Eurogamer Retro: Curse Of Monkey Island

By John Walker on October 11th, 2010 at 11:32 am.

That's the second insult swordfight I've ever seen.

It’s important to admit when you’re wrong. All my life I’ve maintained that The Curse Of Monkey Island was rubbish. So I went back to check, and found out that, well, it’s not. So many of the puzzles are. The tacky line drawings often are. But it’s a better game than I’d remembered. I write all about it over at Eurogamer, including this representative paragraph:

With series regulars like the Voodoo Lady and Stan appearing, now it seems daft that the game works so hard to reintroduce them. But with over half a decade having passed, a good proportion of the potential audience wouldn’t have had any idea who they were. Plus a lot of the references were starting to feel dated back then and now seem positively archaic.

During my eighties childhood, about 70 per cent of the programmes I watched included quicksand at some point. To misquote comedian Adam Carolla, until the age of 10 I was certain I was either going to die by falling in quicksand or by being eaten by cannibals who would first make me their god. Now, outside of madman Bear Grills’ on-screen suicide attempts, there’s not a drip of quicksand to be found. And worrying about being eaten by cannibals is perhaps considered culturally insensitive.

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73 Comments »

  1. Gap Gen says:

    I always liked this one, although I hadn’t played the first two, shamefully. By contrast, I thought Escape was a bit clunky and Murray wasn’t as funny.

    • A-Scale says:

      Did exactly what you did, thought exactly what you thought.

  2. dobber says:

    where did i hear the same comments about quicksand recently? i watch a lot of crap american tv series..
    and also listen to rum doings..

  3. Risingson says:

    It IS a great game, and it is one of the last ones that had real puzzles, logical-inside-the-game puzzles, not obvious key-in-door puzzles. And has the best Michael Land soundtrack so far.

    Pity that the ending leaves you with such a low note.

    Now, saying that the first monkey island “It’s a short, not particularly funny game, with no narrative worth worrying about and a few highlights that have overridden people’s memories of the complete experience. “. The “it’s not funny, so it’s not that good” attitude that is repeating itself so many times in new reviewers, missing the point of the classic storytelling, great dialogues, great game design, great graphics design and all that has the first monkey island is continuously surprising me. It’s like saying “Psycho? Meh. It isn’t that scary. Overrated”.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I thought Psycho was quite scary.

      Anyway, I agree. Curse was a great game. Brilliant artwork and soundtrack, imaginative and pretty funny to boot.

    • Latro says:

      Clearly, the only solution to this is for both Walker and Risingson to dress like pirates, get the rapiers out, and start a battle of wits and insults.

      I’m going for the popcorn :-)

    • Spacewalk says:

      I would rather them not get their rapiers out, they might have someone’s eye out especially if they look directly at them.

    • Latro says:

      Spacewalk ,that would mean… EYEPATCHS! So, what’s the problem! :-P

  4. Rick says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t like the graphics. Bill Tiller’s artwork is the one bit where CMI is indisputably flawless.

    • JackShandy says:

      Agreed. Simplistic CARTOONS? BARELY SKETCHED?! And this from a man who apparently enjoyed the horrific polygonal abyss that was monkey island four? Away with you, sir. Your opinion has no sway here.

    • John Walker says:

      Some of the art is lovely. Other parts seem very dismissive. And yes, 4 looked like a mess.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I agree MI3 is ugly. It looks like a cheap CBBC cartoon.

    • badoli says:

      I just could not match the MI1+2-Guybrush with this thin, geeky fellow from Curse. He looks like a nerd i would ignore on a party. The whole game style urges my reflexes to swap away from nicelodeon…

  5. mlaskus says:

    This was the first Monkey Island I ever played and I always loved it. It is sad it was always treated like shit by elitist fans of the first two games.

  6. misterk says:

    It was splendid, and I didn’t play it until the internet existed, which allowed me to get past those hideous puzzles you mention. It also has a pirates rip off section, which made me gleeful, as it would be a while until pirates got re-released, and my mother had thrown away my atari (for shame!)

  7. kikito says:

    Mi favourite is MI2 still.

  8. Fergus says:

    I liked it back then, and I like it now.

    At least we can all agree that it’s better than Escape.

