Tag Archives: lucasarts

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)


You’ll probably never hear me say this again, but I wish this game took itself more seriously.

Well, that’s only a half truth. I’m glad a game exists that’s as irreverent as The Secret of Monkey Island. I’m especially glad that for a brief period, the game industry had a gang of consummate court jesters in Lucasarts-employed weirdos Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman. (And with their recent successes — like Schafer’s upcoming adventure game that launched a thousand Kickstarters and Gilbert’s soon-to-be-released comeback opus The Cave — it seems like these guys have finally found their rightful place amongst video game legends.) In a world by and large content to rehash the same tired Tolkien-isms, to grant players the same handful of dungeon keys and magical spells until they’re about as exciting as finding loose change and Starbucks receipts in your jeans pocket, designers who are more comfortable finding esoteric uses for rubber chickens and ghost-dissolving root beer are not just welcome but necessary.

The Secret of Monkey Island exists in a state of almost pathological fear that players will mistake it for one of the stuffy, straightforward semi-graphic adventure games Sierra Entertainment cranked out throughout the 1980s; stuff like Mystery House and King’s Quest was surely well-meaning and innovative in its day, but it’s no wonder Monkey Island appeared as such a breath of fresh air to computer geeks in 1990. Continue reading

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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

An impressively constructed RPG with some serious storytelling issues.

My favorite moment in any piece of Star Wars media comes early in Return of the Jedi. When Luke Skywalker attempts to rescue Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, he must face a hideous beast called the Rancor. It’s an ugly, unsympathetic monster, the kind that lives in a dank, bone-filled cave and devours innocents for the amusement of its master. Naturally, Luke handily defeats the creature and is soon whisked away to new adventures and trials. But not everyone can part with the dead quite so quickly, and a fat, half-dressed man begins to weep for the fallen Rancor. Whether this man considered the creature a pet or a friend is unclear, and the moment not only hilariously undermines our expectations for the scene, but also achieves something legitimately sweet and sad as we consider a loss that is literally alien to us.

This is the way I think Star Wars works best, in individual moments that achieve something at once bizarre, awe-striking, and unselfconsciously goofy. I’m thinking of things like the cantina scene, the twin sunset, Luke’s first moments with Yoda. So it’s a shame that for all its flights of fancy, Star Wars interprets creativity in the most literal way possible, as in, “making a bunch of shit up”; there is almost no experimentation with form throughout the saga, no interest in the abstract or thematic beyond its much-ballyhooed Joseph Campbell legwork. Continue reading

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