Forgoing the history lesson on an almost-20-year-old game, The Secret of Monkey Island is a point-and-click adventure in which you assume the role of a wannabe pirate named Guybrush Threepwood. In order to become a pirate, Threepwood must prove himself as a swordsman, a treasure hunter, and a thief, which means you must prove that you can both solve puzzles and move a cursor around a screen--often simultaneously. You can expect to hit a few brick walls when you encounter some of the more baffling puzzles, but the all-new hints system does a great job of pointing you in the right direction if you choose to use it, and the writing is entertaining enough to keep you interested during extended periods of head-scratching if you don't. An option to play the game in its original form or with greatly enhanced audio and visuals is the foamy head on this Special Edition pint of Grog, and you won't want to stop drinking until you can see the bottom of your tankard.
This conversation was amusing in 1990...
The Secret of Monkey Island is easy to pick up, regardless of whether or not you've played this kind of adventure game before. You use the mouse to move a cursor around the screen, and when you're pointing at something you want to interact with or a location you want to move to, you click the left mouse button. Other actions, such as "speak to," "pull," "use," and "give," are assigned to onscreen buttons that, depending on whether or not you're playing with the updated visuals, either appear at the bottom of the screen at all times or in a pop-up window. Actions are also mapped to individual keys if you prefer to play that way, and both the middle and right mouse buttons serve as shortcuts to commonly used actions. Like actions, items in your inventory also appear onscreen at all times when playing with the original graphics, but they are mapped to a second pop-up window in the new interface. It's great that you can switch between the two modes on the fly because there are pros and cons to both. The Special Edition looks much better and is the only way to play if you want to hear, as well as read, what characters are saying, whereas the original game's interface is a little easier to use.
Monkey Island isn't a game that wastes any time throwing seemingly useless items and satisfying puzzles at you. Shortly after starting out on Melee Island, you visit a bar where pirate leaders drunk on Grog (a drink so acidic that you have to consume it before it eats through the tankard) give you three challenges to complete; a surly chef refuses you entry to his kitchen; and a hungry seagull makes it difficult for you to pick up what may or may not be a red herring. Before you know it, you're walking around the island with all manner of items stuffed into Threepwood's physics-defying pockets, and you'll spend the majority of your time figuring out how to combine or use those items. Using the "look at" option on an item will afford you an amusing description that often doubles as a clue to its intended purpose. You might still end up solving some puzzles through trial and error, but you'll also kick yourself for not spotting the clues to the puzzle's solution before resorting to that time-tested technique.
...and it's even better in 2009 because you can hear it.