The Secret Of Monkey Island (SOMI) Part 1 – 1990
SOMI Part 1 could be described as the greatest game ever, if not the greatest adventure game ever.
Created by Ron Gilbert and released in 1990 by Lucasart Games, it was inspired by Disney’s Pirates Of The Carribean ride.
SOMI made use of the Amiga’s substanial VGA colour palette and music chipset, to create a colourful and cartoony environment.
The game had a witty underlying and quite adult orientated sense of humour which the adults loved but the kids wouldn’t have pick up on, so appealed to both generations.
The hero of SOMI was Guybrush Threepwood, the improbably named wannabe grog swilling pirate, residing on Melee island, whose special skill was to be able to hold his breath underwater, for 10 minutes.
SOMI was a point and click adventure game created by the appropriately named SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine which had been created in 1987 to power another classic Lucasart game: Maniac Mansion.
Using a simple mouse driven interface of commands including “give”, “use”, “pickup”, “talk to”, “push”, “pull”, “open” & “close”, you moved Guybrush around by clicking on the screen and could interact with the environment, pickup objects and talk to characters.
Guybrush was desperate to join the mangey pirate hordes, so agreed to undergo the ‘Three trials’ to prove his mettle. Along the way, Guybrush learns how to swordfight, find the legendary lost treasure and bag the local hot island governess : Elaine Marley; before journeying off with a crew to explore Monkey Island and finally face off against the scourge of Jamaican seas – undead pirate Le Chuck, himself.
The puzzle element in the game is just right and never becomes too taxing, although some of the puzzles are tricky due to a time element required to successfully complete them.
In one segment, you need to send the local Melee shopkeeper away on an errand, so you can raid his safe for money, you have to be quick though – so as not to get caught by him.
Or having to collect every tankard from the tavern, to transport one mugful of grog from the Tavern to the jail. The grog melts the mug, resulting in you having to pour one it into another as you go (the pirates in the tavern are drinking gallons of the stuff, god knows what its doing to their stomachs!).
The interactions with the other characters are witty as you are presented with a choice of responses, as you choose to coax, insult or even goad your fellow characters into fighting you.
Take your Exchange with the local inventor – called ‘Meathook’, who happens to be bald. This exchange captures the razor sharp humour in SOMI perfectly :
Meathook : “……I don’t like visitors! Who are you?”
Guybrush : “I’m a pirate, cannonball-head. Who are you?”
Meathook : “My name’s Meathook… And I think you’ve got a little attitude problem.”
Guybrush : “Well I think you’ve got a little hair problem.”
Meathook : “Geeze! You just don’t know when to quit do you.”
Guybrush : “Obviously neither did your barber!”
Guybrush : “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to call you cannonball-head, Cannonball-head!”
Meathook : “That’s okay. I’d rather have a cannonball-head than a ponytail. Ha ha ha! ”
Guybrush : “I meant to call you chrome dome……!”
Also, to master the art of fighting is to master the art of insults. With each pirate you fight, you learn a new witty put down question and comeback. You need to matchup the right question and response to win that round of the fight.
Once your verbal repoirtee is up to scratch you can take on and beat all comers, including the Legendary Swordmaster of Melee island – to win a t-shirt.
SOMI introduces the effect of having Guybrush and the other characters get bigger or smaller depending on whether they are walking into or away into the scenery. This gives the game a nice depth aspect.
The amiga versions music adds to the atmosphere of the game with a definite Carribbean vibe and is varied throughout, so as not to become annoying.
Monkey Island – Special Edition 2009 – Youtube Vid courtesy of kotovsky79.
The amiga sound is basic at best, the usual chipset clicks, thumps and bangs. However, the music more than makes up for this sparse audio landscape though.
My favourite parts of SOMI was the sword duelling against the Swordmaster, where you had to employ your witty learned comebacks against her. Her insults were a slight variation on the ones you had learned, so you had to be creative in using your different responses,^ to try and beat her.
Also, the only way to die in Monkey Island was when Guybrush was thrown into the sea by the unscrupulous Melee Sheriff, with a weight attached to his leg. If you wait the full 10 minutes underwater, rather than save him.
Guybrush turns several shades of blue and floats up to the surface dead. The interface changes to options such as “bob”, “decompose” and “bloat”. Hilarious!
Guybrush Dies – Youtube vid courtesy of jtd786
The game came on 4 discs, so there wasn’t too much disc swapping to get you into a lather, unlike its sequel – the highly ambitious Secret Of Monkey Island II.
Monkey Island (MI2) Part 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge – 1991
SOMI2 was to the first SOMI what Terminator 2 was to Terminator 1 a bigger, more confident bombastic sequel with more of the same – only more of it.
