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Retrospective: Escape From Monkey Island • Page 2

"I've got hands to kiss, and babies to shake."

The puzzles range from interesting to ridiculously obscure, and I'm not ashamed to admit I resorted to a walkthrough here and there - I was eleven years younger the last time I played it, fitter of mind, and with fewer memories to try to store.

But the 3D, you cry. Well, I don't hear you endlessly whinging about it when you pretend Grim Fandango was a flawless masterpiece. You go back and try to play that one now. Heck, just try to walk through a doorway. While Monkey 4 has the most unforgivably awful camera nonsense, where running out of one scene sends you running right back into it from the next, at least it's possible to move at all. Funnily enough, it turns out it's much better to play on a 360 controller than anything else - they just accidentally made it a few too many years early.

The backgrounds remain gorgeous, the design in keeping with the series and only prettier. The character models don't hold up so well, but really aren't bad at all. Really, the only things that suck are that awful camera-flippery, and Guybrush's insane awkwardness about facing certain objects.

Oh, and Monkey Kombat. Yes. Fair enough. Monkey Kombat - the awful alternative to insult sword fighting, was a disastrous decision, and remains a tedious affair today. Having to learn not only which stances beat others, but also which combination of four monkey-sounds in which order changes from one stance to another, through repeated trial and error, is a mistake that defies explanation. And for me, just as I was making my way through its early stages, the game crashed and the thought of doing it all again was enough to have me download a save position and skip the lot.

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Of course there's a swamp maze to navigate through! It's a Monkey Island game.

LucasArts adventures were famous for running out of money and time toward the end, and while I've no evidence, I do wonder if the same happened here. The closing cinematic is absolutely fantastic, but the battle before it was not, and the lack of closure is frustrating. Is the SCUMM Bar rescued from becoming the hideous Caribbean-themed tourist trap? Are the pirates released from their subjugation on Lucre Island? And what happens to the rest of Murd... Mandrill's empire? I kind of wanted to find out.

But this does not deserve to end on a negative note. This is the first Monkey game that finally stopped Elaine from being a one-dimensional nagging harpie, and gave her not only a wonderful new voice by Charity James, but a softness for her husband Guybrush, and independent power.

And talking of the voice actors, I'm not sure LucasArts ever did a better job of it than here. Earl Boen is - as always - incredible as Le Chuck, and this is Dominic Armato's all-time best turn at Guybrush. Plus there's an extraordinary additional cast of talent, including the brilliant Tom "Spongebob" Kenny in a collection of roles.

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At last Elaine is smart AND friendly.

Other notables include the hilarious Maria Bamford, veteran actor (and star of Space 1999!) Nick Tate as Mandrill, the incredible Pamela Adlon (currently stunning in Louie), and the legendary Rob Paulsen, as in Pinky of Pinky & The Brain as well as just about every other cartoon ever. Oh, and so many others! It's a vast cast and a genuine who's who of voice over work.

The music is wonderful, the sheer volume of jokes incredible (the game has over 10,000 recorded lines, to give you an idea of quite how much there is to look at or talk about), and it's funny until the last with a laugh-out-loud dig at George Lucas as the credits close.

Good grief, I find myself wanting to scream from mountaintops about how stupidly messed up it is that this game has been given such a bad name. It's a fantastic comedy adventure, and it deserves to be remembered among LucasArts' best.

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