The Curse of Monkey Island
|The Curse of Monkey Island|
Cover art by designer Larry Ahern and artist Bill Tiller
The Curse of Monkey Island is an adventure game developed and published by LucasArts, and the third game in the Monkey Island series. It was released in 1997 and followed the successful games The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. The game is the twelfth and last LucasArts game to use the SCUMM engine, which was extensively upgraded for its last outing before being replaced by the GrimE engine for the next game in the series, Escape from Monkey Island. The Curse of Monkey Island is the first Monkey Island game to include voice acting, and has a more cartoon-ish graphic style than the earlier games.
The game's story centers around Guybrush Threepwood, a wannabe pirate who must lift a curse from his love Elaine Marley. As the story progresses, he must deal with a band of mysterious pirates, a rival stereotypical French buccaneer, a band of cutthroat smugglers, as well as his old archnemesis LeChuck.
The Curse of Monkey Island is a point-and-click adventure game. The SCUMM engine was also used in this Monkey Island installment but it was upgraded to a "verb coin" (modelled after Full Throttle), an interface that consisted in a coin-shaped menu, with three icons: a hand, a skull and a parrot, basically representing actions related to hands, eyes and mouth, respectively. These icons implied the actions Guybrush would perform with an object. The hand icon would usually mean actions such as picking something up, operating a mechanism or hitting someone, the skull icon was most used for examining or looking at objects and the parrot icon was used to issue Guybrush commands such as talking to someone or opening a bottle with his teeth. The inventory and actions were thus visible on click, rather than on the bottom of the screen as previous point-and-click games by Lucasarts.
The player controlled a white 'X' cursor with the mouse, that turned red whenever landing onto an object (or person) with which Guybrush could interact. Holding left click over an object, whether in or outside the inventory, would bring up the coin menu, while right clicking it would perform the most obvious action with this particular object. Right clicking a door, for example, made Guybrush attempt to open it, while right clicking a person meant talking to him or her.
After the surreal ending of Monkey Island 2, Guybrush Threepwood is inexplicably found on the sea in a floating bumper car with two helium balloons. Guybrush is trying to recall in his captain's log how he ended up in this dire situation and his escape from the Big Whoop where he was trapped for an undisclosed period of time. He eventually approaches Plunder Island, which is governed by Elaine Marley and is currently under siege by the Zombie Pirate LeChuck himself. After a lengthy exchange where LeChuck is rebuffed in his attempts to woo Elaine, both notice Guybrush, and he is quickly recaptured by LeChuck. While seeking a way out, Guybrush fires an unrestrained cannon (causing LeChuck to blast himself with a voodoo cannonball), finds a diamond ring in LeChuck's treasure hold, and escapes the ship whilst sinking it. He then reunites with his love, Elaine Marley, and officially proposes to her, offering her the diamond ring he found on LeChuck's ship. Unbeknownst to him is the fact that the ring is cursed, and Elaine gets turned into a gold statue a short while after she puts it on. Guybrush must then retrieve the statue, which is stolen almost immediately, and return her to human form.
The Voodoo Lady tells Guybrush that he must travel to Blood Island to find a certain uncursed diamond ring to break the spell. In doing so, he must get a crew, a ship, the statue of Elaine, and a map as nobody knows where Blood Island is anymore. In his attempts to get a crew, Guybrush hastily informs a captain named René Rottingham about his plan to go to Blood Island, which piques his curiosity. The map also presents a problem as the only known map is tattooed to the back of Palido Domingo, who is tanning on an exclusive beach and does not cooperate in his quest. Guybrush must also find out where the statue of Elaine is hidden. After various competitions, Guybrush manages to do all of the errands, as well as gather a crew, consisting of barber pirates Cutthroat Bill, Haggis McMutton, and Edward Van Helgen, to join him on a voyage to Blood Island.
While sailing to Blood Island, the crew is distracted by sightseeing whilst Captain Rottingham boards the ship and fights Guybrush in a game of seabattle insult swordfighting. Rottingham easily wins and takes the map to Blood Island. By fighting other pirates, Guybrush learns various insults and defeats Rottingham, reclaiming the map. However, a storm results in Guybrush's ship crashing into Blood Island, the golden statue of Elaine being launched inland, and the crew deciding to mutiny; leaving Guybrush on his own again. On Blood Island, Guybrush meets Griswold Goodsoup and other locals, including the cannibals from Monkey Island, and even has to feign death (at least twice) in order to complete his quest. Guybrush then removes the cursed ring from Elaine's finger, gambles with smugglers to acquire an uncursed diamond, and returns Elaine to normal. The two share a moment together before LeChuck's skeletal army seizes them.
