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Who Should Review Monkey Island: Special Edition?

Posted on 16th Jun 2009 at 12:02 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
Journalistic integrity is something we pride ourselves on here at bit-tech and we always try to make sure that our reviews are fair-minded, open and in-depth. Each of us at bit-tech and Custom PC magazine has a specialty and we always try to play to that expertise. Tim does graphics cards. Richard does motherboards and PSUs. I play games. Harry makes the coffee.

It’s this integrity that explains why you’ll never see me review a hardcore racing sim such as Forza or Race Pro; as a man who can’t even ride a bike, let alone ride a car, I have no right to talk about the flaws in a racing sim.

This integrity though does present one very big problem for us though and that is; who should review the upcoming swathe of Monkey Island games – both the newly announced episodes from Telltale Games and the Special Edition re-release from LucasArts proper?

Who Should Review Monkey Island: Special Edition? Who Should Review Monkey Island?
Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!

You see, Monkey Island is my specialty. Not just adventure games in general, but Monkey Island in particular. I know it back to front, inside out, guts to garters, from skink toes to monkey bladders. If I was on Mastermind then Monkey Island would be my specialist subject. I even have a similar non-beard similar to the one Guybrush has in Monkey Island 2.

I won’t talk about why I know so much about The Secret of Monkey Island or why I love it so much - I’ve done that before - and I don’t want to overindulge myself like the Mayor of Phatt Island. Suffice it to say that the Monkey Island is important to me. The team of developers behind the recent revival of the series claim that the first Monkey Island games were why they got into game development; my claim would be the same, except I’m not very good at maths.

There are people at bit-tech and Custom PC though who’ve never played any of the classic LucasArts adventure games, ever. Shocking, I know. Clive is one of them, having never even seen the opening cutscene to Sam and Max Hit the Road either. Mark has played the game, but doesn't carry as much of a torch for it as I do. Harry meanwhile has played a Monkey Island game before, but only Curse of Monkey Island – and he did it with a walkthrough in his free hand. Obviously he wasn’t massively impressed.

Who Should Review Monkey Island: Special Edition? Who Should Review Monkey Island?
Look behind you! A PRETTIER three-headed monkey!

The question is two-fold then; firstly, do you think I can be trusted to review a Monkey Island game fairly? Secondly, who would you like to review this game instead? Someone who has never played the series before, or someone who is familiar with the genre at least, or an expert? Is it more important to approach the game with a fresh set of eyes, or fore-armed with a boatload of knowledge and game trivia? How can someone reliably review the puzzles in the game if they've already solved the exact same puzzles before and are operating more out of memory and instinct than the puzzle was really intended for?

The second issue involved in the topic kind of stems from Harry’s previous exploration into the series – when is it OK to use a walkthrough in a game? Personally, I’ve never ever used a walkthrough apart from once (a Sam and Max episode where I got stuck for literally four hours). Normally, unless you’re cornered on a particular boss fight then cheats and walkthroughs are never really going to play a part in the review process…but for the adventure game genre things are a little different. You can get stuck and be totally unable to progress.

The new Monkey Island: Special Edition game has a hint system and is so perhaps a little unaffected by this, but it’s still something worth talking about. How long should a reviewer be stuck for before he uses a walkthrough and, if they only use a walkthrough for a single puzzle, should they still mention it in the review? Just things I’d like to know your thoughts on – so drop them in the comments below.

Or should we just tell Jamie to review it instead?

36 Comments

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Silver51 16th June 2009, 13:18 Quote
I think Harry should review it, and Joe made to watch over his shoulder... in silence.

In all seriousness though, why don't two people do a write up? Joe and someone who has never touched the series?
Bauul 16th June 2009, 13:18 Quote
It's funny that this question has only come up with Monkey Island: Special Edition. I mean, reviewing games you've already played another version of and know very well has happened many times in the past. You, Joe, for example reviewed Braid PC. Should you have given it to someone else, because you knew what to expect? Mass Effect PC was the same. In those cases, you really were reviewing what the changes to the original were, and to be honest that's all you're going to be doing for M.I. S.E.

So, I say, go ahead and review it if you like, it's hardly being "unjournalistic" if you use your past reviewing policy as a base. However, getting a total M.I. noob to play it would be interesting in the same way getting Faith to play through Fable 2 was. Both are valid for different reasons, so it's really just up to you.
liratheal 16th June 2009, 13:24 Quote
The question is two-fold then; firstly, do you think I can be trusted to review a Monkey Island game fairly?

No. I believe that you'd approach the review with the adoration that you've already expressed for the game, and probably wouldn't come out with a review that truely reflects all the negative points in the game.

However, your (Joe) perspective would be important. Infact, I would suggest that (Like your Team review of the drinks a while back) two of you review it together.

Secondly, who would you like to review this game instead?

