It was not that long ago that the point-and-click genre was considered dead, and the once mighty and critically acclaimed Monkey Island series appeared to have been forgotten. That all changed in the summer of 2009, when The Secret of Monkey Island was released shortly before Telltale’s episodic Tales of Monkey Island premiered. A year later, the 1991 sequel to Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, has also gotten the Special Edition treatment, with new artwork, music, and bonus features. Sadly, this wonderful game and all of its upgrades are sometimes overshadowed by issues with the Xbox Live Arcade version.
When Monkey Island 2 came out almost twenty years ago, gamers and critics alike adored it, and it was often regarded as one of the best titles of the LucasArts adventure era. In that regard, not much has changed; first-time players should be able to appreciate the clever and challenging puzzles, humorous dialogue, and strong narrative. Even though I adore adventure games, this was my first time playing through Monkey Island 2, and I have to agree that it’s some of the best work of designers Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman. That’s pretty impressive considering the outstanding resumes of those three industry veterans.
Like with The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, the biggest and most notable change to Monkey Island 2 is the visual style. Hand-drawn artwork has replaced the classic, pixelated graphics, giving the game a crisp and clear high-definition look that couldn’t have been accomplished in 1991. Longtime fans of the series might complain that some of the characters don’t look the same in the new style as they did in the classic game (Elaine in particular looks really different), but it’s hard to complain when the artwork is so good. The original score has also been remastered, replacing the MIDI soundtrack of yesteryear. Once again, gamers can switch back and forth between the classic game and the Special Edition at any time with the push of a button, which was one of my favorite features; even though I enjoyed the reimagined product, I still liked seeing how each location and character was originally designed.
New to Monkey Island 2 Special Edition is the updated control scheme that makes the point-and-click gameplay more console-friendly. Instead of literally pointing and clicking on a location, the thumbstick can be used to move Guybrush around, much like in the latest season of Sam & Max. Commands are brought up and selected with the right trigger, which was really jarring at first—I actually didn’t like this right away. However, once I got used to it, this made for a really seamless, simple control scheme that I became a big fan of. If you can’t get used to the new control scheme, you can switch back to classic point-and-click at any time. The inventory screen is accessed with the left trigger, staying off-screen when not in use, and the game features an enhanced hint system, ensuring that you’ll never have to call the LucasArts hotline if you become stuck.
The most surprising, and possibly best addition to Monkey Island 2 Special Edition is commentary from Gilbert, Schafer, and Grossman, which can be turned on or off at any point in the game. While on, a button prompt alerts the player that there is a commentary track for that section, and hitting the right button brings up silhouettes of the three developers. I’m a huge, huge fan of all three, and they have been industry idols of mine for years, so the fact that LucasArts was able to get them in a room together to talk about Monkey Island for a few hours is pretty incredible. The commentary might be a little distracting if you’re on your first playthrough, but those familiar with the game should really enjoy playing while listening to the commentary about the development process.
With both the classic and enhanced modes, Monkey Island 2 Special Edition is a fantastic package, but unfortunately, it is marred by a few frustrating technical problems. Some issues are minor, like a few missing audio clues or interrupted speech, but others are more detrimental. Without giving too much of the plot away, I reached a point late in the game where I actually became stuck, and the game wouldn’t advance or allow me to go back. I had to reload an earlier save file, and if I hadn’t had a separate save file I would have had to restart the game. While trying to find out if others had this issue, I found out that a few had, and even more had experienced a similar problem earlier in the game that I somehow avoided. While I can hardly validate the claims of forum posters and other reviewers, it is unsettling that so many people are complaining about technical issues, making me believe that (at least on XBLA) these are widespread problems.
Even with the glitches, I absolutely loved my time with Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge. It’s so good that I can’t believe I missed out on it the first time around, but I’m glad that I got a second chance thanks to this reimagining. It’s well worth the money whether you’ve played it before or not, and the creator commentary actually adds a level of replay value not found in most point-and-click adventures. It was a fantastic game in 1991, and it’s still great now; I just wish that the entire experience had been glitch-free.