Escape from Monkey Island


   The fourth in LucasArts' series of comical pirate adventures, Escape from Monkey Island continues the adventures of bumbling "mighty pirate" Guybrush Threepwood, his wife Governor Elaine Threepwood-Marley, and their nefarious rival, the demon pirate LeChuck. A number of other Monkey Island staples, including fast-talking salesman Stan, the advice-giving Voodoo Lady, and Murray the talking skull also appear in the latest sequel.

   But what prompted Monkey Island's return to consoles? Perhaps the game's control scheme made the difference. While PC graphic adventures have traditionally been played with the mouse, Escape from Monkey Island lets players move Guybrush directly and interact by pressing specific buttons. (The PC version used the Resident Evil scheme, while the PlayStation 2 version uses Metal Gear Solid-style camera-relative controls.) While seeming a bit out of place in the PC version, this set-up fits the PS2 perfectly and makes EMI substantially easier to control than most PC adventure ports.

 Act III+: Monkey vs. Robot
Monkey hate technology / Guybrush hate the monkey / Together they will fight eternally

   Escape from Monkey Island has a decreased emphasis on item-manipulation puzzles -- while the bulk of the game is still based around finding and using inventory items, there are also some more traditional logic puzzles and some timing-based exercises. Blessed with some ingenious concepts, these sequences are definitely the game's highlights. Not only do they provide an interesting change of pace, they're unique and enjoyable challenges in their own right - and they always give the player a specific goal. Of course, there's also still a few puzzles with completely non-intuitive solutions that will likely send players scrambling for a walkthrough and feeling frustrated when they find out the answer.

That's the second-most overused joke I've ever seen!

   Although certainly still funnier than most games, Escape from Monkey Island never quite reaches the same level of humor as most of LucasArts' previous adventures. The humor relies too heavily on tired pop culture references - including an embarassingly out-of-date O.J. Simpson sequence - and annoying regurgitations of the series' most well-known moments. While many of these gags were originally funny, "That's the second-largest ___ I've ever seen!" quickly loses its appeal when repeated incessantly throughout the game.

   While the game is chock-full of esoteric references to past Monkey Island titles, no knowledge of the previous games is at all necessary to solve the puzzles and get through the game. However, the game's smug assumption that players have committed every line of the previous Monkey Island titles to memory can be off-putting, especially for console players new to the series.

   Partially due to its reliance on the series' history, Escape from Monkey Island seems an odd title to port to the PlayStation 2 -- despite being a few years older, the original story and unique look of Grim Fandango would have probably made it a better choice. Particularly devoted Monkey Island fans will want to give the PlayStation 2 version a look, however, as it contains higher-quality FMV sequences, Dual Shock effects, a bonus art gallery, and even a new hidden mini-game.

Pirate, eh? You look more like a flooring inspector

   With puzzle-oriented adventures few and far between, fans have few choices but to accept Escape from Monkey Island for its flaws. Fortunately, that wasn't too hard; while MI4 is not the series' best installment, it's still more than playable and has enough enjoyable scenes and puzzles to make the adventure worthwhile. Lapsed fans who haven't yet played the PC original will certainly want to pick up the PlayStation 2 release, as it's the superior of the two, as will devotees looking for the new material. Gamers new to the series, however, will want to consider whether they'll find the numerous references to past titles too mystifing before making the trip to Monkey Island.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Escape from Monkey Island
Developer LucasArts
Publisher LucasArts
Genre Puzzle
Medium DVD (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  06.19.01
Monkey Island comes to the PlayStation 2
53 screenshots / Trailer movie
8 character renders / Concept artwork
PlayStation 2 box art