  9. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    This was the first MI I played as well, I got the treasure chest with all three in (before Escape) from PC World for £30, £5 off because the box had been left near water so the box was damaged. This means that any time I smell paper going rotten from damp, I remember the smell of the Curse manual, and I suddenly start hearing the steel drums in my head, the chatter of Murray the Demonic Skull, who will roll through the gates of hell…

    Having not played it since, there’s a very good chance of Rose-Tinted-Specs syndrome, but the cartoon graphics had more charm than any other MI game ever, the music was superb, the characters were funny; colour me heretical, but it was and still is my favourite.

  10. Rich says:

    I said it on the EG comments but I’ll also say it here. The ending of MI2 wasn’t exactly ignored, nor did it need to be to carry on with the series.

    At the end of MI2, when (little) Guybrush and his parents go off, “Chucky” looks at the camera, his hair starts waving, he laughs and his eyes flash. My conclusion: It Guybrush is under a spell and Chucky is LeChuck in disguise.

    Also, blood Island is my favourite location in any MI game. I also don’t get the sense that the use of cannibals is dated. This is a game about pirates after all.

    I do agree that lots of the puzzles are pretty obscure, and ending was weak. Actually I didn’t like whole bit in the theme park.

    MI4 is awful. This isn’t opinion, it’s well documented in many respected and peer reviewed sources. At this point, it’s pretty much regarded as a fundamental law, rather than simply a theory. The awfulness of the end battle in MI4 has been reproduced countless times, always awful, to the point that accurate predictions of its awfulness are easily made. Every time it’s played, it’s found to be awful. There may be minor variations in the degree of awfulness however, but this is normally a result of severe blows to the head of the player, which significantly reduces their ability to accurately evaluate awfulness.

    • Rick says:

      No, that’s opinion. The respected and peer reviewed sources mostly rated the game quite well, Eurogamer and PC Gamer, the two outlets that the RPS guys seem to write for quite a bit, included.

    • Rich says:

      Pah! Those particular journals have been widely discredited.

      Also, MI4 does suck and you ruined my joke. :(

  11. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Curse has always been the best.
    It introduced the voice of Guybrush as the voice. There is a reason they put him into the new games (Yay for more Dominic Arno)
    The style was a departure from the other games, who were slanting towards realism, but I find the tone they set to be much better.
    And they age flawlessly, which is to say they dont age.
    Better puzzles than the other games, I think. When ever i would solve one, I would feel that it made sense, not just random combining.

    And most importantly, insult sword fighting was the best in this one.
    You are as repulsive as a monkey in a neglee.

  12. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    2 > 3 > 1 > 4

    ’tis official.

    Always felt Curse was underrated. I really enjoyed it when I played it, and I played them in correct order too.

    • Rich says:

      Me too. MI4 was probably more of a disappointment for having played it in order though.

  13. chokoladenudlen says:

    El Pollo Diablo!

    • Rich says:

      ¡Sí! ¡He dejado en libertad los prisioneros y ahora vengo por ti!

    • chokoladenudlen says:

      0.o
      I think you just out-spanished me, sir…

    • Rick says:

      I can’t be the only one who gets southern fried chicken desires everytime I play the game and walk into that restaurant.

    • Rich says:

      My honour forbids me to claim such fluency in Spanish.
      However, my ability to search the MI Wiki for quotes knows no bounds.

  14. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    You were indeed wrong about Curse.

    As for Escape… In most respects, it is a fair outing in the saga of Guybrush Threepwood. I’d say there are two things that made people dislike it: the control scheme and Monkey Kombat. There’s a few odd narrative directions (SPOILER: e.g. Herman Toothrot = H.T. Marley), but nothing more bizarre than the other games, really.

    The control scheme is the same as Grim Fandango, with the improvement that you are told what it is that Guybrush’s eyes are glued to, so that’s no excuse (although still a major failing for both games). Monkey Kombat dominates the end of the game with all of the mechanics of insult swordfighting and none of the charm or humour; it is funny precisely once and then gets exceedingly tedious.

    • Rick says:

      There’s some real gems in the first 2/3s of EMI. Stuff like the Mysts of Tyme puzzle, the Church of LeChuck, the brilliant atmosphere between happy commercial Jambalya Island and pirate ghetto Knuttin Atoll. Not to mention Ozzie Mandrill, who is a strong character despite where the story goes.

