’s all that other stuff), they had to have at least played MI2 to know about Captain Marley and at least have played Curse because that’s where the Whirlpool was mentioned (nevermind Murray or the Carnival). But it seems rather than following the plot logically, they just threw everything in a blender and out came the plot.
What I always find interesting is how irrepairably Escape damaged the plot continuity of the series, when the previous game (Curse) went through so much trouble to tie up the loose ends of the series (the afore-mentioned longest dialogue scene ever). But then again, Monkey Island games have never been strong on plot-writing – it’s just a shame this one game felt the need to take an axe to the continuity…
-C’est la vie!