Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/08/00 | Genre: Adventure
I'm always glad to see something a little different come to the PS2. Humorous games often find their way to the PC. However, my PC's processor is a Rodent 250, fueled by the colossal kinetic energy of a mouse running on a wheel chasing a stationary, dangling hunk of cheese. Also, this Gateway technological monstrosity crashes any time a cold draft of wind blows into my room. My affection for monkeys caused me to rent this game, despite some reservations regarding its cartoonish appearance. I was pleased with my rental and got plenty of laughs.
Sadly, I've never had the opportunity to play any of the previous Escape From Monkey Island games. The basic premise for the game centers on the lead character that the player controls, Guybrush Threepwood, self-proclaimed mighty pirate. He and his wife Elaine, pirate princess and governor of Melee Island, return home from their honeymoon to find that someone is attempting to demolish their mansion and take over the power of governor. Guybrush must then begin his quest to make the world safe for pirates again. I don't want to tell you any more about the story, but I assure you, it's funny. Gags from famous stories or movies, impressions, and as much social satire as a Calvin and Hobbes collection make up for a comic ensemble that had me laughing out loud.
The gameplay itself centers on solving series of puzzles, generally through item usage (think King's Quest games or Shadowgate for the NES), and gathering information through ever-amusing dialogue with a variety of NPCs. The solutions to the puzzles are generally absurd, yet logical, if that paradox makes any sense. A duck can be used as an implement of terror, prosthetic skin as a trampoline, and an accordion as an anti-amnesia device. As crazy as all these methods sound, they actually make sense once you know the story around them.
In terms of graphics, well, realism isn't stressed in a cartoonish atmosphere. Characters have disproportional body parts. They were designed to be that way, and it's difficult to criticize them. The tropical settings are pretty, with a lavish color scheme. Some more exaggerated facial expressions on the NPCs might have added to the humor a little bit.
Where EFMI really excels is in its voice acting and music. A variety of professional cartoon voice actors and actresses lend their skills to the game. I recognized a guy who did the voice of one of the ghosts in the Casper movie, as well as one who sounded a good deal like Snidely Whiplash, of the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons. I'm sure there are others, but I couldn't put a finger on them. The dialogue in the game is superb, to say the least. Also, the festive island music perfectly complements the carefree nature of Guybrush and tropical settings in the game.
The controls are fairly simple and easy to use, especially since the game is much more cerebral than reflexive. Character movement is done with the left analog stick on a set screen, with the camera angle only shifting when the character moves out of view. The four primary buttons serve as your look/use/pick-up item buttons, and the triggers control your inventory. Lines of dialogue can be skipped with the L1 when you're in a hurry, or when you're forced to repeat dialogue.
The game isn't faultless, however. It's too short. I completed the game in a little less than twenty hours, and since EFMI is very linear story-wise, it doesn't have a whole lot of replay value. While a great game, a fifty-dollar price tag might be a little steep for a game you can beat in a five-day rental period. Well, a game I can beat in that rental period, anyway. When I'm not working, I either play video games or avoid sobriety like it's a Backstreet Boys song. And sometimes I combine the two, and end up playing Starcraft at 3 A.M., building my pylons so that they spell the word �GAY� and building an arrow pointing towards my partner's base. But I digress.
To conclude, Escape From Monkey Island is a riot of a puzzle game. It might not push the graphical envelope, but the sounds are wonderful and the gameplay is nothing if not entertaining. The big question for the consumer is whether or not they will get their money's worth in gameplay time if they purchase instead of renting. I'll leave that subjective question to you, dear readers. But allow me to give EFMI one final plug, and I'll sum it up in three words: GIANT MONKEY ROBOT. Play the game.