My beloved The Secret of Monkey Island is now 30-years old. Since being released back on 15 October 1990, it has grown become one of the most well-known and loved point-and-click games and is often cited as an inspiration for modern adventures.
Regular Later Levels’ visitors are likely to know why I adore this title and how much it has influenced my gaming habits over the past three decades. That’s why I’m celebrating Guybrush Threepwood’s birthday today with a tag post that any pirate would be proud of! Whether you played back in the 90s or have only recently discovered it, everyone is invited to answer the prompts below and share their love for The Secret of Monkey Island. And if you haven’t played it yet: what are you waiting for?
How did you first come across The Secret of Monkey Island?
I was lucky enough to receive an Amiga 500 from my parents for Christmas when I was nine-years old. My dad spent most of the morning trying to hook it up to our television before asking me what I wanted to play first; and I pointed to a box showing a mysterious skull surrounded by a ghostly ship, fierce-looking pirates and a young swashbuckling hero. The rest of that day was spent exploring Mêlée Island and meeting the other characters, all of which blew my young brain because it was as if the books I’d been reading had come alive on screen.
What’s your happiest memory of the game?
My granddad got roped into playing with us on that Christmas day and we came to the section where you need to break Otis out of the prison cell so you can add him to your pirate crew. We struggled with the puzzle for a while before my dad and granddad eventually drifted away. I was so proud of myself when I managed to figure out that you needed to use the various mugs scattered around the Scumm Bar with the grog on my own– something had clicked and it was like I finally understood what the game wanted of me.
Who’s your favourite character?
My favourite character from the entire series is Murray but, if we’re sticking to the original title for today’s post, then Elaine Marley comes a very close second. Guybrush can be a bit of an idiot sometimes and it’s the poor Governor who has to put up with that crap. If was she who saves the day in The Secret of Monkey Island before her partner comes along, mucks it up and manages to defeat LeChuck through sheer luck – and I think that makes her worthy of being a playable protagonist in her own game.
What’s the best location in the story?
Although it’s not really a location in itself, the scene I liked most as a kid was the moment you were given access to the top-down map of Mêlée Island. It felt as though the whole island had suddenly been opened to me and I was so certain that places other than the obvious landmarks were concealed within the trees, that I spent ages searching every path for hidden entrances. I loved the part where you had to follow the Storekeeper through the map and into the forest to track down Carla.
What’s your favourite puzzle?
LucasArts perfectly captured the cerebral nature of the point-and-click along with comedy in a puzzle which let us express our inner-pirate: insult-swordfighting. Guybrush must track down opponents on the roads of the map mentioned above and challenge them to a duel, picking up new insults and testing out collected responses to build his repertoire. The formula is then mixed up when you take on Carla when you can’t just reuse the same lines and if you end up being good enough, you’ll be rewarded with an ‘I beat the Sword Master’ t-shirt.
Which is the most confusing item in your inventory?
Forget the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle – for me as a kid, the most confusing item was the Head of the Navigator. I appreciated the How to get Ahead in Navigation pamphlet pun but was a little grossed out by the fact that Guybrush would have to carry around a wrinkly face wrapped in an eyeball necklace. It did prove to use useful though: without the Navigator, I’d never have found my way through the underground lava maze on Monkey Island and then been able to turn myself invisible to hide from the ghosts.
Give us your favourite quote from The Secret of Monkey Island
My favourite line has to be ‘I’m selling these fine leather jackets.’ This originally came from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989 when Indy tries to talk his way out of danger and then went on to be parodied in every Monkey Island game afterwards. Guybrush uses it in the first title when he greets non-player characters (NPCs) and in the sequels to try and get himself out of trouble. It’s now a quote that I occasionally throw out myself when I’m not sure what to say!
What’s your favourite soundtrack from the game?
It’s hard to pick just one track; I immediately want to go and play a point-and-click whenever I hear any of the music from The Secret of Monkey Island now. The opening theme is probably the most memorable and easiest to recall though, and I’ve always like the Scumm Bar and Voodoo Shop themes too. I think they’re excellent at capturing the atmosphere of their locations and the characters within them – you’d immediately know what sort of place you were in without even seeing where you were.
What’s the most memorable moment in the game for you?
After getting past the piranha poodles outside Elaine’s mansion, you’re confronted by the evil Fester Shinetop. The great thing about this battle is that it takes place in another room you can’t see so all you can go on is sound-effects and imagination. Verbs appear in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen as though Guybrush were selecting them himself, and I thought him ‘using a stapler on the tremendous dangerous-looking yak’ and ‘using gopher repellent on the gopher horde’ was hilarious when I was a kid.
Do you own any Monkey Island merch?
When we went to the London Gaming Market in early 2018 (back when you could attend a physical event and COVID-19 wasn’t a thing), I came across the stand for Cave of Pixels and immediately snapped up two of his works. The bead-art pictures of Guybrush and LeChuck have hung on our hallway walls since. At some point we’ll be creating a dedicated gaming space at home and I’ll move the frames into there, and I’d love to be able to pick up an additional one of Elaine to finish the trio if it’s ever made.
Has The Secret of Monkey Island shaped your gaming habits in any way?
I’ve adored point-and-clicks since first playing The Secret of Monkey Island 30 years ago. It showed me back then that the kind of stories I thought only existed inside of books could be brought to life through a video game and inspired me to go on to try other adventures. The genre remains my favourite to this day and is the one I find myself returning to most frequently. You could definitely say that Guybrush and the rest of the crew turned me into the gamer I am now – and gave me a lifelong love for wannabe pirates.
Create your own swordfighting insult!
“Being around you is as tedious as using the WordPress block editor.”
Got a good comeback for my insult above? Then leave your response in the comments below! And if you’re looking for more Guybrush goodness, why not join us over on Twitch tomorrow from 15:00 BST for The Secret of Monkey Island 30th anniversary stream. Bring your three-headed monkey along – he’s going to love it.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.