Monkey Island

From Academic Kids

This article describes the series of adventure games. For other uses of the name, see Monkey Island (disambiguation).
Missing image
The Secret of Monkey Island, CD version. The original had textual verb buttons and inventory.

Monkey Island is the collective name given to a series of graphical point-and-click adventure games published by LucasArts (formerly LucasFilm Games). The games follow the misadventures of the hapless Guybrush Threepwood as he struggles to become the most notorious pirate in the Caribbean, defeat the plans of the evil undead pirate LeChuck and win the heart of governor Elaine Marley. Each game's plot usually involves the mysterious Monkey Island and its impenetrable secrets.



The Monkey Island series is known for its humor and "player-friendly" qualities. The player cannot permanently place the game in an unwinnable state or cause Guybrush to die 1 (these traits are shared by other humor-oriented LucasArts adventure games such as Sam and Max Hit the Road and Day of the Tentacle, but not by "serious" games such as the Indiana Jones adventures). This approach was somewhat revolutionary at the time of the first game's release; prominent adventure-game rivals were Sierra On-Line and Infocom, both of whose games were infamous for sudden and frequent character deaths or "lock-out" situations.

Each of the games takes place on fictional islands in the Caribbean. The time period in which they take place is deliberately vague: although the islands teem with pirates (dressed in outfits that seem to come from movies and comic books rather than history), there are many deliberate anachronisms and references to modern-day popular culture. The games' soundtracks are filled with faux-reggae music; Elaine Marley's name is also an obvious reference to Bob Marley.

The games

The Secret of Monkey Island

The first installment in the series, The Secret of Monkey Island (SMI), was the fifth game to use the SCUMM engine. At first, the game follows Guybrush's attempts to prove himself a pirate; later, he attempts to rescue his new-found love, Elaine Marley, from the clutches of the ghost pirate LeChuck.

The game was originally released on floppy disk in 1990 for Atari ST, Macintosh and IBM PC systems (using EGA graphics); it was also the first adventure game to use character scaling. Several months later, the PC version was re-released with VGA graphics; the Amiga version, released shortly after this, used the PC EGA version's 16-color character graphics along with the PC VGA version's room backgrounds (reduced to 16 unique colors per room). In June 1992, a CD-ROM version of the game was released (including a Sega CD version), featuring vastly improved music as well as graphical verb and inventory icons (as seen in Monkey Island 2). In the Fall of 1992, the CD-ROM version was ported to the FM Towns. The project leader was Ron Gilbert, and the game was designed by Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. Another notable contributor was author Orson Scott Card, who wrote the insults for the "Insult Swordfighting" section.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

The second game, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (MI2), was the sixth to use the SCUMM engine. It involves Guybrush's dual attempts to find the mystical treasure of Big Whoop and win back Elaine's love. MI2 is considered by many fans and critics to be among the best of LucasArts' adventure games. Despite its popularity, its ambiguous and surrealistic ending drew much criticism.

The game was released on floppy disks for the PC (with VGA graphics), Macintosh and Amiga (with standard 32-color graphics) in 1991, and was later included on a CD-ROM compilation of Monkey Island games. In 1994, the game was released on the FM Towns, the last title LucasArts ever published on that system. The project leader and designer was Ron Gilbert.

The Curse of Monkey Island

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Classics release

The third game in the series, The Curse of Monkey Island (CMI), was the twelfth and last to use the SCUMM engine, which was extensively upgraded for its last outing. Guybrush manages to turn Elaine into a gold statue with a cursed diamond ring, and must retrieve the statue (which was stolen almost immediately) and turn her back.

While the earlier Monkey Island games received nearly uniform praise, CMI provoked very mixed reactions. Ron Gilbert parted ways with the series after MI2, and some fans consider the resulting third installment to be inferior in storyline and design. While some complained that the game's upgraded, cartoony SVGA graphics were awkward and revealed the limits of the SCUMM engine, others felt they were a considerable improvement on earlier LucasArts adventures. Similarly, some fans found the voicework (CMI was the first game in the series to feature voices for its characters) did not match their expectations; others felt it added to the game's atmosphere.

The game was released on CD-ROM in 1997. It was later included on a CD-ROM compilation of Monkey Island games. The project leaders and designers were Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern. Voice actor Dominic Armato provided the voice of Guybrush Threepwood.

It is a little-known fact that CMI was originally meant to be a movie. This was only brought to light when a concept artist for the project sent his work to The Scumm Bar (, a Monkey Island fansite. Had the movie not been cancelled in the very early stages of development, it apparently would have been very similiar to the game.


Escape from Monkey Island

The fourth game, Escape from Monkey Island (EMI), begins with Guybrush and Elaine returning from their honeymoon to find that Elaine has been declared officially dead. Her position as governor has been revoked and her mansion is scheduled to be demolished.

EMI used a slightly improved version of the GrimE engine introduced by Grim Fandango. There is an in-game joke about the replacement of SCUMM by the Lua scripting language: Guybrush returns from a journey to find the famous "Scumm Bar" replaced by a tourist-oriented "Lua Bar". The iMUSE music system continued to be used, albeit with MP3 compression.

Some fans refused to purchase EMI due to their belief that the new, keyboard-controlled 3D GrimE engine would serve as a poor substitute for the cherished, mouse-driven SCUMM engine of former Monkey Island games. Many fans who did play the game reported disappointment in the many inconsistencies introduced in the series' continuity; the revised version of Herman Toothrot's past is one prominent example.

EMI's introductory music is identical to that of the third game, unlike the earlier sequels which featured newly-composed remixes of the well-known Monkey Island theme.

The game was released on CD-ROM in 2000 and on PlayStation 2 in 2001. Apart from obvious control differences, the PS2 version only varies by a slightly higher polygon count and use of less pre-rendered material. The project leaders and designers were Sean Clark and Michael Stemmle.

