LeChuck's Revenge + Guybrush's Return = Player's Delight.
One benefit of this is that I can now review the game mainly untarnished by the pressures of nostalgia - every cloud and all that.
If you’ve played the first Monkey Island Special Edition, the first thing that strikes you as the game begins proper is the complete overhaul of the control system. This was one of the main bugbears about the first special edition and luckily all of the problems seem to have been taken to heart. Guybrush can now be directly controlled with the left stick (though why anyone would want to do that is completely beyond me – at least when I tried he didn’t stick on the scenery) and holding R2 will give you the available options for a given object, while quickly pressing it will auto-select the most likely choice: ‘Look at’, ‘Use’, ‘Open’ and so forth. Other than that it’s your standard point-and-click fare. These improvements, although small, have made the game infinitely more playable than its predecessor which suffered from an unfortunately clunky menu system; some sections were only really playable by switching back to ‘Classic Mode’, which would cause bursts of dialogue to come from the speakers before falling silent, as if the game had just remembered that it was supposed to be quiet. Thankfully, this too has been resolved and it is an absolute joy to press select and watch the gorgeously painted landscapes dissolve into the blocky VGA goodness that will be instantly familiar to anyone of a certain age.
Other handy features include a button to highlight any clickable object (cheating) and a hint mode (also cheating) which will be very handy indeed for those with no previous exposure to the pixel-hunting, ‘use cat on shoe polish’ sort of gameplay that underpins the ‘Adventure’ genre.
Presentation wise, the game is an absolute treat. The graphics have been improved since the release of the first special edition and the characters and scenery are gorgeous. As you play through you can unlock the original game’s concept art and it is truly staggering how close to the original art this game looks. This is Monkey Island 2 the way it was meant to look: how it looked in the mind’s eye of the designers and the artists – it’s a wonderful thing that we now have the technology to make this possible.
Dom Armato returns as Guybrush (who else?) and the supporting vocal cast all play their parts with relish. The only complaint that I have with the voiced version is that when you move from one screen to another, you are only allowed to progress when someone has finished speaking. This can be a pain when on the same screen as someone who repeats the same lines of dialogue every few seconds (although this doesn’t happen terribly often). Minor gripes aside, the sound and voice effects work with the art to really bring the story to life.
The story is funny and touching, silly and sweet, with the whole thing riddled with classic LucasArts humour. The jokes have aged very well and some of the puzzles are solved with puns stupid enough to make the player slap themself in the forehead and silently say “Oh god” upon discovery of the way to progress. In short: brilliant.
The puzzles are clever, inventive and require leaps of logic and stretches of lateral thinking without being cruel or unnecessarily obtuse. That’s not to say that you won’t spend a good half an hour visiting every location while shouting “What am I doing with this monkey? Why is it even in my inventory? I’ve tried EVERYTHING!” – you will – but the answer will come to you, usually after stewing in your sub-conscious on your way to work: when it does you’ll feel like a king.