The Curse of Monkey Island: Wedding bells

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As if it wasn’t bad enough to have LeChuck kidnap Elaine in an attempt to marry her on his rollercoaster, the zombie pirate has transformed Guybrush into a little child. Hey, that skull there looks a little familiar…

To get out of this predicament, Guybrush has to mess around at the carnival to whip up one of those hangover cures he used on Goodsoup. This includes greatly angering Murray, as Guybrush chooses a different prize from the game. He goes on at great length to lambast Guybrush for the poor choice. I do love me some Murray.

After turning back in to a 20-year-old adult, Guybrush jumps on LeChuck’s rollercoaster of death in hot pursuit of Elaine. But you know me — I do love me a good rollercoaster ride in a video game! So I sat back and enjoyed the four scenes as they looped one after the other.

Poor Wally returns as part of this set dressing. Guybrush tries to rescue him, but nothing doing. Poor Wally.

In the inexplicable snow scene, Guybrush rigs up an explosive giant ape, then tricks LeChuck into lighting the fuse and blowing up the mountain. Also, apparently Elaine gave the pirate the slip, because she’s OK.

And with that, the game comes to a close! Elaine and Guybrush finally, finally get married and sail off into the sunset to live happily ever after. At least until the sequel.

So that was The Curse of Monkey Island, start to finish! Thanks for going on this journey with me. I love it just as much as the first two games, which is to say, an awful lot. It’s hilarious, the setpieces are gorgeous, and the puzzles quite tricksy indeed. I have just one game left in this series, but I’m going to leave it for now and embark on a different adventure come next week.

The Curse of Monkey Island: Duck Island

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The Welshman rows Guybrush out to Skull Island, which, as it turns out, looks more like a giant duck. Or a bunny, if you squint and turn your head to the side. In any case, not quite as scary and imposing.

Guybrush stumbles upon a smuggler’s cave that’s certainly filled with enough treasure to foot any bill — but he needs that special diamond to fit into Elaine’s engagement ring!

After a rousing game of poker — in which Guybrush uses his five death tarot cards to win — a fight breaks out and the diamond is secured. Thanks, cutscene!

LeChuck, enjoying a value meal, reminds us that he’s still nominally in this game and still hunting for Elaine. Welp. Good to know.

Guybrush catapults the skeleton from the hotel into the crypt — as one does — and it comes back to life, proposing to his long-patient bride. The two share the creepiest kiss in the world and then vanish, leaving behind one (1) engagement ring.

Guybrush uses his hard-earned lotion to get the cursed ring off of Elaine and then replaces it with his hard-earned engagement ring. Poof! She’s back! And she finishes that massive punch that she started back at the beginning of the game. Well, it’s OK, because now the lovers are reunited and nothing will…

will…

…will separate them? Well, LeChuck’s back, and he’s taken them to his Carnival of Death to marry Elaine. At least he can’t kill Guybrush or risk ruining the reputation of a LucasArts adventure game!

The Curse of Monkey Island: Cheese for the cheese god

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Blood Island shenanigans continue as Guybrush “returns from the dead” and fails to astonish anyone. Ahem. Tough crowd.

He heads off toward the volcano, where he meets a suspiciously familiar group of cannibals. In fact, it’s the cannibal tribe from the first game which has now relocated here. Lemonhead here tells Guybrush that not only have they all gone vegetarian, but the volcano god itself can’t abide flesh or cheese of any kind. Just veggies.

So Guybrush — in a tofu mask disguise — tosses in a huge hunk of nacho cheese to make the volcano erupt. This is all part of a plan to get lotion, by the way: By erupting the volcano, the lava now heats up a cooking pot at the hotel, which Guybrush can use to melt more cheese, which he can give to the pirates to patch up their ship and be rewarded with creamy, sweet-smelling lotion.

Ah, adventure games. Never change.

Back at the hotel, Guybrush gets his fortune read… and the tarot cards spit out five DEATH cards in a row. This kind of freaks the fortune teller out, rightfully so.

