Games: Monkeyin’ Around

Long before the Pirates of the Caribbean hype, the adventure classic The Secret of Monkey Island set the standard for funny, creepy pirate stories, writes Lorenz Beyer

The Secret of Monkey Island was released in 1990 by then-famous Lucasfilm Games. Since the, the game has quickly garnered a cult following and the numerous websites dedicated to it prove that it still has a huge fan base.

The plot is simple. Would-be-pirate Guybrush Threepwood is stranded on the Mêlée Island. While he tries to rob the island’s governor Marley, he falls in love with her. This is where Pirates of the Caribbean kicks in: the evil ghost pirate LeChuck kidnaps governor Marley and takes her to the legendary Monkey Island, where he intends to marry her. Guybrush chases them and gets into lots of trouble. He is imprisoned by vegetarian cannibals, kills ghosts with malt beer and engages in huge amounts of absurd situations.

You keep playing the game because you can’t wait for the next sound bite. For instance, when sword-trainer Smirk wants to see his sword, Guybrush answers: “I do have this deadly-looking chicken.” Smirk then replies: “Yes, swinging a rubber chicken with a big metal pulley in it can be quite dangerous… BUT IT’S NOT A SWORD!!!”

Guybrush learns during the training that the most important aspect of a swordfight is to insult one’s enemy properly. At one point, a character says: “I got this scar on my face during a mighty struggle!” Consequently, another one responds: “I hope now you’ve learned to stop picking your nose.”

The puzzles are equally eccentric. For example, you have to hit a tree with a huge rock to get bananas, which you feed to an ape so that he follows you to the other side of the island, where he hangs on a crank to open a door for you. It takes a while to figure that out.

Another strength of Monkey Island is its music. The blend of cheesy honky-tonk music and Caribbean reggae fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the game. Certain fans loved the music so much that they even transcribed it and played it on the piano. Search YouTube for the Monkey Island classics.

Retro fans will of course prefer the cheesy MIDI sound of the original game and its 256-colour graphics, but everyone else should enjoy the special edition published in 2009 with modernised graphics and sound.

No matter which edition you use though, Monkey Island is always good for having a laugh.