Someone who doesn't;

A: Love the game (presumably) unconditonally.
B: Know much about the game.

My gut reaction says Clive and Joe. Separately, so Clive's review doesn't get contaminated by Joes Monkey Island love-excretions.

Though, if Clive's been avoiding Lucas Arts adventure games for this long, there has to be a reason.

Perhaps Harry?

How long should a reviewer be stuck for before he uses a walkthrough and, if they only use a walkthrough for a single puzzle, should they still mention it in the review?

However long the reviewers patience holds out.

Mentioning the use of a guide is an absolute must. Not only so that we know you're not the next gaming messiahs, but to prevent 'splashback' if it were to later emerge that a guide was used and it was glossed over - I'd see it casting doubt over the final score and possibly over other game reviews. IMO reviewers walk a tightrope of trust - We readers trust you (almost) with our wallets, bending that by glossing over some facts would probably not end well. At least, not for me.
CardJoe 16th June 2009, 13:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
It's funny that this question has only come up with Monkey Island: Special Edition. I mean, reviewing games you've already played another version of and know very well has happened many times in the past. You, Joe, for example reviewed Braid PC. Should you have given it to someone else, because you knew what to expect? Mass Effect PC was the same. In those cases, you really were reviewing what the changes to the original were, and to be honest that's all you're going to be doing for M.I. S.E.

So, I say, go ahead and review it if you like, it's hardly being "unjournalistic" if you use your past reviewing policy as a base. However, getting a total M.I. noob to play it would be interesting in the same way getting Faith to play through Fable 2 was. Both are valid for different reasons, so it's really just up to you.

Actually, Braid was the exception. In the past I've avoided reviewing the same game twice wherever possible - which is why Andy reviewed Mass Effect and Mirror's Edge on consoles first, then I reviewed them on console, with the later PC review being about looking at what is new for the PC release. In the case of Braid, that wasn't a lot - and the review suffered for it IMHO.
ArtificialHero 16th June 2009, 13:35 Quote
I second the idea that it should get two reviews - one from Joe, and one from someone who is unfamiliar with the series.
Adnoctum 16th June 2009, 14:06 Quote
I think that the biggest problem with Joe reviewing a Monkey Island game is that he fights like a cow when he should be fighting like a dairy farmer.
CardJoe 16th June 2009, 14:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adnoctum
I think that the biggest problem with Joe reviewing a Monkey Island game is that he fights like a cow when he should be fighting like a dairy farmer.

+ Rep for awesomeness.
Blademrk 16th June 2009, 14:32 Quote
How about a review by someone not so... overly familiar with the MI games and an opinion piece or addendum by Joe, at least then we can see if it's as good as the original (from a MI fan perspective ;) ) or if something has gone drastically wrong.
Quote:
Or should we just tell Jamie to review it instead?

oh, go on then.
Jamie 16th June 2009, 15:04 Quote
I think I'd be almost as biased as Joe but then the writing would be so bad you'd have trouble making sense of what I was trying to say about it.
dr-strangelove 16th June 2009, 15:07 Quote
I think that having two reviewers is a good idea, since the new game comes in two modes you could have Joe review the 'retro' mode to see if it stands up to his expectations and have someone unfamiliar with the series review it in the newer mode. Or vice versa.
CardJoe 16th June 2009, 15:51 Quote
You know, I made a little promise to myself when I wrote this blogpost that if anybody responded by saying "Me - I should review it instead of Joe or Clive or Harry" then I'd oblige and send the game out to them.

Unfortunately, nobody did and I've decided not to do it now. Ah well.
liratheal 16th June 2009, 16:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You know, I made a little promise to myself when I wrote this blogpost that if anybody responded by saying "Me - I should review it instead of Joe or Clive or Harry" then I'd oblige and send the game out to them.

Unfortunately, nobody did and I've decided not to do it now. Ah well.

Are you sure you don't want to reconsider? :p
coolius 16th June 2009, 16:21 Quote
Just write two reviews of course, one for the enlightened, and one for the rest.
tejas 16th June 2009, 16:56 Quote
Richard "bindibadgi" Swinburne all the way to review Monkey Island!!
kenco_uk 16th June 2009, 17:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You know, I made a little promise to myself when I wrote this blogpost that if anybody responded by saying "Me - I should review it instead of Joe or Clive or Harry" then I'd oblige and send the game out to them.

Unfortunately, nobody did and I've decided not to do it now. Ah well.

It's basically because everyone knows, at the back of their mind, despite what they say/type that there's really no other answer other than to get you to review it. Nobody else would be prepared enough to give it the review it deserves.

I can only say now, with retrospect, that I wish I had said 'me! me! me!'