After a lengthy conversation with LeChuck, who has reintegrated himself as a pyrokinetic demon-pirate, Guybrush is transformed into a child and left to roam the Big Whoop amusement park. Using a hangover cure discovered on Blood Island, he becomes an adult again and gets on the Rollercoaster of Death to confront LeChuck. Elaine reroutes the tracks, causing Guybrush to go through the same sections of the ride over and over, avoiding the lava. LeChuck chases Guybrush over and over, tormenting him with his fiery powers. Regardless, Guybrush manages to gather up various items for a makeshift explosives barrel. He then blows pepper at LeChuck to make him sneeze and set off an avalanche, thus freezing and burying LeChuck under his own theme park. Some time later, Guybrush and Elaine are seen sailing off on a ship for their honeymoon, having just married, as various friends he met on his adventures wave them goodbye.
Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert parted ways with the series after Monkey Island 2, and the new project leaders were Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern, both of whom had previously worked on Full Throttle (the interface of the game was adopted almost entirely). The lead background artist was Bill Tiller.
During production, examples of major changes include enhancing the role of Murray, the talking skull. Originally intended only to be featured in the first chapter, he proved so popular with test players that he was written to re-appear at several points later in the game.
The game was later re-released on a CD-ROM compilation of Monkey Island games, bundled with The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge called the Monkey Island Bounty Pack. It leaves a gap in the series for Macintosh users since it was never officially released for that platform (although the free ScummVM software can be used to play The Curse of Monkey Island on a Mac).
After the game shipped, a Monkey Island film was in the works. This was only brought to light when Tony Stacchi, a concept artist for the project, sent his work to The Scumm Bar, a Monkey Island fansite. The film was cancelled in the early stages of development but Tony Stacchi published the artwork on his portfolio.
Michael Land, who provided the music for the first two games, once more composed the musical score for the soundtrack. The Curse of Monkey Island was the first game in the series to feature voice acting. The primary voice cast consisted of Dominic Armato as Guybrush Threepwood; Alexandra Boyd as Elaine Marley and Son Pirate; Earl Boen as LeChuck; Denny Delk as Murray, Skully, and Father Pirate; Neil Ross as Wally B. Feed; Alan Young as Haggis McMutton; Michael Sorich as Edward Van Helgen and Charles DeGoulash (Ghost Groom); Gregg Berger as Cutthroat Bill; and Leilani Jones Wilmore as the Voodoo Lady. Other voice actors included Kay E. Kuter as Griswold Goodsoup, Tom Kane as Captain René Rottingham and the Flying Welshman, Patrick Pinney as Stan, and Victor Raider-Wexler as Slappy Cromwell and the Snowcone Guy. The game even has special guest stars Mary Kay Bergman as Minnie "Stronie" Goodsoup (Ghost Bride), Gary Coleman as Kenny Falmouth, and future Angel star Glenn Quinn as Pirate #5.
Differences in localized versions
Non-English versions of the game omit the section at the beginning of CD2, where Guybrush's crew sings the song "A Pirate I Was Meant To Be". In this section, the player as Guybrush has to stop the crew's singing - however, at each attempt, they just start a new stanza rhyming to the player's line, until he says a line ending with the word "orange" making the song unable to continue. As the whole section relies on English language rhyming, it was removed from international versions of the game.
The Curse of Monkey Island received almost uniformly positive reviews from the media. Computer Gaming World said that "it joins LucasArts' hallowed pantheon of comic classics", and that "computer gaming rarely gets more entertaining than this". GameSpot praised the graphical style for making the game "as much fun to watch as it is to play". Just Adventure emphasized that the "music is the best I've ever heard in a game; [...] it never stops and it's never annoying; it's always a joy". RPGFan commented that the "additions of detailed graphics and actual spoken dialogue managed to take the already hilarious story to a whole new level". Adventure Classic Gaming addressed plot criticism, saying "some [...] may criticize the numerous farfetched plot twists in this game", while "some may just call it creative writing!", and Adrenaline Vault likened The Curse of Monkey Island to the adventure genre as a whole, saying: "The twin vitals of an adventure game are a good plot coupled with strong dialogue. This game has both, in spades."
Although Adventure Gamers cited the graphic style's "refusal to take itself seriously" was adding "immensely to the game's charm", they found the secondary characters "criminally underdeveloped" and the ending "an anticlimax, leaving the player thinking he could have done so much more, if only the game’s programmers had let him". The abrupt ending of the game received criticism from GameSpot, Just Adventure and Computer Gaming World; the last of which called the ending "the game's only real disappointment". PC Zone described that due to the introduction of cartoon-ish graphics "for Monkey devotees of the first two titles something tiny and almost intangible has been lost", while still scoring the game a 92/100, praising the voice over work and humor of the game.
The Curse of Monkey Island was nominated in the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' first annual Interactive Achievement Awards in the categories "Computer Adventure Game of the Year" and "Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics".
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- Official web page (Internet Archive link)
- The Curse of Monkey Island at the Internet Movie Database
- The Curse of Monkey Island at the Monkey Island Wiki