9 August 2010

Monkey Island 2 Big Whoop

It's been 18 years since the last time I played Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. It was on Commodore Amiga 500, and not on PC with then flashy 256-colors VGA graphics. I didn't have a hard drive for Amiga yet, but I had an extra disk drive, so swapping whopping 11 disks was a bit less of a pain (but pain it still was!). All these years later I found myself again giggling, chuckling and downright laughing at the exploits of wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood, thanks to the brilliant special edition available for Xbox 360 and PS3 as downloadable game for a pretty neat price too.

 ...and so begins the longest tale Elaine Marley has ever heard!

The special edition for the first Monkey Island has been available for a while now, but it didn't impress me. Newly designed HD graphics looked artificial and lifeless compared to the charming, pixel-by-pixel drawn original. The game was still there, as funny and clever as ever. This time though, they got the best of both worlds.

Some spit and polish... nah, more spit and hey, presto! It's in glorious HD!

Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck's Revenge looks stylish and ravishing with full of character in its glorious, new re-drawn HD graphics. All the backgrounds are obviously based on the original pencil sketches and has been digitally painted over them, so the game looks both familiar and greater than ever. By the time the original game was released, LucasArts had moved to scanned images of hand-painted backdrops. Yea, the original art by Peter Chan looked great on paper (as is evident in 'bonus materials' section of the special edition) but blocky, low resolution and limited color palette of VGA pretty much destroyed it and made it look like someone had puked on the screen. Especially now when you switch between original and new graphics, you really begin wondering how on earth this could have looked good back in the days... Also, the music is re-arranged and sometimes you just keep up the PS3 game menu for Monkey Island 2 open just to listen to the brilliant title song!

Watch out! The skull eats you up... and leads you to a very cozy place!

Of course, what matters most is the game. The puzzles are wacky but logical in their own way, and the whole thing is crafted so well together. You can't get stuck later in the game because you had previously missed some object, unlike in so many adventure games in their heyday. In the special edition, there's an integrated hint system for the graphic adventure challenged. Don't use it. I didn't, even though I didn't remember half of what I played in July 1992. Especially the memories of the end game were hazy but I blame Amiga version's crazy disk buzzing for it! And the game is funny. No, that would be the understatement of two decades. It's hilarious, clever, full of popular culture references, with some of the funniest, wittiest dialogue ever written for a game, all delivered with a top-notch voice acting.

All re-designed characters look great and fit the mood perfectly, better than the original blockies - both seen here.
So this is the second best game of the year (after obvious Mass Effect 2, haha, did you think I can write an entry without mentioning it!) and in reality it's 19 years old game (PC original was published in 1991, Amiga version in summer 1992). New graphics aside, it tells a lot about lack of imagination and quality writing in today's games.

Watch out for the infamous movie references coming about... if you don't crack up, there's something wrong with you. Seriously.

7 August 2010

Demo peek: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

I can imagine the game design meeting at Io Interactive headquarters (translated from Danish):

Guy #1: It's no use. The graphic engine is ugly and choppy and the playability is sloppy.
Guy #2: (Chuckles) Sounds like a bad Youtube video to me!
The Lead Designer: - Wait a minute... That's just it! A bad Youtube video!
Guy #1: - You mean...
Guy #2: - We mask it as a bad Youtube video? And get away with a stunt like that?
The Lead Designer: - Don't use so negative words such as 'mask'. It's called style!

The Lead Designer (walking away from the meeting room): - Where do I get these grand ideas? Man, I'm so good!

I think it sums Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days best up my friend played the demo for five seconds and that was enough for him. Poor me endured the whole demo through... Five seconds is all this game deserves.

Aaaaarf! Urgggh!