Game: ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge' (1991) Dev. Lucasfilm Games
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
A sequel to 'The Secret Of Monkey Island' that was bigger, better and bolder than ever to set a higher standard in graphic adventures...
With all successful debuts, be it games, films or books, a sequel is guaranteed. For a sequel to ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’, creative forces returned including developer Ron Gilbert, writers Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer, artist and Steve Purcell and composer Michael Land.
Developed only one month after the release of ‘TSOMI’, so adverse to audience and critical reaction, Gilbert wanted to follow in the footsteps of worth sequels like ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom’ and even ‘From Russia With Love’ to focus on established core characters and their journey, introduce new characters and locations, dangers, excitement, fun and rewards for the viewer / gamer.
‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’ did just that, with new software, new designs, new ideas and a dramatic change in tone, but retaining the heart-warming, comedic journey of these lovable pirates of the Caribbean. It was released in December 1991, just twelve months after the original hit shelves. While not an immediate commercial success, the game grew to become a beloved addition to the franchise and an often cited series best - as well as helping continue and shape the graphic adventure genre.
Taking place well after Guybrush Threepwood vanquished the threat of the ghost pirate LeChuck and his ghost crew, saving the Caribbean and falling for Governor Elaine Marley, things have certainly changed.
Guybrush and Elaine, left on the start of their romantic adventure, seem to have hit some bumps along the way and are no longer together. Guybrush has also tried to man up by growing his hair and a neat beard, and also investing in some sharp, swashbuckling clothing – but he is still the lovable, smart-talking pirate wannabe he was back on Mêlée.
Single and full of aspiration as a “pirate”, Guybrush is searching an area of the Caribbean for the legendary treasure known as Big Whoop. With just a handful of names of islands and old pirates linked to the treasure, Guybrush arrives on Scabb Island to begin his adventure, but immediately runs fowl of island bully Largo LaGrande, a man who, unknown to our hero, is also in cahoots with an old enemy.
Largo is the right-hand man of LeChuck who is back now as zombie, brought back to semi-life through dark voodoo magic. LeChuck has a score to settle with Guybrush, and when Largo drops the name of his old adversary, LeChuck makes it his personal mission to find the treasure of Big Whoop before Guybrush does.
Guybrush’s adventure takes him around a “tri-island” area, with three isles linked to the treasure; Scabb, Booty and Phatt. Each island has links to the other and Guybrush learns that a treasure map to Big Whoop has been split into four pieces and distributed across the islands, hidden away from would-be hunters. Not only must Guybrush seek out the four map pieces, he also must contend with running into Elaine once more and proving his affections are still strong and their relationship is worth saving. But LeChuck isn’t going to come quietly and give the love-birds a chance at rekindling their romance, because there is nothing the zombie pirate won’t do to destroy Guybrush once and for all and discover the secret of Big Whoop and unleash its power across the Caribbean.
Everything about this sequel is bigger than the first. Be it the story, the number of locations, the cast of characters, the soundtrack, the puzzles and humour. Everything feels such an advancement of the template forged less than one year before in ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’. The game feels to have matured in terms of content, as all good sequels should do. Gilbert expands his lore for the better, with writers Grossman and Schafer there to develop the characters, give new plot points and motivations and brand new locations to explore. Everything looks and feels new and fresh for something that was in development before the original was even released.
One thing that jumps out is the challenges and puzzles, going up a notch to tax all players. However, to add more variety to the game, Gilbert and the team created a ‘Monkey 2 Lite’ option, where you could play the same story with less tricky puzzles and a little easier route to completion, without sacrificing much of the actual plot and humour. For those who wanted more, then the regular version had it all. Travelling back and forth between locations continued, but the puzzles still felt part of the natural journey, without solutions ever present if you step back and look at where you are and what you have to hand.
The humour is still a huge part of the game and franchise that is suitable for all, and while the story may be a little spookier, the content is not going to scare or offend. It continues to play on the love of pirates and voodoo, of treasure hunting and evading the law whilst you do it. You can charter boats to sail the seas, attend fancy dress parties, evade being dropped into boiling acid and even take a job in a restaurant. There’s so much enjoyment to be had with Guybrush as he as a character is more confident in what he says and does, and that comes across in how he can be played for endless enjoyment.
The 2D characters and environments built around pixels and art backgrounds that captured the imagination of gamers across the late 80s and into the 90s built the legacy of graphic adventures. It was strong in ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’, but stronger in ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’. Packaged with both the Enhanced Graphics Adaptor and Video Graphics Array capacity, the game seemed to leap ahead in terms of detail that its predecessor lacked. While there is no question the pixelated world of ‘TSOMI’ was ground-breaking and immersive, ‘LeChuck’s Revenge’ managed to pull together every creative tool from Lucasfilm Games to create more locations, more characters, more detail and more action that was different in every scene. In fact, there are so many scenes of varying locations in various times of day, you really feel that this is an adventure bigger than ever, spanning many islands and meeting many faces. We have hamlets lit up at night by torches and burning lamps, jungles and tropic islands that you can explore to see where the burnt dirt path leads and eerie voodoo lairs and castles that expand the ghostly threat of LeChuck and his cult. It’s a far more dangerous looking environment than before!
The game also has much more detail in the background, in both colour palette and interaction, that you spend a great deal of time just looking around and exploring. It’s worth seeing what can be interacted with, many background items and characters leading to fun reactions and tongue-in-cheek references.
Sound and music
Once again, there is no immediate array of sound effects bar background diegetic noise to help set scenes and locations, but again you don’t miss this because there is so much to hear in the score and see that your imagination fills in what you may not hear.
Michael Land returned for composing the score, this time with real performances played and formatted to MIDI, but Land also collaborated with soundtrack engineers Peter McConnell and Clint Bajakian to develop the iMUSE audio sequencing engine which stands for Interactive Music Streaming Engine. For ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’, Land could only create one score per location or event, and regardless of timing, the soundtrack would jump from one to another when the player took Guybrush in or out of a scenario. To become more fluid, iMUSE was a programme that would seamlessly blend two pieces of music into one, whenever a scene changed or dramatic moment would start and end.
This new way of recording added far much more atmosphere to the game, a cinematic quality in toying with gamer emotions and excitement, never detracting from moving into scenes and new locations with the soundtrack flowing with them. It often worked best with small surprises and moments during the story that players don’t expect, and so the musical cues bring them to life even better.
Packaged with the 2009 SE of ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’, an updated and refreshed version of ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’ was released in 2010. It featured new, computer generated animation and hand-drawn artwork replacing the original pixels, and also actors returning to voice new and old characters including Dominic Armato, Alexandra Boyd, Earl Boen and James Arnold Taylor.
One new addition to this was the fact you could play the original 1991 release, but have the voice-over, blending new and old. Not a personal choice mind you, if you play old school you need to keep it old school!
There also features interviews with the team behind the game and also concept art and trivia to accompany the game itself, making it a real bonus for new and old fans out to discover new aspects of the story.
A sequel that perhaps gains more appreciation and love from fans than the original, thanks to its progression in story, character and humour. It also shows in just under one year how the talent behind games can really expand their creations and their imagination, pushing the limit for continued immersive story-telling, but also entertaining and user-friendly interfaces.
As a gamer, you were given more locations, more attention to detail, more scope and new features that didn’t simply re-package what had come before. The story was a little darker, the content a little more embracing of fantastical pirate lore, and overall just an entertaining, sometimes challenging but never dull graphic adventure that expanded on what made you fall in love with ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’ a year before.