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FRIDAY, JULY 25 2008
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Escape From Monkey Island - PS2

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GENRE : RPG 
PLAYERS :
PUBLISHER : LucasArts 
DEVELOPER : LucasArts 
ESRB : teen 
CREATED : 06/01/01 
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Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a zombie pirate's life for me!

Even the most casual reader of Game Revolution has observed our obsession with zombies, pirates, monkeys and beer. Where did it come from? Why are we so enamored with the undead? Is it the brains? Why is "Arrrr" our favorite word? Do we wear eyepatches? Why do we hire monkeys as slave labor instead of, say, children? And why beer instead of wine?

If you don't know the answers to these questions, you should go up to that little URL line in your browser and type in "disney.com" or something, because you're in the wrong place. If, however, you're a believer, if you relish the power of a zombie horde attacking a city, if you envy the drunken swagger of a pirate captain, if you think monkeys are just hysterical, and - most importantly - if you share our love of suds, then continue.

LucasArts' seminal Monkey Island series is perhaps the only in existence to consistently make references to zombies, pirates, monkeys AND beer without sounding like the plot of some twisted B-horror movie. So when Escape From Monkey Island for the PS2 made its way into the office, we were pretty excited. For the most part, this is a really solid port of a really solid PC game and should hopefully breathe new life into a genre rarely seen on a console system.

Some gamers will recognize Guybrush Threepwood as he stars in his fourth Monkey Island adventure. After finally burying arch-nemesis Pirate LeChuck underneath a mountain of ice in the Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush and his new bride Elaine roam about on their honeymoon. But when they return to their hometown of Melee Island, they discover that Elaine is dead, pirates are nowhere to be found, and an odd Australian is buying land like it's going out of style. From these auspicious beginnings emerges a grand adventure involving plenty of monkeys, lots of insults, kegs of grog and - if you're lucky - a former zombie or two.

A quick word about continuity. Seeing as how there have been three Monkey Island games before this one, and since this is a straight up port, those of you unfamiliar with the Monkey Island mythos might not get every nuance of a few jokes in the game. Still, LucasArts did a good job trying to keep the 'insider' bits funny to those unaware of the history.

Escape is a traditional adventure game. You roam about collecting items and talking to the bizarre inhabitants, all while solving puzzles and uncovering more of the story. It doesn't add much new to the adventure genre landscape. Instead, it serves as a reminder that genres are only dead when they're not fun anymore. If Escape is any indication, the adventure genre will be around for a long time.

The first impression you'll get is from the graphics, which are top-notch. The characters are 3D and fully polygonal, set against gorgeous cartoony backdrops. The style is really well developed and is consistent throughout the whole game.

Oddly, the control actually takes a leap forward via the Dual Shock. Movement is handled nicely with the analog stick, leaving the other buttons for action and inventory control.

Monkey Island is known for its humor, and Escape doesn't let down. The voice acting is superb and the dialogue is witty. Couple that with a ridiculous story and you're guaranteed to at one point or another actually laugh out loud. Like the time when.... er...guess I'll be giving stuff away....crap. Stupid adventure game reviews!

The game is chock full of puzzles, which range from incredibly clever and fun to incredibly obtuse and frustrating. This is hardly a surprise, but casual fans might go crazy when having to resort to a walkthrough only to find that the answer was absolutely impossible for all but the most demented mind. These moments of frustration, however, are balanced by some of the best puzzles in town. One incorporates a twist on time travel that might be the coolest puzzle in the entire Monkey Island series.

A few problems mar the experience a bit. Sound localizing didn't go very smoothly, and occasionally a line of two comes out sounding tinny rather than robust. It almost sounds like it suddenly switches from stereo to mono for a line, then works fine again. Very weird.

The loading times are also a bit excessive, particularly when trying to bring up the inventory screen. Nothing heinous, but certainly worth mentioning.

The game froze up on me once, which can spell disaster for an adventure gamer. Luckily it was in an unimportant location and chances are most gamers won't come across it, but if you intend on playing, remember the adventurer's credo of "save early, save often." And if it gets stuck, DO NOT save! Still, someone should punch the testers...

But for the most part, this is a very smooth translation of an excellent adventure game and should definitely be checked out by fans of the genre or even the curious. Plus it's got zombies, pirates, monkeys and beer. What's not to like? In a world where good old storytelling too often takes a backseat to flashy new technology, this is a great escape.

 
B+
+  Pirates! Monkeys! Ex-Zombie Pirates!
+  Great look
+  Challenging and funny
-  Minor sound problems
-  Load times
 
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