Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition (2010, original 1991)

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition (2010, original 1991), created by Ron Gilbert, SE published and developed by LucasArts, original published and developed by LucasFilm Games LLC.

To say that Monkey Island 2 is an improvement over the first game would be selling it short. Now, don't get me wrong, the first game in the series is one of the best adventure games ever made but it still has its own little annoyances that do prevent it from being as good as it could be.  On the second entry to the series Ron Gilbert and his cohorts did not only manage to remove many of the little annoyances,but they also managed to make a game that is better in almost every way, including story, if you don't count the ending that still feels like a copout if you ask me.

Time has passed since Guybrush kicked the evil ghost pirate LeChuck's butt in the first game and to the relief of the other pirates, he is on another adventure, which means he could soon have a new story to brag on. The naive and goofy pirate wannabe is on the trail of the biggest treasure ever buried, the legendary Big Whoop, as he is telling to those unfortunate enough to listen to his prattle at Scabb Island, where his quest has taken him.

Unfortunately for Guybrush, the island itself is under an embargo enforced by notorious Largo LaGrande, a mean pirate who once was the right-hand man of LeChuck's. One thing leads to another and Guybrush ends up running Largo away from the island, freeing it from the embargo. But, as luck has it, Largo steals a wriggling piece of LeChuck's beard from him, allowing the resurrection of the rotting carcass of the evil cutthroat.

Relatively oblivious to the resurrection of the Caribbeans most evil pirate, Guybrush keeps on looking for the four map pieces of that could lead him to the treasure. This takes him to two other islands of the area, Booty and Phatt. The islands can be visited at your own leisure, which allows you to jump from one puzzle to another if you feel stuck which is a good design point. There's always a lot to do, so it is rare to feel completely stuck. You do have to use things you've learned from the previous puzzles at times, but almost always the design is fair.

The cruellest puzzle in the game is actually somewhat notorious on its own right, as it might be a stumbling block for those not native to English language or not versed in slang terminology. At one point you need to turn off a water valve and that requires you to use a wrench. A monkey wrench to be exact, which is an item that doesn't exist in a game. A monkey, however, does so you can do the math from there.

Unlike the first game, Monkey Island 2 is also missing the sword fighting, which is, if you ask me, a good thing, as the fights on the first game did end up as a bit too repetitive and the insult collecting phase just isn't that fun, especially if you're on the second or third playthrough. There are references to it, but that's as far it goes.

If the original Monkey Island 2 is an improvement over the first game, the same can be said about the Special Edition as well. The SE of the first game, especially the graphics, have always felt a bit unfinished to me like it was rushed out. This isn't the case with MI2SE, as in many ways I actually do prefer the new graphics over the old ones. That's mostly because of the added colour depth and details, which the old 256 colour palette just couldn't reach. Though it must be said, that had they just re-scanned the original background art with higher resolution, I would have been more than happy about. The special features contain many scans of the original art by Steve Purcell and Peter Chan and they do look fantastic. To get that in high resolution would have been a treat, but it also might have been impossible, as some of the art might have gone missing.

Like with the SE of the MI1, the music and sound effects have been remastered and the game is fully voiced. Unlike with the SE of the first game, Monkey Island 2 can be played fully voiced in both, original and remastered modes, which is a great addition. This doesn't give you as much freedom to choose the number of enhancements like the superb remaster of the Day of the Tentacle, but it does make a nicer experience when you aren't forced to choose between the voice acting and the graphics.

If not counting the great voice acting and the remastered music, the Special Edition of the Monkey Island 1 was somewhat a disappointment. Monkey Island 2 SE on the other hand is, and I know it sounds almost sacrilegious to some, my preferred version of the game. It has the original art for those who want it, but it also allows you to use voice acting on it. The remastered artwork is very well done as is the music and the new UI makes it easier to approach for new players not accustomed to multiple verb interface. And then there's the additional content like the high-resolution scans of the original art as well as the developers' commentary for those who are interested in hearing their thoughts during the game.

All in all, the seems like LucasArts learned their lessons from the SE version of Monkey Island 1. They used more time to polish things and ended up doing something at least I consider to be a minor improvement over the original. And that is rare.