Guess this is some of that trendy death! Welcome to Hotel California, you can check in but you can never leave…

More death! Another day, another crypt — and in this one, our good friend Murray drops in for a bit of spontaneous terror!

By “dying,” Guybrush is able to buy a life insurance policy and then cashing in on it using his own death certificate. Stan isn’t that pleased, but at least he coughs up a pile of gold. I’m rich!

I cannot imagine that Elaine is that pleased with this situation. Guybrush is going to get the punching of his life when she stops being a solid gold statue.

It’s time to get off of Blood Island and head over to (gulp) Skull Island! For that, Guybrush puts his puzzle-solving abilities to work to make a compass for the Lost Welshman here. That effort earns him ferry passage between the islands. Neat!

The Curse of Monkey Island: The end! (or is it?)

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

With the map to Blood Island stolen, this whole section of the game becomes focused on getting it back from Captain Rottingham. It’s definitely a section of filler that jettisons the usual puzzle-solving adventure game mechanics for a combination of ship combat and insult sword fighting.

If you don’t recall from the first game, insult sword fighting trades actual swordplay for back-and-forth insults. You say an insult, and your opponent either has the correct comeback or loses some footing. If he has the comback, then it’s his turn to insult. The trick is that at the start of this, Guybrush doesn’t have all of the comebacks — he only collects the insults and comebacks when he hears a pirate say them. So it’s a whole series of fights to get all of the right phrases.

Then, to make matters more tricky, the Rottingham boss fight (as it were) has him saying completely DIFFERENT insults but you use the same collecting of comebacks to win.

With the map in tow, Guybrush and his valiant crew sail for Blood Island. And, thanks to a storm, get shipwrecked right up on it. To make matters worse, Elaine’s statue flew off into the woods and the crew decided to mutiny and return back home to barber once more. Truly, this is the darkest timeline.

Never stop breaking the fourth wall, Guybrush!

Guybrush starts exploring Blood Island and its many interesting locales, including a hotel cemetery. So many screenshots in this game could be framed, they’re so nice to look at.

After imbibing a spiked drink, Guybrush, erm, dies? At least that’s what the game wants you to think, as the side characters comment on how they didn’t THINK anyone could die in a LucasArts adventure game these days.

It’s a fun fake-out as Guybrush’s body is dragged to a crypt and the game continues to act like it’s over and done with — awarding “0 out of 800 points” and starting the credit scroll. Guybrush wakes up and he’s not having any of it.

But this all works out rather well, because also in the crypt is Stan, the sleazy salesman who Guybrush tricked into a coffin in the previous game. He’s not that put out about it, fortunately.

The Curse of Monkey Island: Sunburned!

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

With some clever ventriloquism, Guybrush convinces the deluded Mr. Fossey and his monkey crew to abandon the ship — but the first mate leaves before Guybrush can get him to dig up wherever they buried Elaine’s statue. So he’s just going to have to swipe the map and get to lookin’.

It turns out that the monkey crew “buried” Elaine on the stage at the theater, making her retrieval none-too-difficult. It even got a standing ovation.

With Elaine, a ship, and a crew, it’s high time — and high tide — that Guybrush gets off of Plunder Island. LeChuck is heading that way with his entire undead army this time!

My kids, who are independently playing CMI as well, keep asking me how to get into the beach club. I’m not going to tell them, but it does involve chickens and maggots.

The club is guarded by the snootiest of all snooty guys, who is repulsed by Threepwood’s meager attire — so you imagine that it’s very satisfying when you finally show him your club card and then flick a wet towel his way.

Out on the beach, Threepwood runs into a very pale man who makes his living on the hard work of others. Threepwood:

Kind of feel like the devs are being passive-aggressive here.

So you’ll never believe what you actually have to do to get the map to Blood Island. It’s on this guy’s back, so once you jump through some puzzle hoops he’ll turn over… and then you use cooking oil to get his skin to burn and then… and then…

It’s so gross. I was gagging a little. What’s wrong with you, developers?

