E3 2010: The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
Video games have been around a long time. It’s not something we’re normally conscious of in this frenetic industry, where today’s bestselling title is a tenner in the bargain bin tomorrow, and everyone is relentlessly focused on the newest game, the next big tech, but occasionally something happens to make you realise that this isn’t a new medium by a long stretch – and the relaunch of Monkey Island 2 is one of these.
The last few years have seen a large number of the greatest titles of yesteryear dug up and resurrected, through straight ports, remakes, “homages” which are usually anything but, or re-masterings; this last category being the one into which Monkey Island 2 falls. I won’t bother to discuss the gameplay or storyline, since it should be familiar to you (and if not there are a ton of resources which can fill you in). Instead, allow me to introduce on what is by far the best treatment of a classic title I’ve ever seen.
To start with, the graphics and controls have been overhauled, and the text dialogue replaced with proper speech. The original MIDI soundtrack has been recreated through proper recorded audio, and the overall package seems far removed from the original. So far so usual, but what sets Monkey Island 2 apart is an unusual trick the developer called “switching”. This is the ability to jump from the smooth HD graphics back to the original pixellated look of the game, at will and at any time. Not only that, but you can easily switch to the original point’n'click controls, the original MIDI music, and replace the voice acting with just on-screen text. What this means is that you can choose to play the game exactly as it was in the original, or in its completely new and updated form, or in any combination of features in between. They’ve also made a couple of other changes to the gameplay that again you don’t have to use; one is a button-press that highlights items that can be interacted with, the other a three-tier system of hints that can be accessed by the impatient or unsure player.
On top of all this, there is a developer commentary from Ron Gilbert, Tim Schaffer and Dave Grossman, recorded recently at LucasArts and “the first time the three of them had looked at Monkey Island together in 15 years”, according to the developer. The brief snippet we heard suggests this will be lighter in tone and rather more interesting than more developer commentary (though proof of this will have to wait till release day) and they reminisce and discuss over some interesting material that didn’t make it into the final game. They’ve also added an amazing archive of never before seen concept art that is unlocked gradually as you play, and these high-res scans show something fascinating: the game’s new HD graphics are true to the original artist’s vision from 1992, far more so than the pixellated original could ever hope to be, however carefully it was done. The developer told us this was intentional, and that the first few weeks of the project had been spent tracking down any and all materials relating to the original development, to try and bring the characters to life in a way that hadn’t been possible before, but to bring them to life in the way that the original developers would have done if the technology had been capable.
This is so much more than a remake then, this is the ultimate fan-service, a respectful and authentic homage made by people who love and understand the original game. Other developers working on re-releases should take note; this is the best – and only – way to do it.
Article supplied by the XCN.