The Curse of Monkey Island
|The Curse of Monkey Island|
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 on 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 nemesis Captain 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.
Guybrush Threepwood is adrift in the sea in a floating bumper car, unable to recall how he escaped from the Big Whoop amusement park. He approaches Plunder Island, which is governed by his love Elaine Marley and under siege by the zombie pirate LeChuck. LeChuck captures him and locks him in the ship's hold. Seeking a way out, Guybrush fires an unrestrained cannon (causing LeChuck to drop a magical voodoo cannonball which explodes, destroying LeChuck's zombie body), finds a diamond ring in the treasure hold, and escapes the ship as it sinks. He reunites with Elaine and proposes to her with the diamond ring. However, the ring is revealed to be cursed, and when Elaine puts it on she is transformed into a gold statue and stolen by marauders.
The Voodoo Lady tells Guybrush he must travel to Blood Island to find a diamond ring of greater value to break the spell. Guybrush recovers the statue Elaine, finds a map to Blood Island and secures a ship and crew to take him there. On the journey, the ship is attacked by Captain Rottingham, who steals the map. After much practice, Guybrush learns seabattle insult swordfighting and defeats Rottingham when they next meet, reclaiming the map. However, soon afterwards, Guybrush's ship crashes on Blood Island in a storm, Elaine's statue is launched inland, and the crew mutinies. Meanwhile, LeChuck is inadvertently revived as a pyrokinetic demon-pirate by a scavenging pirate, and sails back to his carnival on Monkey Island to organize the capture of Guybrush and Elaine.
Alone on Blood Island, Guybrush meets the locals, including the cannibals of Monkey Island, learns a sad tale of lost love, and feigns death to enter a crypt and secure a new engagement band. He gambles with smugglers in order to acquire an uncursed diamond, combines the two to make a new ring, and returns Elaine to normal. The two share a moment before LeChuck's skeletal army seizes them.
LeChuck transforms Guybrush into a child once again and leaves him in the Big Whoop amusement park with Elaine. Using a hangover cure discovered on Blood Island, Guybrush becomes an adult again and gets on the Rollercoaster of Death to confront LeChuck. Guybrush improvises an explosive and sets off an avalanche, burying LeChuck under the theme park. Guybrush and Elaine marry and set sail for their honeymoon, as various friends that were met on his adventures wave them goodbye.
The Curse of Monkey Island was announced during the European Computer Trade Show in September 1996. According to Next Generation, the game's predecessors had been "relatively minor hit[s]" in the United States, but became "blockbusters on the PC and the Amiga throughout Europe." Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert had 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 reappear at several points later in the game.
The game was later rereleased on a C.D.-R.O.M. 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.
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 much of the music for the first two games, composed the score. 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 C.D. 2, 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 Anglophonic rhyming, it was removed from non-English versions of the game.
The Curse of Monkey Island sold 52,049 copies in the United States by the end of 1997, according to market research firm PC Data. Another 40,538 copies were purchased in the country between January 1998 and July 1998, which drew revenues of $1.57 million for the period. The game was a success in the German market: Heinrich Lenhardt of PC Gamer US wrote, "[I]f it wasn't for the sales figures in Germany, LucasArts probably wouldn't have bothered" to continue the franchise. In the second half of November 1997, Curse debuted at #4 on Media Control's computer game sales charts for the German market. It held in the top 10 through January 1998, peaking in third place for the first half of December, and its streak in the top 20 continued through March. The game had spent 24 weeks in Media Control's top rankings by the end of May, when it secured 27th place. In August, Curse received a "Gold" award from the Verband der Unterhaltungssoftware Deutschland (V.U.D.), indicating sales of at least 100,000 units across Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The game remained on shelves by 2001: that year, PC Data reported sales of another 19,552 units in North America. Louis Castle of Westwood Studios estimated The Curse of Monkey Island's lifetime sales at 300,000 copies by 2002, while LucasArts' Bill Tiller stated in 2003, "I think CMI sold over half a million units world wide". Tiller recalled total sales between 700,000 and 800,000 copies in 2009.
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 cartoonish 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.
Next Generation reviewed the P.C. version of the game, rating it three stars out of five, and stated that "At the end of the day, however, despite its flaws, Curse', like its two predecessors, is still just fun enough to remain a satisfying experience."
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences nominated The Curse of Monkey Island for its "Personal Computer: Adventure Game of the Year" and "Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics" awards, which the game lost to Blade Runner and Riven, respectively. Similarly, the Computer Game Developers Conference nominated Curse for four Spotlight Awards, including "Best Adventure/RPG", but these ultimately went to other titles. However, it was named the best adventure game of 1997 by Computer Games Strategy Plus, Computer Gaming World, GameSpot and PC Gamer US. It also won GameSpot's "Best Cinematics" prize. The editors of Computer Gaming World wrote, "Simply everything is done right in this game: lush graphics, outstanding voice acting, strong storyline, clever puzzles, and, best of all, a script with more big laughs in it than just about anything at the movies these days. It is, easily, the most entertaining adventure in years".
In 2008, Ron Gilbert praised The Curse of Monkey Island, calling it "great" and remarking that "they did an excellent job of capturing the humor and feel of the game."
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