Guybrush finally sets out on his new ship, with his new crew, and his disgusting new map! And just as quickly, his fortunes are reversed. His crew is much more interested with whale watching than helping to avoid being boarded, so Guybrush loses the map to another pirate. And then he has to navigate through a whole musical number to try to get the crew to stop singing and start sailing (hint: pick “orange” as the rhyme).

I guess we’re getting somewhere, but some days it feels like we’re just going about in circles.

The Curse of Monkey Island: Hair demons and demon chickens

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As I’ve noted in the Monkey Island series, Guybrush is — for an affable guy — very much capable of playing mean tricks on people and stealing everything not nailed down. I guess that’s the pirate life! In his pursuit to secure a crew, he douses a comb with lice to get a stuffy guy out of a barber chair. Said stuffy guy ends up completely bald, but hey, that’s what wigs are for.

Guybrush steals some scissors from the barbershop and hacks his way into the island interior, where karma catches up with him and he’s eaten by a snake. Of course, this being a LucasArts game, you can’t actually die, so this is merely a setback — and an opportunity to loot the stuff in the snake’s belly!

As the saying goes, “from the innards of a snake to the quicksand!” And so our pirate’s series of tragedies continues — all the more tragic for the loss of his inventory. Considering that there was a full breakfast in that snake, I’m a little bummed to lose it.

Lunch is next on the agenda, and for that there is nowhere finer than Captain’ Blondebeard! Here, Guybrush has a hilarious encounter with a twice-dead Manny from Grim Fandango. LucasArts, everyone!

As Guybrush assembles the last of his crew, a different bunch of pirates find LeChuck’s boots floating in the sea. Retrieving them, the old zombie pirate comes back from the extra-dead — again!

While attempting to secure a vessel of his own, Guybrush is — to his not-so-great horror — tarred and feathered by a roving band of pirate monkeys. My son particularly liked this part.

This becomes a very roundabout way to get below decks, as Guybrush goes back to town, freaks out the restaurant owner (who thinks he’s a devil chicken), gets knocked out, and then put into a pot for some reason.

Anyway, the “captain” of the ship is a big ape. Make of that what you will.

The Curse of Monkey Island: Banjo dueling

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Now that Guybrush has accidentally cursed his love Elaine into becoming a solid gold statue, he’s got a new mission in life: Get that smart and sassy redhead uncursed ASAP!

And by “ASAP” I mean “after wandering around a lot of silly areas doing a whole lot of foolishness.” I’m down for that. Guybrush is on Puerto Pello, a chicken-infested island. Chickens are pretty funny by themselves, so that’s a good choice.

And those wanderings are going to have to include stealing Elaine back from some pirates who figured that a giant thing of gold was worth a few bucks.

Man, I can’t get over how amazingly good this art looks! When you want to turn every location into your desktop wallpaper, you know the team did a good job.

Anyway, in the swamp Guybrush once again encounters Murray the skull. He’s been planted on a pike by some voodoo kids, and while he talks a big game of terrorizing everyone, he’s really bored out of his, erm, skull.

So the fortune teller from the first two games returns to lay out Guybrush’s goals: To get Elaine back and to lift the curse by replacing the bad ring with a good one. She suggests heading to Blood Island for that ring, but warns Guybrush that he’ll die if he goes there, so it’s going to be a wash. And to get to this island, he’ll need a map, a ship, and a crew.

I’m always a sucker for cartoony art styles in video games where landscapes and architecture is exaggerated and all wonky, like we see here in the town of Puerto Pollo. It’s what I think of as the “Dr. Suess style,” if that makes sense.

Man, I cannot get over how wonderful this art style is. It even makes casual thieving and plundering of some poor actor’s prop room a fun activity.

Excuse me, I’ll just be rolling in the aisles here as this game lampoons pretentious theater productions. About time someone rewrote Shakespeare! And called it… ‘SPEARE! Guybrush is not impressed.

“Break a peg-leg!” he tells them.

At the pirate barbers — of course pirates need a good hairstyling now and then! — Guybrush accidentally overshares about the giant diamond ring, its location, and the fact that his girlfriend is a solid gold statue. Way to go, dude.

