For some, The Escape from Monkey Island is the least inspired installment in their own saga. For others it was the end of the golden age of adventure games. A brooch that aroused mixed sensations among fans of Guybrush Threepwood's misadventures throughout the Caribbean. In any case, we are talking about a turning point within the genre, as well as LucasArts itself.
The curious thing is that La Fugue de Monkey Island preserves most of the ingredients of the previous installments: we are facing a surreal pirate feat in which the picaresque and surrealism take control of events; with puzzles that can sometimes only be solved through lunar logic and that hooligan humor that is a hallmark of the house.
And not only that, LucasArts opted to offer a completely updated visual and artistic section. At least, according to the times in which it was released. With three-dimensional models of characters on pre-rendered backgrounds and that mime in a matter of voices -and location- that has always brought the colors out of Sierra, his greatest rival in the genre.
Continuing, in a way, in the wake of the acclaimed Grim Fandango released a couple of years earlier. But of course, neither the bastard Tim Schaffer nor the visionary Ron Gilbert continued at the helm of the saga. Its absence was noticed in the Curse of Monkey Island and was even more evident in this installment.
¿Why did LucasArts decide to take that step? Well, in perspective, after the turn of the millennium, Lucasfilm's video game division generously reinforced the production of games behind the premiere of The Phantom Menace and its sequels, most of which were based on the Star Wars saga.
In fact, were it not for the success of the previous installment, especially in the German market, they would not have considered making a new Monkey Island.
Life seemed to smile at Guybrush Threepwood. After defeating the terrible ghost LeChuck during the events of The Curse of Monkey Island, that apprentice pirate ended up marrying the love of his life: the brave Governor Elaine Marley. However, neither Guybrush nor Elaine herself counted on a dire plan to begin to take shape upon their return from their honeymoon.
Governor Marley's mansion is being demolished, and the reason - basically - is that Elaine was left for dead administratively. Very convenient for the new candidate Charles L. Charles, considering that the office of governor on the Isle of Melee is for life.
From there, like Guybrush, our initial mission will be to do a series of bureaucratic procedures to bring Elaine back to life - at least on paper -. Luckily for the player, it doesn't take long for the adventure to become much more interesting.
Keyboard in hand, the introduction to La Fuga de Monkey Island did not welcome fans of the saga. LucasArts completely discarded the use of the mouse and the system of the classic SCUMM games that had been so well established since the days of the Maniac Mansion to focus on an initially ungrateful key layout and really difficult to defend in the face of design and resolution. of puzzles.
In this way, with the directional keys of the keyboard we not only moved our hero, but we had to make him look at what we had to interact with with the keys Page Up and Page Down (Page Up and Page Down) and, later, press the specific key of action. If we add to this an inventory system far behind what was seen in previous installments, we find ourselves with a severe gameplay problem.
The reality is that the so-called Monkey Kombat is neither fun, exciting nor ingenious. And, in the end, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth to close a game that deservedly shines in other respects.
In fact, and as we already mentioned, on an artistic and plot level, La Fugue de Monkey Island is a step forward in the saga. Like any 3D game released in 2000, visually it hasn't aged well at all. Things from the back break. Above all, if we compare it with the sprites and digitized images of the previous titles. Now, the LucasArts deployment was not modest.
Ultimately, an improved version of Grim Fandango's GrimE engine was used. And that was reflected in some animations that looked clumsy in the pre-recorded cutscenes, but ended up being quite successful during the development of the adventure.
And despite using three-dimensional models, the game managed to keep the cartoon style at all times. The secret to achieving this were some very inspired still camera backgrounds, a completely crazy script and, above all, the emphasis on animating the most subtle gestures of the main characters.
¿To what extent does the gameplay manage to outshine all other aspects of a game? Getting used to playing the fourth installment of Monkey Island is possible, of course. One internalizes the keyboard commands in case of not having a joystick or a traditional control. But that does not mean that you miss being able to use the mouse.
In a way, a good part of what The Secret of Monkey Island and the LucasArts SCUMM games achieved so masterfully had been lost: that vision of Ron Gilbert in which the player experimented without consequences and with absolute freedom with what was in it. screen while solving the craziest puzzles.
But, on the other hand, finding the interactive elements on the screen was easier. That is indisputable.
Ron Gilbert started Cavedog Entertainment and then continued his creative career, including standout adventure games like Thimbleweed Park. And Tim Schaffer did the same from Double Fine. However, the future of Guybrush will be handed over to the third genius responsible for The Secret of Monkey Island: Dave Grossman.
In 2005 Grossman would join other LucasArts veterans at Telltale Games, producing new graphic adventures and, in 2009, heralding the return of Guybrush, Elaine and LeChuck with the episodic Tales of Monkey Island saga with the approval of LucasArts itself.
Noting everything that did not work out in The Escape from Monkey Island, but above all, reminding fans of all that LucasArts did well by daring to continue his crazy stories of pirates, ghosts, grog-thirsty drunks and monkeys of three heads. And not only that: revitalizing the genre of adventure games itself.
Which does not mean that we continue to sigh for the day when Ron Gilbert regains the rights to the saga to make the long-delayed The Secret of Monkey Island 3 come true. Especially when Gilbert himself is very much on the job