Ah well.
Sifter3000 16th June 2009, 17:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
I think I'd be almost as biased as Joe but then the writing would be so bad you'd have trouble making sense of what I was trying to say about it.

write it in PHP then :)
liratheal 16th June 2009, 17:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
write it in PHP then :)

I'm not sure that'd make it easier for us to digest, without learning PHP :B

I don't want to do that, on the off chance the coders on NR start asking me for input :/
Tim S 16th June 2009, 18:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
I think I'd be almost as biased as Joe but then the writing would be so bad you'd have trouble making sense of what I was trying to say about it.

What? I can't understand what you just wrote. :|
Red 5 16th June 2009, 21:48 Quote
I want to review it. Grim Fandango corrupted my save and I never went back, though I was enjoying it until then. Hence I have an equal blend of enthusiasm and scepticism.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
You know, I made a little promise to myself when I wrote this blogpost that if anybody responded by saying "Me - I should review it instead of Joe or Clive or Harry" then I'd oblige and send the game out to them.

Unfortunately, nobody did and I've decided not to do it now. Ah well.

Aw nuts!
delriogw 16th June 2009, 22:31 Quote
in my mind it's simple.

you yourself review it with your background knowledge. you give a view that includes comparing it to the original and where it's gone right and wrong with regards to that.

you then get one of the guys who's never played the original stuff and get a 'fresh eyes' perspective on it.

whilst i'm about to turn 30, i just wasn't a gamer in those days so i never played the games and i have to believe i'm far from the only one.

btw, is it just me who thinks the first screenshot to be far prettier?
cyrilthefish 17th June 2009, 01:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by delriogw
in my mind it's simple.

you yourself review it with your background knowledge. you give a view that includes comparing it to the original and where it's gone right and wrong with regards to that.

you then get one of the guys who's never played the original stuff and get a 'fresh eyes' perspective on it.
i agree with this (and all the similar comments )
Quote:
Originally Posted by delriogw
whilst i'm about to turn 30, i just wasn't a gamer in those days so i never played the games and i have to believe i'm far from the only one.

btw, is it just me who thinks the first screenshot to be far prettier?
28 here, and i only discovered monkey island when searching for games for my PDA a few years back.
I haven't actually played monkey island 1+2 on a PC, only on a WM PDA/phone :D

as for the two screenshots: i'm undecided, they're both very different styles and good on their own ways.

anyways, speaking of mokey island: has the most awesome battle scene of any game
http://www.littlemathletics.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/miyak.jpg
r4tch3t 17th June 2009, 05:55 Quote
Well Joe, My first though on what to post was to have three people review the game, someone who isn't infatuated with the series but has played it, someone who hasn't played it and the ultimate MI fan Joe. But three might take too much time away from other things. So two or three reviews with the other one or two completely isolated from Joe (Not hard, he will lock himself in a room so he can play it without interruption 3-9 times over) and then combine the reviews into one article with the different perspectives for each subject, gameplay, graphics, nostalgia etc.
Oh and me because I have never played any MI (now you have to send it to me Joe, you couldn't leave someone deprived of what you consider the pinnacle of adventure games)
Skiddywinks 17th June 2009, 15:51 Quote
Why shouldn't Joe review it? Reviewers review games they enjoy all the time.

Using the logic a lot of people here seem to be using, you should get people who hate RTS games to review them, so that they aren't biased. Well, they are. That is the problem. Everyone is biased in one way or another. You will never, ever find someone who is completely neutral (unless we get robots reviewing games). And even if we could, would we want them to? We love games, hence we read reviews. Does that not make us biased? Would you get someone who doesn't even play games to review it, just to avoid any bias at all?

The only thing we can do, is trust that our reviewers have the integrity to see where a game fails to live up to today's expectations, regardless of how much they may love it. Often when I am asked what I think of a game, I give two opinions; How much I like the game, and how much I would rate the game. And each is occasionally quite different.

Example 1; I ****ing love Baldur's Gate 2. I am playing it again right now. And while I am clearly biased by the fact I love RPGs of this nature, it is simply an amazing game that deserves a great score. The content, gameplay and, well, everything, are/is excellent. So what if I am biased? It doesn't mean I can't be fair. Having said that, I will always tell people how it plays and what some of the potential issues people may have with it are, rather than just shout from the top of my lungs how amazing it is.

Example 2; X-Com Apocalypse. I also ****ing love this game. However, if someone were to ask me to give it a fair rating, it would not be as high as you might expect from someone who loves it so much. I can see the problems, I can appreciate it is a fairly small target audience, and I can respect that it is more my love of such games that makes me rate it so highly, rather than it being such an amazing quality game.

If I am capable of being as fair as that, I don't see why a professional publication has anything to worry about. And without wanting to sound like a kiss-ass, I have never seen anything to make me think anyone at bit-tech would treat a review any differently.

