Have You Played… The Curse Of Monkey Island?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

“It’s important to admit when you’re wrong,” wrote John when he revisited The Curse of Monkey Island years after release only to realise it was better than he’d remembered. It’s also important to shout about when you’re right, though: I always liked the third Monkey Island game.

It’s got more jokes than the previous two games and though there’s nothing as memorable as the famous moments in the second, it’s much better than the first. The puzzles are fine, as they always were. Dominic Armato’s voice for Guybrush Threepwood is perfect. Bill Tiller’s art, which renders the world as a cartoon with lush, painted backdrops rather than pixel art, is gorgeous.

The only thing I don’t like about it is what it did to Elaine Marley, Guybrush’s long-suffering love interest. The first two games sometimes give you cause to save her, but reveal either immediately or in the long-run that she’s much more capable of saving herself than Guybrush is. The Curse of Monkey Island meanwhile turns her into a gold statue for much of the game, making her a genuine damsel.

Sure, I’d also like to see Ron Gilbert get to make his third Monkey Island game, and to reveal the ending he had in mind after the strange twist at the end of Monkey Island 2. But whether that ever happens or not, Monkey Island 3 remains a fine adventure game.

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39 Comments

  1. RedViv says:

    It’s an odd one for me. I really find it nice, even though I can always pinpoint exactly where it stops being As Funny As Before – right in the scene after We’ll surely avoid scurvy if we all eat an orange.

    • MajorLag says:

      Yeah, that’s true, but that’s also the scene that convinces me any movie adaptation of the series *must* be a musical.

  2. tikey says:

    I’d say that between Murray, El Pollo Diablo and the banjo duel it’s got it fair share of memorable moments.

  3. Det. Bullock says:

    It’s my first Monkey Island and my favourite one, the ending is rushed but I love the cartoon graphics and the humour to bits.

  4. Pazguato says:

    “Curse” was completely contradictory with the previous games (which blatantly copied) in a bad way. Just one exemple: Governor Marley went from a strong female character in I and II to the typical silly woman usually portrayed in games worried for her hairstyle (and that’s just in the game intro!). About the art, the cartoonesque style emphasized too much the parody and, consequently, did not work as well as the (superior) more realistic art by Steve Purcell and Peter Chan, which was still comic but moody and serious when was required too.

    To summon up: The Curse Of Monkey Island is not canon. Just a derivative pastiche that betrayed the magic of the first two.

    • Pazguato says:

      “summon up” XD

    • vorador says:

      I wish Disney would sell/or license the IP to Ron Gilbert so he can finally make his true sequel.

      Curse was a fine game, but not a fine Monkey Island. They changed so much between the second game and this one that it felt completely unrelated.

    • Porkolt says:

      What are you talking about? Elaine was totally badass in this game. The line ‘I’m washing my hair tonight’ is a colloquialism she uses for telling an undead zombie pirate that she doesn’t want to date him (which is followed by three similar jokes), and she delivers it while one-manning the battery of her gubernatorial fort which has been half blown to bits. Seconds later she saves Guybrush by shooting LeChuck’s sword out of his hand from a great distance. And the only reason she ever needs saving in this game is because Guybrush blundered into giving her a cursed ring which turns her into a statue a mere split second before she’s about to punch him in the face. When captured by LeChuck in the finale she escapes from his clutches without Guybrush’s help, and she then sabotages the rollercoaster allowing Guybrush to kill LeChuck. So your prime example is bs.

      As for the art, of course it was going to look different, pixel art was a thing of the past. And the art styles between 1 and 2 were also ragingly different for much the same reason: new technologies made different art styles possible. A similar art style was adopted by most late 90’s adventure games, take a look at DOTT, Sam & Max, Full Throttle, and notice each makes a step further away from the first two games and towards a style similar to Curse.

  5. Hyena Grin says:

    I adored Curse. I remember it came on a batch of brightly colored discs. Aside from my dad, I think my entire family played it and loved it, even my mother who had never played a video game in her life up to that point.

    I admit that in my youth at the time I didn’t think much of the treatment of Marley, but in retrospect that was probably a step back. I will point out that I suspect that Marley’s competence in previous titles was probably more emphasized to deliberately emasculate Guybrush. That was the joke, and I don’t think that’s a huge amount better as far as intent goes. But it’s still moderately better than turning her into a genuine damsel in distress.

    Anyway, I have a lot of fond memories for the game, and because of the cartoony style it surprisingly still holds up today, from what I can tell. And that’s pretty awesome.

    It’s no Longest Journey, and it’s no Grim Fandango, but it was a solid, funny game. I still remember the vegetarian cannibals, gosh that was funny.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      I’ve still got those discs. This was the first Monkey Island game I played, and as such, is canon for me. Fourth one didn’t have enough Murray.

      • meatyface says:

        Not sure if just my memory but I remember those discs being scented? Kinda fruity smell. Do I remember that correctly?

  6. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    It’s a shame it’s impossible to find for purchase anywhere. Hopefully GOG or someone will remedy that. Maybe even for MI4 too?

    Along those lines, the Monkey Island 1 & 2 special editions are still completely broken (insta-crash) on Windows 10, going on a full year or so.

  7. Laurentius says:

    It’s my probably favourite adventure game of all time bar Indy and Fate of Atlantis. Graphics is sweet, humor is excellent and puzzles are logical and fun. It has so many memorable moments that I don’t even… Murray, rhyming combat, pirate song, smugglers cavern etc. Fantastic game, the mbst Moneky Island game hands down.

