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EG Retro: Escape From Monkey Island

Le Chuck's beard has never looked finer.

I’ve had enough of the downright prejudice against Escape From Monkey Island. When I originally reviewed it for PC Gamer in 2000, I recognised what a superb adventure game it was. And replaying it eleven years later, it remains every bit as funny, clever and well constructed. Yes, Monkey Kombat sucks beyond belief and was a stupid mistake. Yes, the camera was often poor. But the adventure game it’s all in? Well, in my Eurogamer retro, I say this:

“The humour is just wonderful. It’s certainly a damned sight funnier than the first and third games in the series, making me laugh out loud a remarkable number of times. It’s a game that understands the basics, such as: ducks are funny animals. And the complicated, like… okay – there’s nothing complicated. But there’s a lot that’s clever.”

I say “prejudice” for a reason. The reaction against EFMI smacks of it. I’ll cite the ludicrous claims that the revelations about Herman Toothrot have “ruined” the series. As if the Monkey Island games were pivoting around a bearded man with no memory. Rather, his was a lovely story, told in reverse as you unpick his memory until the eventual reveal. A lovely reveal that frees Elaine and Guybrush to continue going on adventures. Otherwise, regular characters play their regular roles, Le Chuck is lovingly celebrated as he switches between his three previous guises, the plot of Monkey 3 is rightly teased, and the relationship between Guybrush and Elaine is well presented for the first time ever. She is neither a nagging fishwife nor a useless damsel, but rather a funny, loving woman who is obviously smarter and more competent than her husband.

I’m rather bemused by those who rage that the game’s plot damaged the previous solemn fiction of this most important of universes, as if the the giant monkey head on Monkey Island was still being worshipped by some players (one EG commenter describes them as “sacred icons”, in case I’m accused of exaggeration), and the reveal of its purpose in Escape was a heresy such that fatwas must be issued. And I’ll admit to being downright smugly amused at all those who rail against the story’s inclusion of Starbuccaneers, the Lua Bar and Planet Threepwood as being examples of their pirate-n-voodoo world being ruined by these modern concepts. Ur.

It’s madness that people so passionately hate this game. It’s a great LucasArts adventure, and to deliberately reject one based on some inherited or imagined prejudices is ludicrous. As I argue at length, here.

SO THERE.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founding robots of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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