Well, it’s a barbershop full of barbershop quartet-singing pirates. Guybrush tries to join by offering up a commercial jingle for Silver’s Long Johns (“They breathe!”), but the lead guy entreats him: “You must now take an oath before man and God to never sing in public again.”

Guybrush does get his first member of the crew — for a boat he has yet to procure — by challenging Edward Van Helgen to a banjo duel. It’s a bit of a Simon Sez minigame (not my favorite), but I did get a laugh at how Guybrush finally wins by outright shooting Van Helgen’s banjo to pieces.

The Curse of Monkey Island: Rings, floaties, and curses

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I don’t know if you have a gaming bucket list or not, but on mine, I really want to finish certain classic adventure game series that I had never played or played fully through. I’ve accomplished this with Space Quests 1-6 already, while series like King’s Quest and Monkey Island remain undone. And with that motivation, I’m going to be making my way through the goofiness that is 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island.

As we start this latest tale, Guybrush Threepwood is found floating out at sea on a bumper car. There’s a great running gag here where he’s writing about his wishes for fresh water, bananas, and even grog with a fresh chicken while those things float by without him noticing.

Clearly, there’s a huge visual change here from the first two Monkey Island games. We’re no longer in pixelart territory, but rather a very whimsical cartoonish, hand-drawn style. Other than the flatness of the characters, I really dig it.

The game proper begins in a pirate ship where Guybrush has to figure a way out. Good ol’ Wally the cartographer is firing a cannon and I’m over here trying to figure out how to interact. There’s a new type of context-sensitive mouse interface that uses a gold doubloon to show the different actions you can do on items. It’s very in-character.

Wally explains why he’s working for the feared undead pirate captain LeChuck — namely, empowering motivational seminars and audio books-on-parrot (“Which taught me all the key pirate phrases, like ‘Who’s a pretty bird?'”). I can’t help it, I’m already laughing out loud.

Guybrush talks Wally out of the pirating life and proceeds to use the cannon to blast all of the boats of undead invaders heading toward the island fort. One of the survivors of this massacre is Murray, a rather evil-minded talking skull who looks really, really good in hats.

“How can you see without eyeballs?”

“How can you walk around without a brain?”

Right as Guybrush uses a cannon to blast his way out of the hold, LeChuck is messing around with an enchanted cannonball — and the two events end up capsizing the ship.

Guybrush, a man of action, cuts his way out of the upside-down ship with a diamond ring and reunites with his one true love — Elaine! Cue a speech that had me giggling once again, especially as Guybrush ends it with a marriage proposal (while wearing a floatie).

Even Wally survived! And it’s a good thing he did, too, because he notes that this particular ring has a rather nasty curse on it, but of course Guybrush wouldn’t be dumb enough to propose with that. Right? Right.

And thus as Elaine winds up to smack Guybrush for being an idiot, she turns into a giant gold statue. No, Guybrush, she’s not going to be happy about this. Very few women would be.

Torchlight II: I’ve got a bone to pick with you

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2012’s Torchlight II. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As my Outlander pushes her way slowly through another dungeon called the Bone Gallery, I make a great discovery: a summon skeleton scroll. Apparently, Torchlight II lets any classes learn spell scrolls if they find them, meaning that I now can call forth my own skelly once per minute. I’m going to need it, too, because I’ve died three times in this dungeon already. Not sure if I regret that veteran difficulty level yet…

I did get an uber-powerful bow with tons of stats, so even though I don’t want to specialize in archery, I’m going with it for now for the DPS. I also invested a point in an ability that has a chance to convert a vanquished foe into a spectral bat. I want *all* the minions!

Really, the only thing that’s disappointed me so far is that you can only respec the last three points you spent in your skill tree. That stinks, especially when you sink points into abilities you don’t want to use later on. Feels wasted. Apparently I’m late to the party on this complaint, so I’ll move on.

