Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991)

After tasting the succulence that is The Secret of Monkey Island, savoring of its sweet adventure gaming goodness and sighing with a great sense of satisfaction upon completion, the turn comes. Like the late night after a fantastic Mexican dinner, a great disturbance in the force; There is another: Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge or, as I like to call it, revenge of the beef fajitas, refried beans and fried rice.

The trappings that surround Monkey Island 2 emit a foul, repulsive stench sure to attract the finest dung beetles. The video game is built around a contrived set of bookends that become even more contrived by the time the credits roll. They serve little purpose, help in no way to inform the core narrative of the game and squander the chance to write something truly compelling and clever.

In lieu of the humorous jabs and offbeat humor of the original game, the film stuffs itself full of unnecessary and ridiculously contrived pop culture references. Yes, much like Fallout 2, it seems like the writers couldn’t bother to write their own jokes and just took out of context other lines. This is even more self-serving when it becomes clear that the references are to other LucasArts titles, mainly the Indiana Jones and Star Wars games.

Now, giving the developers the benefit of the doubt, this could have been an attempt at a meta adventure game, informing itself by pandering to the audience’s geekdom. However, it lacks a consistent amount of aware parody. Sure, there are a few jabs at adventure games and a funny moment that involves a telephone call, but on the whole, there’s nothing clever unifying or informing these unnecessary references and most of them simply aren’t funny.

The puzzles, one of the pillars of the adventure game genre, are unnecessarily obtuse. Objectives are unclear, goals are ambiguous and while the open nature of the game seems like it might encourage players to try another puzzle once they get stuck elsewhere, in practice, it just makes few key items needed to progress even harder to find, let alone figure out what they are.

This is because there are  too many damn inventory items. Yes, yes, inventory items are a big part of adventure games, but when there is an excess of 50 items in one’s inventory and one has no idea where to use any of them, it becomes clear that the developers made the game harder by throwing too much at the player instead of developing clever, engaging puzzles.

The video game medium is often known for reiterating on the original game and crafting better and better installments. Such is not the case with Monkey Island 2 the writing and design are a large step down. However, the graphics look better and the sound is more impressive, but it’s not groundbreaking improvement. The image quality is still around the same and the music will still sound archaic to modern gamers (although, I enjoy the charming quality it has).r

In some ways Monkey Island 2 is a natural progression from the original. The Secret of Monkey Island existed in a world where everything made sense in an absurd way. Monkey Island 2 pushes the absurdity and lands into the realm of nonsense. It had the potential to be a cool, postmodern statement on art pulled from cultural references but instead it’s a mediocre story wrapped around unfunny jokes and obtuse gameplay.

© 2011 James Blake Ewing