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E3 2009: The Secret of Monkey Island SE and Tales of Monkey Island Impressions


One of the biggest surprise announcements to come before the launch of this year's E3 was that LucasArts would be returning to its classic Monkey Island adventure game franchise. The first step towards bringing the beloved series back is through The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, which is a remake of the first game using updated graphics and voice acting. Also, an episodic series called Tales of Monkey Island, developed by TellTale Games, will begin in July, bringing in new stories starring Guybrush Threepwood.


The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition is a wish come true for both classic adventure gamers and people who always wondered why people have such fond memories of the game. The Special Edition brings Monkey Island into the 21st Century with all fully redrawn characters and hand painted backgrounds. However, it plays almost identically to the original Secret of Monkey Island. In fact, the original game operates in the background the whole time. The updated graphics are literally overlaid on top of the 16-bit SCUMM engine game. Players can press a button at any time to switch between the revised graphics mode and the original to see just how striking the differences are. That's not to say graphics are the only things to get a boost by the Special Edition. The original music score has been rerecorded along with the sound effects. Actual voice acting will take the place of text, including Dominic Armato reprising his role as Guybrush. There is also a new hint system to keep new players from getting hopelessly stuck on puzzles. Pressing a button provides a basic hint for what to do next and there are three layers to it, with the final phase being something like a large arrow pointing to exactly where you need to go. Veteran players also have something to look forward to, since the Special Edition will include some content that was cut out of the original game. At the presentation, we were shown a close up of a dog chewing a bone, which was artwork that was shown on the back of the original game box but was removed from the game for the sake of conserving memory to fit on floppy disks.

It is unknown at this point if whether or not all the Monkey Island games will be receiving the updates. Motivation for creating special editions for the other games depends largely on how well this game sells. Although the game will be sold through the Xbox Live Marketplace, LucasArts hasn't quite settled on a PC distribution plan yet. However, Steam has been discussed as a strong possibility. The price will most likely be around 10-15 dollars, and it should release around the same time Tales of Monkey Island starts.


Once players have gotten back into the Monkey Island mentality with the Special Edition, they'll be primed for the 5-part episodic series, Tales of Monkey Island. Of course, no development studio is better suited for creating new Monkey Island stories than Telltale Games, which has made a name for itself with episodic adventures like the Sam & Max series. The development team also happens to include designers and writers that worked on the original games. Tales of Monkey Island includes completely new adventures for the now famous pirate, Guybrush Threepwood. New characters will be introduced, so even players that have never played the Monkey Island series can jump in and enjoy. The plot takes place a few years after the last game ends and centers on a pox that Guybrush unwittingly unleashes, which converts the locals into monsters. At the same time, Guybrush's hand becomes possessed with the pox of LeChuck, but we weren't shown what kind of trouble it causes. Graphics are built from the ground up using 3D graphics, so Tales of Monkey Island has a very recognizable look. Dominic Armato continues to voice Guybrush and the music is composed by Michael Land, the same person who did the music for the original games.

Players can look forward to plenty of adventure puzzles to solve, ones that involve replacements - something the Monkey Island series practically specialized in - where Guybrush would lose or break and object and have to seek out a suitable replacement. Item combinations will also be required to piece together puzzle solutions. Then there are the important factors, like whether or not there's a three-headed monkey. Players will have to find out for themselves when the first episode releases on July 7. That's just a few weeks away, so fans won't have to wait long to see if their wit is still as sharp as their swords.

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