So the iPad is finally here in New Zealand, and with it comes a whole host of games that claim to fully utilise this new device. But for me, no genre could be a better fit for Apple’s latest wonder machine than the humble adventure game. Combining a beautifully clear screen and excellent touch controls with stories and puzzle solving just seems like a damn good idea.
Thankfully, Monkey Island 2: Special Edition proves my theory right: it’s nearly the perfect example of how to do an adventure game well on this system.
Were you old enough to play the Monkey Island series back in the early 90s? If you never played these games, you missed out on some of the funniest dialogue and brain-taxing puzzles in the industry. Not many games “do” comedy (not well, anyway) but Monkey Island makes it look effortless. You follow the exploits of the excellently-named Guybrush Threepwood, a hapless wannabe pirate with a penchant for pissing off the ghost/zombie pirate LeChuck. Like many (all?) adventure games, you’ll move between multiple islands in the Caribbean, solving puzzles and interacting with a great cast of supporting characters along the way.
LucasArts has recently remembered that they used to be known for more than just Star Wars games, and provided the original Monkey Island with a lick of HD paint and voiceover work. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but there were certainly some flaws. Don’t, for example, play it on the iPhone — the control scheme is just awful, requiring you to drag a cursor around in a very unintuitive way. Why can’t I just tap and have Guybrush walk there?
Happily, any such complaints have been taken on board for the re-engineering of the sequel. The interface on the iPad works very well for the most part, giving you direct control when you want it, and allowing you to interact with objects in just as full a manner as the PC or console versions. Holding down two fingers will highlight objects you can interact with, a three-fingered touch will bring up a variety of hints, and a row of buttons along the bottom control all the possible ways you can manipulate things on the screen.
A two-fingered swipe will transition the game between new shiny graphics and old pixel graphics. It’s nice being able to do this at any time, if only to see what scenes used to look like. Of course, old-school fans will get the most out of this, but it’s nice to check out regardless of your nostalgia levels.
This time around, there’s also the occasional piece of audio commentary by the three main funny guys responsible for Monkey Island 1 & 2. Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman are entertaining to listen to, and while it would have been nice to be able to pause the action while hearing them, it’s a very nice addition to the package.
The HD graphics are also much improved in their art style when compared to the first remake. And unlike that game, LucasArts has included in-between frames for most animations, which certainly makes Guybrush’s walking animation a lot easier on the eyes. All in all, it’s a visual feast, and while some effects found on the PC and console versions (like the very pretty water) are missing from the iPad port, it’s still pretty faithful.
The sound is also top-notch. The re-recorded music is fantastic, although the iMuse audio system appears to be missing, which is a shame. Still, as Tim Schafer points out in the commentary, not many people noticed it in the first place. The voice cast, who have largely remained the same since Curse of Monkey Island, make their return here, and do a very good job, particularly in the case of Dominic Armato and his take on Guybrush.
So do you have an iPad? Looking to get one? And do you like games with great stories? Then grab Monkey Island 2 as soon as you can, because it’s one of the best games available for the system. Don’t bother with anything else — just sit back, relax, and keep an eye out for three-headed monkeys.