I’ll admit it – I’ve been spoiled lately on the iOS point & click adventure front. My most recent reviews were both outstanding games: The Secret of Monkey Island and Hector: Badge of Carnage. I’ve loved the Monkey Island games for as long as I can remember (which has got to be at least a month), so when I saw Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on sale for Talk Like a Pirate Day, it was an easy purchasing decision. In the week since then, I’ve played the game from start to finish, and I’m starting to think that I hadn’t played this entry in the series before, because in my opinion, it really doesn’t hold up to its siblings.
Monkey Island 2 starts up some time after the events of The Secret of Monkey Island. Although having played that game will help you catch certain references, it’s not an absolute necessity: you’ll get recaps, and at least one character has a dialogue option of “don’t I know you from somewhere?” Between the games, our hero Guybrush has been dumped by the love of his life, Governor Elaine Marley. She has moved to another island, and he has begun to search for the legendary treasure of Big Whoop.
Obviously, it wouldn’t be much of a game if the treasure was easy to find. In fact, as the game progresses, Guybrush finds that he will have to search out four map pieces just to know where he should look for Big Whoop. Sadly, the path to finding those map pieces is much more convoluted than it needs to be, and it’s filled with more red herrings than a fish market. Under what circumstances was it logical for me to think that I could open a lighthouse model? How could I have possibly known that I should combine the blue and yellow drinks to make me spit farther and win the contest? Why was I even competing in the contest anyway, except “because it was there?” Why are there peg legs everywhere that I can try for, but can never quite get my hands on? I don’t know – turns out that I never needed one! How could I have possibly guessed that the way to the right trap door was to open the window and use the telescope with the statue? That doesn’t even make sense! I’m a genre veteran, and still I gave up and consulted a walkthrough and the in-game hints system several times.
One last gripe before I move on to some nice things: I haven’t been this disappointed in a game’s ending in a long time. The entire end sequence is made frustrating by a timed puzzle that doesn’t work well with the game’s control scheme, although it is definitely not impossible. And then the final scene… all I can say without making spoilers is “argh.” Still, I have to admit that a few of the lines made me laugh, and since LucasArts owns the rights to other properties, they were able to make jokes about Indiana Jones and the like without having to “disguise” what they were referring to, which was nice.
Puzzle and ending issues aside, this game both looks and sounds great. As with the series’ first outing on the iOS, a swipe of two fingers down the screen switches between the original graphics and music and the newer, Special Edition versions. The game did not originally feature voice acting, but the Special Edition added it, and it’s extremely well done. Interestingly, the updated graphics aren’t done in the same style as they were in the first game, but the new style is awesome. That’s no slam on the originals, though, because the source material there was pretty great to begin with. I switched to the original version on more than one occasion just because I could. Both versions of the music are great as well, and that’s saying something. How many games get the music right twice? Kudos to the team that built the special editions of both Monkey Islands 1 and 2, because they really knocked it out of the park in both games.
Unlike the first iOS Monkey island, you have a choice when it comes to controls in Monkey Island 2. You can control by direct touch, where you poke the items you want to use, or by using a virtual mouse, as in the first game. Both methods work well – I played roughly half of the game with each – but if you played the first game on the iOS, it’s worth noting that they’ve made some improvements to the way the virtual mouse system works. Specifically, double-tapping to take the default action on an object is a lot easier this time around.
As I said, I’m a huge fan of this series, and as such, it hurts that I can’t unconditionally recommend this game. However, it’s a case where great graphics, sound, and controls just don’t make up for frustrating game design and an incredibly disappointing ending. I spent too much of my time wondering what I could possibly do to move forward or why I was doing what I was doing. When a game costs as little as iOS games typically do, it’s a lot easier to get your money’s worth, but I still feel like this game pushes it.