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Adventure 101: Revisiting Monkey Island, part one
by Jacques Hulme
6.4.11

Adventure 101 is a short serial column written by Jacques Hulme, which looks back, forward, left and right at the adventure titles which have shaped the genre into what it is today.

There are no two ways about it: the adventure games genre has taken a sharp dip in recent years. It still boasts a large cult following, and recent re-releases of some of the best titles from golden times gone by are promising signs for the future of the adventure genre. While we wait for adventure's jubilant return, let us look at some of my favourites and question what the future holds for this exciting, enthralling genre.

In Part 1 of Adventure 101, we focus on perhaps the best known series in the adventure library, Monkey Island.

Perhaps it's because it was my first introduction into the genre that I hold LucasArts' Monkey Island series in such high regard, or perhaps instead the list of unforgettable characters, or even the never-ending rollercoaster of gags. The Secret of Monkey Island was not LucasArts' first outing into adventure games, as only a few months earlier they released LOOM, to rather positive critical and public reception. It was the success of the original Monkey Island, however, that solidified LucasArts' standing in the genre, and that established the graphical layout for most future titles, not only in LucasArts games, but also those other those of companies as well.


The success of the original was based upon the collection of many great ideas, chief among them the creation of the ever-mighty pirate, Guybrush Threepwood, a name coined from naming the original sprite 'guy' and saving it with the ending 'brush', to indicate that it was a sprite. As players from any of the games will know, the accidental name plays a large role in the development of the character himself. Whenever encountering friend or foe, Guybrush repeatedly refers to himself as a 'mighty pirate', a statement which became unanimous with the series. It also helped that the many words which rhymed with 'Guybrush Threepwood' were used by his companions, who regularly called him 'Creepwood' or 'Gorbrush'. This unintentional - and, more often than not, entirely intentional - mispronunciation of the lead character's name is a prime example of how important witty and well-thought writing is in gaming.

The pirate from Secret of Monkey Island founded a basis for a character with blond, wavy hair complemented by a white shirt and black trousers. Over the next four titles, Guybrush experiences several changes, but deep connections to his original outfit can always be seen.


Certainly, it was not just Guybrush's looks which allowed him to take his place in video game history. Brilliant writing from Tim Schaffer helped the situation; alongside Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, Schaffer wrote the script for the first title, as well as the sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (which, again, received great critical appreciation). The high quality of writing - a key component of an adventure game - is often difficult to find, but with Schaffer at the helm, LucasArts had some real talent as the driving force behind what would become a legend of the genre.

The humourous diversity found throughout Secret of Monkey Island was influenced by the ideas of some of the top comedians throughout history. Comparisons can be drawn to the slapstick behaviour of Chaplin; and the ability to scramble from certain death that Guybrush has is reminiscent of Groucho Marx, as is the quick-witted game of insult sword-fighting. In short, the highly precise art of comedy goes hand-in-hand with Monkey Island.

In Part Two of Adventure 101, we'll look at the progression of the Monkey Island series, so stayed tuned and check back at Gamer's Guide to Life.com to ensure you don't miss it.

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- Jacques Hulme

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