Escape from Monkey Island sucks. Why? Oh, I have several reasons. I will list them here for you to read the words I have written in this Entry I have made on this website that is based on a book.
Warning: This Entry contains spoilers, so don't read it if you haven't played the game! Why would you want to anyway? Also note that I did in fact enjoy playing the game, because otherwise I wouldn't have played it. I do think, however, that EMI is by far the worst game in the series.
Making everything in 3D invariably detracts from the experience, since very few game developers1 are prepared to spend the time and money needed to make 3D animation look believable. Therefore, many try to emulate the style of 2D animation, as LucasArts did in EMI. The result looks horrible. Guybrush looks like a wooden dummy; his face looks like it's been painted on as an afterthought. Most of the characters move rather unconvincingly, especially when they turn around or walk in a circle, since the walking animation is obviously meant for walking in a straight line.
Why didn't this bother me in Grim Fandango2? It uses the same 3D engine, right? Exactly. The 3D engine is old and gray and should never be used again without some serious revising and updating. Better yet, it should be put to sleep. It's old and in pain. And everything is too bright, it looks silly. So what if they ripped stuff from the Obi-wan engine? That's an argument against the game if anything. It's just a mishmash of old stuff.
Why didn't this bother me in the previous 2D games? Those walking cycles were also meant for walking in a straight line, right? Yes, but think about it. It's much easier to compose a screen in a 2D point-and-click game so as to eliminate most of the turning. This means that a lot of the landscape only allowed Guybrush to walk in straight lines. If it didn't, Guybrush mainly just walked in straight lines when you clicked something, anyway. What about transition animation3 for characters turning around in Monkey Island 1 and 2? I'll be the first to admit it. There were no "turn around" animations, but that didn't bother me at all since I just never thought about it. 2D animation in games has become a lot better since then. 3D animation in most games still sucks. Therefore, if you want to make a game that looks good, go with 2D, since people know how to make that look good. If you want to be a pioneer, go with 3D, but expect it to look not so good. Or mimic the game Runaway and make it 2D with a lot of pre-rendered 3D stuff.
The anti-point-n'-click monster
What were they thinking? What's with LucasArts all of a sudden? Have they forgotten that there's something called a mouse? It's a great input device for graphical interfaces. I use it all day long and I love it. Why is it that when they went 3D in Grim Fandango they came up with this stupid "walk around the screen and see what the character looks at to find things you can interact with" interface?! What the h**l is that?!? Suddenly, it came to me. LucasArts want to expand their market and sell graphic adventure games for consoles like PlayStation, Nintendo, Sega and Microsoft. Well, all I can say is "blah".
Sure, it was kind of cool at first (read: in Grim Fandango). But now it's just irritating and destroys all suspension of disbelief. I try to run around the screen. Suddenly, BAM, Guybrush decides that he can't walk on a shadow, so he subsequently changes direction and accidentally enters a building. I have to go through the task of turning around at a ridiculously slow speed, use the door to get out, watch the irritating and badly done "open door" animation, and then keep exploring the aforementioned screen. IT SUCKS!! I felt like crying when, for the umpteenth time, Guybrush just refused to run a bit too close to a few flowers and instead made a 180 and ran out of the current screen. Sigh...
Murray the Skull
Players of Curse of Monkey Island (number 3 in the series) have fond memories of Murray, the talking skull. The cool thing about him was that you'd bump into him everywhere, and he'd always have something funny to say about the scenery, Guybrush and everything. The greatest thing about him was that he wanted to take over the world, even though he was just a talking skull and obviously couldn't do anyone any harm.
Enter the abhorrent game that is Escape from Monkey Island, to completely ruin everything. Here, Murray is pinned down to a stool in front of a restaurant, calling out today's special, among other things. He's more irritating than funny, you only run into him in a single scene, and his desire to take over the world seems to have been all but quenched. He's just a sad 3D shadow of his former self. Still, he's probably the funniest character in the whole game, which says a lot.
I'd say that about half the music is reused material ripped straight off of Curse of Monkey Island. Why change a winning concept, eh? Yes, well, I believe you're confusing the word "concept" with the word "everything". That didn't turn out quite as witty as I'd hoped. Well, I made my point anyway.
I need to mention the menu here. I feared the menu. It was a nightmare, that menu. Everytime I had to load a game, save a game or tweak something or other, it started playing that infernal music. It's too catchy, that song. Plus they stole it from Curse of Monkey Island, which makes it even more aggravating. That tune haunts me to this very day, and every time I find myself humming it, I am reminded of that horrible game and how it stole that music with its grubby little 3D monkey hands. Please, somebody save me! (Runs off to listen to a soothing NiN CD.)
Timmy the Monkey
Haaaa haaaaaah. Yes, those Lassie jokes were really hilarious. (Did you catch the sarcasm?) Some things get old before they even start. The Lassie joke was one of them. It got really old really fast. It's already been done, people, on The Muppets (Martin Short and Kermit) and on Goodness Gracious Me ("Skipinder"), to name only an infinitely small subset. It's been done!
In fact, that's the biggest problem of EMI. It's been done. Stop beating a dead horse. It was a funny horse, but now it's dead, stop it. It won't make you laugh any more, it's just a sad dead horse, no matter how much you beat it and no matter how many nice frills and things you add to make it look all new and 3D.
Usually, when you speak ill of EMI, young whippersnappers speak up and flame you with comments like "Oh yeah! I guess you just like to laugh and don't like games with real plots!" Excuse me, do you even know what 2D is? I didn't think so. But that's beside the point4.
It's true, I like to laugh. I laugh often and loudly. Perhaps teenagers with the brainsize of a slug5 would now assume that I for some reason don't like games with plots. Au contraire (I hope the squacks understood that6), I love games like The Longest Journey, Broken Sword I & II and Discworld Noir, where the story is so beautiful it's simply to die for, intricate details of ancient history suddenly seem interesting, and the plot twists are sudden and plentiful, respectively. However, when I play a game of the Monkey Island series, I expect to be entertained. I don't want an old "fragile fantasy meets harsh reality" plot with "Monkey Island meets the Cheap-Laughs" humour in an "adventure gaming meets console gaming" environment. Especially not in 3D7!
I don't like it, both in the game and in real life. EMI is obviously a way for the capitalist vampires (I don't know what else to call them) to suck the Monkey Island series dry. I wonder if the makers of EMI saw the irony in making such a blatantly commercialist game in which the goal is to defeat blatant commercialism. Perhaps the whole concept of the Ultimate Insult is some kind of symbolism for how EMI is in fact the Ultimate Insult to the creator of the Monkey Island saga and his devotees. If it is, kudos to the makers of EMI. I still don't like it, though.
More reasons to come. Stay tuned...