Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, PC

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is the 1991 sequel to the classic The Secret of Monkey Island and is arguably even better than its fondly-remembered predecessor.

Created by essentially the same team as the previous game, Monkey Island 2 once again follows the exploits of Guybrush Threepwood and his adventures into pirating and comedy. And once again he is up against his arch nemesis, LeChuck, only this time LeChuck is a rotting zombie due to him having been killed in the last game and brought back to life in this.

Like all LucasArts point-and-click adventures, Monkey Island 2 features beautiful graphics and laugh-out-loud dialogue. The solutions to many of the early puzzles are not too difficult to figure out, but some do take a leap in imagination to make the link between certain items and locations.

Monkey Island 2 was the first LucasArts game to use the iMUSE music system, which basically adapts depending on the situation, and it also opens with dancing monkeys! And everyone loves dancing monkeys… Well, digital ones, anyway.

A HD remake was released in 2010 and is currently available in various outlets. These grabs show the original 1991 DOS VGA version.

Monkey Island 2 really is a belly-laugh of an adventure and is arguably the high point of the series. It’s well worth playing.

More: Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on Wikipedia
Steam: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition on GOG.com

Monkey Island 2 artwork by Steve Purcell.

Monkey Island 2 artwork by Steve Purcell.

The Secret of Monkey Island, PC

This is the original MS-DOS classic, as released by Lucasfilm Games (later to become LucasArts) in 1990. The Secret of Monkey Island is a humorous point-and-click adventure introducing wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood and his evil arch nemesis the pirate LeChuck.

The game uses the SCUMM system and uses a mouse to click on a list of verbs and objects on-screen, in order to carry out actions. Conversations play a big part in the game and there are always multiple answers you can choose from. Actually, the dialogue on The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the things that helps make the game so special – it’s very funny. Even the mundane characters have a life to them…

There are also a number of special mechanics in the game, like sword fighting, and… insulting. Both of which you learn by taking on a related quest and eventually beating the Sword Master. The insults are hilarious and play an active role in combat. If an opponent insults you and you give the wrong response (or don’t respond in time), you lose. Choose the correct response to an insult and it puts the ball back in the opponent’s court. And if they then don’t respond correctly, they lose… It’s tense stuff! But very much fun.

Playing The Secret of Monkey Island is a rite of passage for any self-respecting gamer. If you’ve never played it: rectify that ASAP and get it added to your gaming heritage.

A Special Edition was released in 2009, with updated graphics and gameplay.

More: The Secret of Monkey Island on Wikipedia
Steam: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition on Steam
GOG.com: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition on GOG.com

The-Secret-of-Monkey-Island-Cover

Steel Alcimus, PC

Another excellent Hijong Park retro tribute game – this one possibly his best so far – Steel Alcimus is an overhead helicopter shooter with either twin-stick joypad, or keyboard and mouse controls. I played it with mouse and keys and found the control system to be really quite ingenious.

This game is a bit more complex than Park‘s other games, Rolling Bird or Frantic Dimension, so requires a number of tutorial missions be flown before you can start a campaign. Which is fine because the tutorial is well designed, fun to play, and much easier than the missions themselves!

When you finally get to some actual missions you really then start to see how good Steel Alcimus is. It’s a game that’s been made with real love and care, kept simple and playable, and polished like a game with a Nintendo Seal of Approval. Which it doesn’t have of course. But maybe should have. 🙂

Steel Alcimus – like Hijong Park‘s other games – is very interesting to play, but devilishly difficult to master. And – like his other games – it has a distinct graphical style. And it feels great to fly the helicopter around and blow stuff up. Steel Alcumus reminds me of a few good old games: Raid On Bungeling Bay, Cyclone, and Carrier Command, to name but three.

Steel Alcimus is on Steam now. There’s a free version, and also a very low-cost donationware version. If you like helicopter action games you should give it a try, and if you enjoy it you should consider buying the donation version. I did, because I like what Park‘s doing – he’s making fun games that are worth playing (he’s actually making the type of games I’d make myself if I could code). And I support that wholeheartedly.

More: PsychoFlux Entertainment on Steam
Steam: Steel Alcimus on Steam

Tales of Phantasia, Game Boy Advance

This 2003 remake of Namco‘s SNES classic Tales of Phantasia was the first time the game had been officially translated into English.

While much of the game remains the same, there are a few differences. Firstly, the screen ratio has been changed from the 4:3 of the SNES original to the ‘widescreen’ 240 x 160 of the GBA screen. Which makes it look more modern, even if the resolution is actually lower (the resolution of the SNES version is 256 x 224). The lower resolution of the GBA is not an issue though as many of the in-game characters have been re-drawn to make them look bigger in the play window. This becomes most apparent during combat, when all the figures appear significantly larger than in the SNES version. This is not a problem, though, because most combat is fought horizontally, and not vertically, so making the main characters larger has not had a detrimental effect on gameplay. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The only real criticisms I’ve read about this game are that the random battles are too frequent (didn’t seem too bad to me), and the combat system is “unrefined” compared to the ‘Tales‘ sequels. Well… No sh*t, Sherlock. That’s bleedin’ obvious. And a bit unfair.

Tales of Phantasia is a lovely game that still has a lot of appeal now and is worth a play if you can find a copy. With this GBA version being an official translation, and with its updated graphics, I’d give it a higher rating than any of the fan-translated versions of the SNES original.

More: Tales of Phantasia on the Game Boy Advance on Wikipedia

Tales of Phantasia, Super Nintendo

Tales of Phantasia is an RPG developed by Wolf Team, and first published for the Super Nintendo by Namco in 1995. As JRPGs go, it’s quite memorable.

It’s a time-travelling, party-based adventure with real-time, random combat. Yes: real time combat. Which is quite rare in this genre. The combat sections play like a side-scrolling action game, with your party being attacked from either the left or the right, and the direction of attack dictating who’s closest to the enemy. So you learn to put your more vulnerable characters in the middle! The real-time combat system in Tales of Phantasia is a refreshing change from the usual style of turn-based JPRGs and is I think what gives this game its unique appeal.

That said: there’s more to Tales of Phantasia than just the combat. The story isn’t bad, and neither is the dialogue, and the six playable characters available for recruit are all fairly interesting. There are lots of great little touches too, like the ripples and reflections in the water. There’s a ton of stuff to see and do in this game and it’s frankly more than worth the investment of time.

A Game Boy Advance remake was released in 2006 and was the game’s first official English translation. It’s somewhat different to this, though, with a widescreen display and larger character graphics during combat. Background graphics and gameplay are the same though.

More: Tales of Phantasia on Wikipedia