Allegedly there’s a story here in Torchlight II, but I’ve yet to meet an ARPG that has an interesting story of any degree. And YES, Legend of Zelda, I’m including you in that statement. Really, this is about running around and firing wildly yet responsibly. Such as against this armored gorilla dude who has achieved the rank of general solely through the act of growing huge.

One of the hallmarks of these kinds of games is a constantly chaotic battleground. Stuff’s always going on in T2, and I’m almost never ready for it. I saw this guy on an altar and clicked on him, thinking, “hey, reward!’ and before I knew it, I had summoned this mini-boss who was chucking slugs at me left and right. Ain’t no adventuring school that can prep you for that.

I liked this bit: In an enemy camp, there are these flammable huts. When I set them on fire, two bandits came rolling out of the front door to escape the flames.

I’ll tell you, there’s one thing I’ve learned to do: Make a temporary waypoint right outside of any dungeon I’m about to enter. Because when I die — and I most assuredly will die — having that fast travel back to the start beats a long, long run from town or the nearest permanent waypoint.

Postscript: So after writing this post, I effectively stalled out on Torchlight II. The higher difficulty level made this a bit of a slog and I kept thinking I might just restart as a different class. But in the end, while I did enjoy T2, I felt like I wasn’t going to have much more interesting things to write about it for this series and should move on. Good game, though!

Torchlight II: Light ’em up, boys

(This is part of my journey going playing through 2012’s Torchlight II. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

While I’m sure that none of you care very much about this, the pattern of retro games that I play for this series matters a lot to my temperament. If I do too many of similar-genre games in a row — adventure or RPG or what have you — it starts to drag me down. I need variety! I need a palette cleanser! I need… an ARPG I’ve never played before!

Thus, Torchlight II.

The well-received follow-up to Torchlight, a colorful Diablo clone that came out in 2009, the sequel improved the formula across the board. It was so well-liked, in fact, that it’s still being ported to various consoles and has more popularity around it than the newly released Torchlight III. So why not give it a whirl?

I’m going with an Outlander for this playthrough, because two guns is cool. Or so movies told me. I also picked a bulldog as a pet and veteran difficulty.

From the get-go, I get the feeling that there’s going to be a very low learning curve to Torchlight II. It’s all quite familiar with Diablo controls and MMO questing. I’m down for that!

There isn’t much ado before getting right into a questing area, which has that stylized World of Warcraft feel to it as I go about killing, looting, and killing some more. I really took a shine to the Outlander’s glaives, and I’m thinking about specializing in them. I like how they rip through targets and bounce around, spreading poison everywhere. Kind of like a bad Twitter thread.

On veteran difficulty, TII doesn’t mess around. I wasn’t paying attention during one pack of mobs and got steamrolled very quickly. I’m a little concerned that I might not have picked the most durable class for this, but I guess I can always pump up her dodge and hope for the best.

Pictured here: My first dungeon dive! I love that my dog is a pretty good fighter (with his own gear). That helps from getting too overwhelmed by mobs.

Oof, seriously, this is not an easy go, even on a first dungeon. Lots of mobs, very hard-hitting, and to make matters worse, they’re immune to my poison. Dodge, don’t fail me now!

What I’ve always loved about the Torchlight franchise is that it’s so intuitive and contains a lot of quality-of-life features. My favorite is the pet, which not only serves as an attack companion, but can be sent back to town to sell stuff — AND to buy potions. I already had to send Pixel to grab me more health pots, because I was not going to make it in here without them.

Dungeon done, I worked my way through the next area while hitting level 6. It was about here that I started to get better gear and some more interesting skill tree options. I experimented with full auto shot and found it really great — particularly for the pushback, which helped with bosses. The repeated vocal warnings that I was low on mana annoyed me… at least until I found out that you can disable those. Thanks, Torchlight II!

Killing a phase beast sent me into a special stage that featured a semi-apparent maze across a pond. Who doesn’t love a good maze in an RPG? Well, other than me, of course.

While I’m going to either stick with twin pistols or a shotgun, I have to say that lugging around and firing a cannon is hilariously fun.