  8. TauPhraim says:

    The first game I bought on PC ! Coming from an Atari ST and knowing the previous episodes, this was magical.

    As a bonus, it included a strange ad for a strange game named Grim Fandango …

  9. tomimt says:

    The Curse of Monkey Island has always been my favourite in the series and as far old adventure games go, I do think it managed to reach a certain pinnacle of what comes to art, animation, UI and overall gameplay. It’s a game I’d hope more modern adventure game designers would take cues from.

  10. Yachmenev says:

    It’s a fine game, one that I enjoyed, and it was a thrill to revisit the series after a few years.

    But it really isn’t as good as the first games. It was funny, really funny, but not as well designed. It wasn’t as inventive as the puzzle design in the first two, didn’t have nearly as coherent graphical design, and it felt a bit odd as a continuation. I actually thought that Telltales Tales of Monkey Island did a better job of moving the story forwards (although that game/season of course had several problems of it’s own).

    But as said, it was enjoyable, and miles better then Escape from Monkey Island.

    • Konservenknilch says:

      EMI is underrated IMO (heh). The art style and interface were wretched, which is of course death for a graphical adventure game. But it got the tone right, Guybrush for example felt much more in character again. The Puzzles were surprisingly decent as well, think of the homunculus or the time swamp. Music, this time mostly by Clint Bajakian, was awesome.

      If it weren’t so ugly and clumsy though. Sigh.

  11. icarussc says:

    Curse was the best Monkey Island game. *The best.*

  12. Turkey says:

    I think the gorgeous animated style is why it’s not as funny to me as the two first games. It makes the game feel like it’s wacky all the time, so it’s not as surprising when the game takes a left turn into crazyville.

    Still a great game, though.

  13. Konservenknilch says:

    It’s a great game, but I always thought it to be something of a misstep in the franchise. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the character art is kinda meh, the music is fine as always. But where it lost me was the characters, especially Guybrush. He was always a lying, cheating, stealing asshole, and this game turned him too much into the “doofus good guy”. The TellTale version then got him really right again. As mentioned above, the whole love story felt tacked on. Elaine and Guybrush were done in MI2, no further romance needed.

    Also, quite annoying how it ignored MI2s ending – and it’s not all that mysterious either. Gilbert cites Tim Powers’ “On Stranger Tides” as a big influence, and the ending is pretty much spelled out there. Could have stuck with that.

    • Aninhumer says:

      This thread has really highlighted to me that people seem to enjoy, and thus expect, very different things from the series, and judge each game accordingly. Probably the greatest contrast is between MI2 and MI3 with some people liking the darkness and depth of the former, and others liking the playful charm of MI3.

      Perhaps it’s because I played the games approximately in parallel after getting a box set (starting the next game when I got stuck), but I’ve always thought of guybrush as a “doofus good guy”, and find the idea of him being a “cheating stealing asshole” confusing. But then I also found MI2 dreary, and only completed it for completion’s sake, so I probably didn’t absorb most of it into my headcanon.

      I thought the Telltale stuff wasn’t that good, and blamed it on their style of humour not fitting the series, but I’m now starting to think it was just created by people who had different ideas of what MI was.

      For me (and apparently others in this thread) Curse was the pinnacle of what I expected Monkey Island to be, but clearly other people wanted something else.

      • vorador says:

        In the first game, Guybrush was a doofus that wanted to be a pirate. A well meaning young man, inexperienced, and easy to take advantage of.
        In the second game, Guybrush had wised up. He was older and learned to take advantage of others, and to take revenge on those who wronged him. He became a true pirate, or something :-P

        In Curse, he turned back into what he was in the first game. Also, the relationship with Elaine became a simple proposition, instead of their far more complicated relationship in the second game.

    • vorador says:

      It’s one of my gripes, that they basically “reset” him to Monkey Island 1 Guybrush, when he was just a naive kid that wanted to become a pirate, all of his character development was lost. Also, the relationship with Elaine, was completely different from previous games. In the first game, he liked her, and that was it. She wasn’t interested. In the sequel, it seems that in-between they tried it out and it didn’t work out. He still likes her, but she is done with him. Or at least, she tries to make it look that way.

      All those nuances where lost in Curse. He saves the girl, marries her. Paper-thin plot development.

  14. DevilishEggs says:

    I just did some quick mobygames research on the individual developers involved, and they seem like newer lucasarts (the dig, full throttle) folks, except for Jonathan Ackley, who did programming on sam & max and DOTT.

    This is the only game in my long career of PC gaming that my parents ever remarked positively on. “Well that looks better than the other ones.” (Although there was the one time my mom was intrigued by Zork I for about 15 seconds and wanted to know what the objective was.) Generally, now, I don’t think I could judge this game outside of the rosy glow of nostalgia.

  15. WJonathan says:

    That screencap makes it appear that Threepwood is about to attack Wolverine-style.

  16. Shazbut says:

    “it’s much better than the first”

    WHAT?

    WHAT?

    edit: – WHAT?

  17. Dynamique says:

    Oh… Childhood memories. :-) Loved the graphics, (German) voiceover and Murray back in the days.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    It’s a fantastic game. The golden tooth puzzle is <3

  19. nanotechnics says:

    I played it back in the 90s, one of the my favorite games ever.

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