    • Rich says:

      “Mysts of Tyme puzzle” unbelievably annoying.
      “Church of LeChuck” yeah that was good.

      “…commercial Jambalya Island” completely broke the illusion and atmosphere. Up to that point, especially in MI2, it was a real pirate fantasy with the odd parody. Jambalya Island was just too much parody, and made the whole thing too damn American.
      Also, MI4 replaced “hell”, as in the place, with “heck”. That may well have been a joke, but it just grated.

    • Rick says:

      If taken in isolation, Jambalya Island is too much of a parody, and I can certainly see where much of the criticism for that part of the game comes from. However, it works really well when combined with Knuttin Atoll. The point is the complete opposites in atmosphere, in the segregation, in the utopia vs the dystopia. They just didn’t quite reinforce that enough to make it apparent that was the point during the game.

    • Lilliput King says:

      What MI4 did wrong most of all was look like just the worst thing. There was no way that aesthetic could produce any of the atmosphere of the earlier games. It looked utterly abysmal from beginning to end.

    • Rich says:

      …and yet Grim Fandango pulled it off nicely. Probably because they never actually tried to model humans. Humans with skin I mean.

  15. ynamite says:

    Yup, wrong you were.

    In my humble opinion Curse was the best of the series. When I got it I immediately played through it together with my cousin in one sitting, we both loved MI1 and 2, and this is one of the very few games that had me laughing out loud a couple of times.

    I loved Dominic Armato’s voice, I loved the stellar art (don’t know how you couldn’t), the music was superbe, the puzzles challenging but never unfair and some of the most memorable characters to date. This and Day of the Tentacle and maybe Gabriel Knight 1 have to be my favorite adventures games, though there are a couple of other really good ones.

    One of my favorite lines of the game
    “What’s your name?”
    Guybrush “Vanghourderfasensen, Jethro Vanghourderfasensen”

    or

    Edward Van Helgen: “What! You shot my banjo! ”
    Guybrush: “You can’t be sure of that. That shot may have come from the grassy knoll. “

  16. Rick says:

    A pirate I was meant to be, trim the sails and roam the sea!

  17. JackShandy says:

    Curse was actually the first real game I ever played (Not counting a slew of educational “games”). Say what you will, but oh, I loved it. One of those games that can just capture your imagination, you know?

  18. mcwizardry says:

    Thanks for pointing out in the article that the town clock in MI3 actually shows the real-world (Windows) time. I never noticed that playing through the game.

  19. M says:

    no.

  20. Tom Camfield says:

    I was a bit confused, is it average now?

  21. Gnarl says:

    No hints at obscure puzzle solutions is a problem I’d level at MI2 way before I’d think of it in Curse. Playing the remake I can’t count the number of times I’d remember a solution to a problem, and then wonder how I was ever supposed to work that out. Or how I did work it out, in fact.

  22. zorba says:

    If the 3rd one was ‘rubbish’ then what about the 4th? worse, what about the telltale games? I mean..

    • DrGonzo says:

      Even though the art style and Guybrush’s voice is pretty awful in the Telltale games, I still think they are leagues ahead of Monkey Island 3. They at least feel somewhat like Monkey Island.

  23. Down Rodeo says:

    Curse is brilliant. I still really want to go back and play it, but it seems my sister might have given it away. If that’s true, well, there will be bood.

    Perhaps going back would ruin it somewhat – I’m not sure. I still think the puzzles and characters are brilliant, the insult swordfighting is genius.

    Hell, this is a game I used to play with my mum!

  24. ed says:

    I’ve always loved Curse. I loved the visual style (which, in contrast with your perception of it, I think is brimming with character – much more than the SE remakes of the first two games), the atmosphere, music (ESPECIALLY the music), characters, voice acting.. I even loved the puzzles. I was plenty stumped and spent a long time exploring possibilities and working through it, but that IS `90s adventure games. Playing in a patient and relaxed fashion is the only way to really soak in an adventure game and have a fulfilling experience anyway.

    Escape, however, I thought was comparatively horrible. I really liked aspects of it, but much of the plot (not to mention Monkey Kombat) seemed to trample all over any reality\seriousness (even darkness, at times) of the world and characters, which is what the humor is juxtaposed against in order to actually be funny (and at times poignant). Parts still had the monkey flavor, but I was left with a very soured impression overall. I do feel it’s time to revisit it, though. I haven’t played it since it came out.