Common features

The games in the series share several minigames, puzzles, in-jokes and references. In each game there is a minigame based on learning and repetition of a sequence in order to become more proficient: insult sword-fighting in the first game, a number-based "password" in the second, rhyming insult sword-fighting in the third, and insult arm wrestling and "Monkey Kombat" in the fourth. The first and fourth games also both feature a puzzle which involves following another character through several locations, a trick also used in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Some other minigames include a spitting competition, naval cannon battles and platform diving.

Running gags include lines such as "Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!", the introduction "I'm Guybrush Threepwood, a mighty <profession>", and "Hi, I'm selling these fine leather jackets" (a reference to the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game).

Note that none of the games actually reveal the "Secret of Monkey Island". LeChuck himself, when asked in the second and third games, refuses to answer the question; Guybrush can eventually prod LeChuck to confess that he doesn't know what the secret is. There are many theories popular among players, and at least one case can be made from each game in the series.

A fairly credible theory is that the bizarre revelation at the end of MI2 is the true secret of Monkey Island. The fact that it was debunked in CMI is merely a retcon by the new development team after the departure of Ron Gilbert. But flashes of supernatural power from little Chucky's eyes, and the 'meanwhile' of Elaine still waiting for Guybrush in the final scene of MI2 seem to indicate that this theory may not be entirely accurate.

Much of the music in the series was composed by Michael Land.

Many "supporting" characters have recurring roles in the games, including:

Interesting facts

The Monkey Island series is full of spoofs, in-jokes, humorous references, and easter eggs: so many, in fact, that entire web sites are dedicated to them. Some of the most notable ones are:

  • The name "Guybrush" stems from the fact that the character's graphics, made using Deluxe Paint, were saved using the filename guy.brush.
  • In the last two games, Guybrush has a deathly fear of porcelain. This may be a reference to a fight in the first game in which he gets hit in the head with a vase.
  • The name "Threepwood" comes from the works of P. G. Wodehouse, whose characters included Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth and Galahad Threepwood.
  • The bar in The Secret of Monkey Island (the SCUMM Bar) contains a character from LOOM, wearing a pirate hat and a button reading "Ask me about LOOM". (If asked, he indeed describes the game with much enthusiasm.) The game also includes a seagull from LOOM. MI2 and Day of the Tentacle contain the same seagull; both are mentioned in the credits. A scene in CMI features a skeleton strongly resembling Manny Calavera from Grim Fandango; he sports a button that says "Ask me about Grim Fandango".
  • In SMI, Guybrush can accidentally fall off a path atop a tall mountain. A dialog box appears offering the choices "Reload, Restart, or Quit" (appearing suspiciously similar to those in Sierra's adventure games of the time); seconds later, however, Guybrush bounces back into view and lands safely on the path. He offers the concise explanation: "Rubber tree". The game continues as normal. In EMI Guybrush can approach a cliff side by the Governor's Mansion and will have the option of jumping of the cliff; he will walk to the edge shout: "Goodbye cruel computer game!", then step back and say: "Nah, maybe later".
  • Pressing the key combination Alt + W in MI2 "wins" the game instantly. This feature possibly gets MI2 the award for the fastest completion available in a videogame. (Note that this "winning" is intentionally jokey, and is not the same as completing the game; the Alt+W keypress simply displays the text "You Win!" and ends the game. If the player completes the game the 'normal' way, this text is never displayed.)
  • An easter egg allows Guybrush to die in course of the "Three Trials" chapter of the first game. Guybrush claims to be able to hold his breath for ten minutes. At a certain point in the game, he becomes trapped underwater. If the player waits for ten minutes, Guybrush suffocates, and the game is over. It is one, if not the only, way to die.
  • In another faux-death easter egg, Guybrush can supposedly die in MI2 by being lowered into a pit of acid. This results in a logical impossibility since (at the time) he is relating the story to Elaine, obviously very alive. Elaine points out this paradox and Guybrush backtracks, bringing the player back to the beginning of the acid pit scene.
  • Each game in the series features oblique cameo appearances by Steve Purcell's characters Sam and Max (who were featured in their own LucasArts adventure game, Sam and Max Hit the Road). The pair appear as voodoo idols in the first game, as costumes in a costume shop on Booty Island in the second, and as toys in LeChuck's demonic carnival in the third.
  • One infamous joke in SMI, which many players assumed was a technical error, involved a stump in a forest. When examining the stump, Guybrush proclaims that a hole in it leads to a maze of caverns. If Guybrush tries to climb down into the stump, the game prompts the player to successively insert "disk #23", "disk #47" and "disk #98". (The game was actually distributed on 4 floppy disks.) The endgame credits also have an entry for "art and animation for disk #23". Many people didn't get the joke, and LucasArts tech support received quite a large number of calls for help with the missing disk. The joke was removed from the CD version of the game. The joke was mentioned in MI2: Guybrush can call the LucasArts hint line from a phone and ask, "Who thought up that dumb stump joke?" In CMI, Guybrush briefly sticks his head into an opening, which leads to the very same tree stump rendered in EGA-style graphics.
  • Only SMI, MI2, and EMI were released for the Apple Macintosh (all four games are available for Microsoft Windows). This leaves a gap in the series for Mac users (the freeware ScummVM interpreter supports CMI on the Macintosh, although the required data files for the game are not freely distributable).

See also


Note 1: In The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush could actually die in one extreme circumstance. This required a near-complete lack of action on the player's part, however; the situation was eminently escapable.

External links


de:Monkey Island es:Monkey Island fi:Monkey Island fr:Monkey Island he:אי הקופים it:Monkey Island no:Monkey Island sv:Monkey Island


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