Note: This review was originally published August 2, 2009
It's been six years since the last Monkey Island game. Six long years fans have waited. But no one expected this. LucasArts has completely blown away every adventure gamer that thought they had a favorite. This is truly adventure gaming at its finest. If you haven't already tasted this gaming ambrosia, you're in for a treat.
I really don't know where to start with this review. LucasArts has surely proven once again that it has what it takes to make a great adventure game. But LucasArts has proven a lot more than just that with this instant classic. The Curse of Monkey Island shines through the crowd with every single detail put into the game. CMI holds you tight and doesn't let go until it's over. Easily the best adventure game of '97.
The Curse of Monkey Island continues where the second game left off. Don't worry though, even if you haven't played the first two games you won't be left in the dark. CMI has a whole story of its own that doesn't require any knowledge whatsoever of the first two.
CMI is a pirate adventure. We don't see many pirate adventures, do we? But that isn't all that sets CMI apart from other adventure games. It's the humor that really sets it apart (among many other things). No other game has made me laugh as much as CMI did. CMI reminded me why we play games ... for fun ... and CMI is the most fun game I've played in a long time. Isn't that what really matters?
CMI's graphics are simply beautiful. From the lush background scenes to the smoothly animated characters, CMI's art will make you lean back and say "wow." The animation in-game and in the cut-scenes is just as good as any Disney movie. But the cool thing is ... it doesn't look like Disney. The artists behind CMI have created their own style. A window may not be perfectly square, or a lamppost may not stand completely upright, but it all works, and it looks wonderful. Every screen in this game is a masterpiece, plain and simple.
It's the puzzles in adventure games that make you think. CMI doesn't come short in the puzzle area, there are plenty of 'em. The nice thing about the "puzzles" in CMI is that they all fit in with the story and the task at hand. You also don't have to put up with any weird puzzles that feel thrown in, like you might find in other games (i.e., tile sliding puzzles). Most of the puzzles in CMI are inventory based, but some others involve dialog or timing. There are two different difficulty settings in CMI: regular and hard. In regular, the puzzles vary in difficulty, just as in any other adventure game, they make for a good challenge. Hard mode is the exact same thing as regular, only some puzzles are harder to complete. These two difficulty settings may offer some replayability, but the game is already so much fun, you can't help but playing it again later.
A really, really nice thing about this game ... is the music. Some games have music that you don't even notice half the time, and is just there to set the mood. CMI has music that not only sets the mood, it sticks in your mind months after you play. The music in CMI is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. The music is the best I've ever heard in a game; it really surprises me that LucasArts hasn't published the soundtrack. The cool thing is ... the music plays all the time. It never stops and it's never annoying; it's always a joy. Ask anyone who's played the game.
Now for the voice acting. How is the voice acting? Surprise surprise, it matches the rest of the game's quality ... awesome. The voice acting in CMI is a step above other great adventure games, and puts other ones to shame. The voice acting gives immense personality to all of the characters. The expressions in the voices often give way to the funniest parts in the game. It's the kind of stuff you can't do with text. As with the rest of the game, the sound effects are also superb. They also add greatly to the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, no game is flawless. Fortunately, the flaw in this game can be forgiven. It is something that has nothing to do with the gameplay or the overall enjoyment. But it does leave an impression that disagrees with the rest of the experience. And that is the ending. After playing, and enjoying this game for so long, you really need an ending that gives you a sense of completion and satisfaction. Unfortunately, CMI fails to deliver it. The ending is extremely brief and anticlimactic.
With the ending aside, The Curse of Monkey Island is a wonderful game that no adventure gamer should be without. Period. I can safely say that no other game has given me this degree of enjoyment.
Final Grade: A