Friday, July 6, 2007

Monkey Island

Undead pirates! Monkeys! A young man who becomes a pirate and wows the pretty governor!  Cannibals who tie the hero to a stake! A voodoo priestess who gives advice. Sounds like a rip-off of Pirated of the Caribbean. In fact, all of this came from the Monkey Island series of computer games which premiered in 1990.

The hero of the games is Guybrush Threepwood, a young man who wants to be a pirate. He meets the pirate council who give him three tests. Along the way he meets some unusual characters including the governor of the Melee Island (it takes a while before they actually get to Monkey Island). The gameplay was mouse driven. There are several duels but, as it is revealed to Guybrush, the secret is not how you use your sword, it is your witty rejoinders. Guybrush also learns a little about the backstory - there is a treasure on Monkey Island guarded by LeChuck the undead Pirate and his skeletal crew. There is also a ship that went looking for Monkey Island. When it returned it was crewed entirely by monkeys/

By the time Threepwood solves the tests and becomes a pirate, LeChuck has kidnapped the governor. Threepwood must assemble a crew and acquire a ship (from Stan the used ship salesman). Like all good pirate destinations, there is no map to Monkey Island. Instead there is a recipe for soup. When the soup is made, it releases a cloud that causes everyone on the ship to fall asleep. When they wake up they are on Monkey Island.

The game is full of puzzles and jokes, many of them in-jokes referring to other games.

Of course, Threepwood manages to rescue the Governor and "kill" LeChuck. He has a brief fling with the Governor but they break up in time for the second game.

In all, there are four games. The first two are low-res 320x200 graphics. The next one uses much better graphics and is animated cartoon-style. The third one uses 3-D graphics and abandons the mouse in favor of the keyboard.

The end of the second game and parts of the third game have a parody of Disney-land. In his spare time, LeChuck built a theme park complete with a ride showing key scenes in the continuing fight between himself and Guybrush.

There is an open-source version of the SCUMM gaming system that the LucasArts games used prior to 1998 and fans have created a new game around Herman Toothrot, one of the minor characters.

Game creator Ron Gilbert credited the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as one of his inspirations. The game itself seems to have inspired parts of the movies, especially the voodoo lady. All of this was in the family. The games were produced by LucasArts entertainment which is owned by George Lucas whose company Industrial Light and Magic did most of the special effects for PotC.

Check it out - it's the most fun a pirate can have on dry land without sacking a city.

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