    MI2 is still very much on top for me.

    • Rich says:

      ed has it. Also, I kind of forgot the darkness of MI (especially 1 and 2). MI1 had at least one hanging corpse, and MI2 had grave robbery. MI3 wasn’t so dark, but I still love Blood Island for its spooky melancholy.

  25. id says:

    I’m glad to see that you came to your senses, at long last!

  26. Jimmy Z says:

    I played it for the first time like 10 years after it had been released and I did it quite enjoy it and felt it was a genuine Monkey Island™ experience and a worthy successor to the previous two games. And I agree that even though MI1 has some great scenes and clever jokes in it, when you peel away all the retro glorifying, it just isn’t as concise as the latter two games (have never played MI4).

    And yeah, I had to crawl through MI3 with a walkthrough close at hand. I just don’t have the patience for pixel hunting and obscure nineties adventure game puzzles anymore.

  27. bill says:

    Get the old black and white Tarzan movie box set. It has more than enough quick sand to keep you going for a few years. And probably has a fair number of cannibals too.

    Plus it rocks

  28. bildo says:

    Some of the art in MI3 was dismissive? Please do elaborate sir. What was dismissive?

  29. DrGonzo says:

    I went to check recently too. But no it is shit. I can’t stand his voice. He’s just not Guybrush.

    • Rich says:

      Except that he is. Sorry, it’s your imagination that’s wrong.

  30. Sunjammer says:

    My favorite of the original trilogy. By miles. I think we disagree on some fundamentals of Monkey Island John; MI2 had a shit, shit ending, and MI3 had an ending. I’d take a bland ending over a shit, disappointing and heartbreaking one any day.

    The music is fantastic, the characters are wonderful, and it’s just a great world to inhabit. When I think Monkey Island, I think of MI3. Mixing syrup of ipecac inside of a giant snake never gets old. Also the returning balloon. Also the Goodsoup family. Also the ferryman and skull island.

    It’s filled with solid stuff and I couldn’t disagree with your negative point of view more.

  31. airtekh says:

    Oh man, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that JW mentions the exact same puzzle that drove me mental when I played COMI – the gum and the gold tooth one.

    I still love COMI though. It stands as one of the few games that have literally caused me to laugh out loud. Guybrush’s audition for the barbershop quartet, the pirate song puzzle and your ‘death’ on Blood Island are some of the memorable moments for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Yeah that puzzle was truly horrible. I remember looking up UHS hints for it and having to look at every single clue; that’s how bloody convoluted I found it.

  32. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    BUY FINE LEATHER JACKETS. All your fine leather jacket needs at fineleatherjackets.com, who needs ugg boots when you’ve got a fine leather jacket.

  33. Gassalasca says:

    Where I come from, 3 is considered by far the best one. So I’ve always been a bit of an iconoclast claiming that 1 and 2 are better.

  34. Kdansky says:

    Don’t make me nostalgia-punch you! Curse is far worse than 1 and 2! I am sure of this, despite remembering pretty much nothing at all of all four, except for the fact that 4 was horrible.

    Seriously though, I played them in 2,3,1,4 order, and I like them as 1,2,3,4. Was the first one really worse than the second?

  35. Joey says:

    Curse I remember as being my favorite. I played them in order, but I never finished 4 because I got so fed up with Monkey Kombat. I think I will give them all a whirl in order as I recently grabbed the remakes of the first 2 on steam. The gum puzzle was terrible, and I remember the snake puzzle blowing my mind when I finally figured it out. I often quote Curse as one of my top five games (I would quote the original trilogy as my favorite if people let me count it). I also named my dog Guybrush in honor of Mr. Threepwood. If I had to pick an order it would be 3, 2, 1, 4. Really need to finish 4 though.

  36. Twisted says:


    screw you, James!

    Also since we’re going to a dark place Piranha 2: The Spawning was the best one.

  37. Mitthrawn says:

    Yes! He has freed the prisoners and now he is here for us! No one had high school spanish?

    • Mitthrawn says:

      Stupid reply system- was meant for the line in spanish above.