The very fact that Joe has even written this blog post shows that he is worried about his bias, and this just further ensures me that he wouldn't let it get in the way. Totally different topic, but I have also noticed all of the people who are worried about being parents are always the best, precisely because they are worried about being bad at it. They try harder. They want nothing like that to ever happen.
Xtrafresh 17th June 2009, 16:33 Quote
Joe, for the love of god, review it yourself!

A dutch comedian once explained to me that the true test of a joke is to see if it's still funny after the 6th or 7th time. For a remake like this, the one major issue will be to know if they killed the "buzz" that the original has. Therefor, as far as i'm concerned, the only thing i'd want to know from a review of this remake is if a true MI nutcase (you) still finds it funny.
Hugo 18th June 2009, 10:20 Quote
You realise, Joe, that given you were inevitably going to review the game anyway all this blog post has said is:

1) OMG I love Monkey Island sooo much. Hey guys did you know there are new games soon? YAY!!

2) If you want an unbiased review of the game, don't bother with mine.
Dr. Strangelove 19th June 2009, 11:34 Quote
--> dr-strangelove nice name !! :|:D

Anyway, I see no problem with Joe reviewing it.. however if you are afraid you are too biased, it might be fun to have someone who has never played the game review it, with Joe's comments "injected" here and there like:
Reviewer: "I really didn't like the puzzles with the two eggs, a teapot and a crowbar"
Joe: "This is soo much easier than back when you only had the teapot and crowbar!!"
naokaji 19th June 2009, 17:56 Quote
I know you can't do two reviews of the same game all the time, but it's Monkey Island we are talking about here.

So I agree with the idea that has been brought up before, have Joe and someone else review it.
thehippoz 19th June 2009, 18:24 Quote
lol you guys are funny :D I like joe's reviews just because he's a real gamer.. but his bias on monkey island maybe a little too deep.. give it to sifter :D
m0o0oeh 24th June 2009, 16:09 Quote
I'm gonna stick my neck out a bit here and say that it could be fun to get Joe to review it (all worship the great MI,) and someone from CPC (or a former staffer (Wil perhaps?)) who isn't a huge MI nut, so you get the opinion of a true monkey-ite, and the opinion of a gamer.

You could always get Joe to review MI:SE, and a complete adventure game novice to review it (Like Fable II IIRC) and get a rough grasp of the game dynamics, and they would then also get a good estimate of what could be one of the greatest games of the genre could be like.
CardJoe 24th June 2009, 17:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by m0o0oeh
I'm gonna stick my neck out a bit here and say that it could be fun to get Joe to review it (all worship the great MI,) and someone from CPC (or a former staffer (Wil perhaps?)) who isn't a huge MI nut, so you get the opinion of a true monkey-ite, and the opinion of a gamer.

You could always get Joe to review MI:SE, and a complete adventure game novice to review it (Like Fable II IIRC) and get a rough grasp of the game dynamics, and they would then also get a good estimate of what could be one of the greatest games of the genre could be like.

It was one of my little sisters who did the review of Fable II and, while I'd love to have her come down to the Dennis offices and review Monkey Island as a novice, she can't. I forced all the Monkey Island games onto all my siblings many years ago.
Loom 27th June 2009, 20:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by delriogw

btw, is it just me who thinks the first screenshot to be far prettier?

Exactly my thoughts. I compared the two for a while and came to the same conclusion.
capnPedro 27th June 2009, 21:48 Quote
Everyone should review it!

And I still want to here Joe's thoughts. Biased views are what fans of the original two games need!

(And Jamie should review it as one incredibly long regular expression, screw PHP).
mikeuk2004 29th June 2009, 13:22 Quote
I dont get why it needs a review?? Why not dig one up from 20 years ago? As far as I understand, its the same game with new graphics and soundtrack.

What is there to review?

Why dont Joe review the new one with the updates and get someone who never played MI (The Current generation of Kids that were not even born when MI came out) to review the original monkey island and compare :)
pendragon 30th June 2009, 19:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by HugoB
You realise, Joe, that given you were inevitably going to review the game anyway all this blog post has said is:

1) OMG I love Monkey Island sooo much. Hey guys did you know there are new games soon? YAY!!

2) If you want an unbiased review of the game, don't bother with mine.

^^what he said
CardJoe 30th June 2009, 21:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeuk2004
I dont get why it needs a review?? Why not dig one up from 20 years ago? As far as I understand, its the same game with new graphics and soundtrack.

What is there to review?

Why dont Joe review the new one with the updates and get someone who never played MI (The Current generation of Kids that were not even born when MI came out) to review the original monkey island and compare :)

New graphics, totally voiced speech system, new music, new hint system, new interface for the updated model and - most importantly - the question of whether or not it's worth paying £15 for a game that probably most of us have already played and whether or not that game is still a classic by todays standards.
Brooxy 30th June 2009, 23:29 Quote
I'll do it! ;)

Although out of the bit staff, i'd agree with get Joe's input, but get a MI newb to do the main review
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