Released a year after the original, SOMI2 was step up from the original in terms of size of the game, the lush detailed graphics and improved sound engine.
This time, Guybrush is captured in his colourfully blue pirate best, sporting a beard, which his squeeze Elaine comments on throughout SOMI2.
Guybrush, having defeated Le Chuck a year earlier, is now a fully fledged pirate – with Elaine Marley in tow. This time he is on the trail of some lost treasure known as “Big Whoop”. To find “Big Whoop”, Guybrush needs to locate 4 segments of a map. In looking for the treasure, Guybrush falls foul of an ex-Le Chuck pirate called Largo La Grande, who resurrects Le Chuck as a zombie to come after Guybrush once again.
The first thing to note is that SOMI2 is vast, in SOMI you went from Melee to Monkey back to Melee. In MI2 you start on Scabb Island and have a choice of 3 further islands to explore. Phatt, Booty and Dinky Island.
As result of this bewildering choice of locations, characters, objects and puzzles. SOMI2 boasts a choice of difficulties including a “monkeylite” version which bypass’s alot of the more difficult puzzles, this was my favourite mode as the hard mode was…..well pretty difficult!
The Amiga version came on 11 (yes count ’em) floppy discs to support this game. The disc swapping was constant and quickly became annoying enough to detract from the game.
It wasn’t a case of a disc every now and again either, MI2 constantly required different combinations of discs to load up various parts of the game.
It could be negated by pre-installing the game on a harddrive but this was the early 90’s and harddrives were expensive and not available in every Argos store for £2.99.
[Guybrush reads the tombstones in the cemetary:] “Marco Largo LaGrande, Hell on sea or on land
The Good news: He’s dead!
The Bad news: He’s bred”
Aside from the frenetic disc swapping, the game carried on with the humourous dialogue from SOMI and Guybrush met a number of familiar faces – and some new characters.
Monkey Island 2 – Longplay – Youtube courtesy of cubex55
The puzzles were more complicated, due to the fact that combinable items required to beat one puzzle, could reside on different island.
This time, the main part of the game is told in flashback by Guybrush is stuck precariously hanging down a hole on a rope, whilst looking for “Big Whoop”.
There exists, apparently – a way of killing Guybrush during this final scene (above – when Le Chuck is torturing him) on Youtube in a foreign language which is apparently caused by pressing some keys in a certain order but it could be a hoax!
Also, when Guybrush and Wally are trapped in LeChuck’s torture chamber, Guybrush has to use his spittle to extinguish the flame of a candle, or else it will set of an elaborate death machine. If you wait to long, the flame cuts the rope and Guybrush and Wally plunge to their deaths, in a pit of acid.
What is funny about this, is that Guybrush is still supposed to be telling Elaine Marley the tale, after the event; so can’t explain how he died and still be alive to recount his ordeal. Its still game over though!
SOMI2 has one of the more memorable and controversial twisty endings in video history. Which has got to count as the one of the most bizarre – and unexpected. Controversial, due to some feeling cheated at the end of such an epic game.
Having defeated Zombie Le Chuck for a second time, the game ends with Guybrush and Le Chuck actually being kids lost in a theme park carrying Guybrush & Le Chuck dolls. It was definately not something I ever seen coming.
Monkey Island 2 – Ending – Youtube vid courtesy of Delmothop
SOMI2 was released during the golden age of Amiga gaming and due to the size of the game, pretty much killed the machine. Inpart, as it showed up the continued limitation of floppy disc gaming.
Which was a shame, as the Amiga was still showing it could pump out quality graphics and sound. After this, things could never be the same for the Amiga ever again.
SOMI 1 & 2 have since been re- released a number of times, including a SOMI special edition 2009 and a MI2 Special Edition in 2010. As is fitting of old classics, an IPhone remastered version with souped up HD graphics and special edition version on Xbox 360 version.
The one thing that has remained, is the sense of humour which has kept these games as relevant today as when they were released 20 years ago.
Ron Gilbert was inspired by the original Disney Pirates Of The Carribean (POTC) ride. Which in turn, along with the SOMI series, inspired the Johnny Depp – POTC movies.
Watch out in SOMI2 for Guybrush using a coffin as a boat and a skeleton leg as a paddle and then think back to POTC – Dead Man’s Chest. Jack Sparrow does the same thing when escaping gaol!
Lucasart, the company behind SOMI also went on to create another classic Graphic Adventure classic : 1993’s Indiana Jones & The Fate Of Atlantis, which followed the equally good Last Crusade – 1989.
The Amiga version can be played on the WINUAE, complete with virtual disc swapping. You’ll have to go searching for the Rom’s though.
There are many dos versions of the game on the net, which doesn’t have the rampant disc swapping.