Monkey Island (series)

Monkey Island

The official logo of the series
Developers LucasArts (1990–2010)
Telltale Games (2009)
Publishers LucasArts
Disney Interactive (current owner)
Creators Ron Gilbert
Platforms Atari ST, Amiga, DOS, Windows, Classic Mac OS, macOS, Mega-CD, PlayStation 2, XBLA, WiiWare, PSN, iOS
First release The Secret of
Monkey Island
Latest release Monkey Island: Special Edition Collection (2011)

Monkey Island is the collective name given to a series of five adventure video games. The first four games in the series were produced and published by LucasArts, formerly known as Lucasfilm Games. The fifth installment of the franchise was developed by Telltale Games in collaboration with LucasArts. The games follow the misadventures of the hapless Guybrush Threepwood as he struggles to become the most notorious pirate in the Caribbean, defeat the plans of the evil undead pirate LeChuck and win the heart of governess Elaine Marley. Each game's plot usually involves the mysterious Monkey Island and its impenetrable secrets.

The first game in the series was created as a collaborative effort among Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. Gilbert worked on the first two games before leaving LucasArts. Grossman and Schafer, who also worked on the first two games, would enjoy success on other titles before they both left LucasArts as well. The rights to Monkey Island remained with LucasArts, and the third and fourth games were created without direct involvement from the original writing staff. Dave Grossman was the project leader of the fifth game in the series and Ron Gilbert was involved with the initial design of the game.


The Monkey Island series is known for its humor and "player-friendly" qualities. The player cannot permanently place the game in an unwinnable state or cause Guybrush to die without great effort. This "player-friendly" approach was unusual at the time of the first game's release in 1990; prominent adventure-game rivals included Sierra On-Line and Infocom, both of which were known for games with sudden and frequent character deaths or "lock-outs". LucasArts itself used such closed plot paths for its drama games like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure (1989), but preferred the open format for other humor-oriented adventure games such as Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993) and Day of the Tentacle (1993). After Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge in 1991, the series went in hiatus until 1997, when it resumed with The Curse of Monkey Island. After the fourth entry, Escape from Monkey Island, the franchise again went on hiatus, though numerous rumors persisted about a revival until the announcement of Tales of Monkey Island by Telltale Games in early 2009.

Much of the music of the games is composed by Michael Land. The score largely consists of reggae, Caribbean and dub-inspired music.

The series also tends to break the fourth wall, as several of the characters acknowledge that they are in a video game.


Each of the games takes place on fictional islands in the Caribbean around the Golden Age of Piracy sometime between the 17th and 18th centuries. The islands teem with pirates dressed in outfits that seem to come from movies and comic books rather than history, and there are many deliberate anachronisms and references to modern-day popular culture.

The main setting of the Monkey Island games is the "Tri-Island Area", a fictional archipelago in the Caribbean. Since the first game in the series, The Secret of Monkey Island, three of the games have visited the eponymous island of Monkey Island, while all have introduced their own set of islands to explore. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge features four new islands, but does not return to Monkey Island until the final cutscene. The Curse of Monkey Island introduces three, and Escape from Monkey Island, which revisits some of the older islands, features three new islands as well. As such, the "Tri-Island area" actually comprises a total of 13 visitable islands. Tales of Monkey Island takes place in a new area of the Caribbean called the "Gulf of Melange".

The main islands of the Tri-Island Area are Mêlée Island, Booty Island, and Plunder Island governed by Elaine Marley in place of her long lost grandfather, Horatio Torquemada Marley. Elaine moves from island to island at her convenience, though she considers her governor's mansion on Mêlée Island, the capital island of the area, as home.

Other islands in the region are considered under the umbrella of Tri-Island Area as well, even though not directly governed by Elaine include: Lucre Island, Jambalaya Island, Scabb Island, Phatt Island, Plunder Island, Hook Island, Skull Island, Knuttin Atoll, Blood Island, Spittle Island and Pinchpenny Island.

The Gulf of Melange has its own set of islands: Flotsam Island, the Jerkbait Islands (Spinner Cay, Spoon Island, Roe Island), Brillig Island, Boulder Beach, Isle of Ewe, and the Rock of Gelato.

Monkey Island and Dinky Island are not officially part of any island area, but nonetheless are central to the series' overall back-story and canon.


The games have a wide cast of characters, many of which reappear throughout the series. Each entry in the series revolves around three main characters: the hero Guybrush Threepwood; his love interest Elaine Marley; and the villain the pirate LeChuck.


Ron Gilbert's two main inspirations for the story were Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride and Tim Powers' book On Stranger Tides.[1] The book was the inspiration for the story and characters, while the ride was the inspiration for the ambiance. "[The POTC Ride] keeps you moving through the adventure," Gilbert said in an interview, "but I've always wished I could get off and wander around, learn more about the characters, and find a way onto those pirate ships. So with The Secret of Monkey Island(TM) I wanted to create a game that had the same flavor, but where you could step off the boat and enter that whole storybook world."[2]

Several specific references to the ride are made throughout the series, including a puzzle in the second game based on the ride's famous Jail Cell/Dog With Keys scene (the dog in the scene is even named Walt). The banjo music in the opening menu of the third game is also very reminiscent of the banjo music at the beginning of the ride. Additional references are made to Disneyland and theme parks in general throughout the series, including Guybrush finding an E ticket.



Tales of Monkey Island Escape from Monkey Island The Curse of Monkey Island Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge The Secret of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island

The series debuted in 1990 with The Secret of Monkey Island on the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST and Macintosh platforms; the game was later ported FM Towns and Mega-CD (1993). A remastered version with updated graphics and new voiceovers was released for PlayStation Network, PC Windows, Xbox Live Arcade[3] and OS X. An iPhone version was also released on July 23, 2009.

The game starts off with the main character Guybrush Threepwood stating "I want to be a pirate!" To do so, he must prove himself to three old pirate captains. During the perilous pirate trials, he meets the beautiful governor Elaine Marley, with whom he falls in love, unaware that the ghost pirate LeChuck also has his eyes on her. When Elaine is kidnapped, Guybrush procures crew and ship to track LeChuck down, defeat him and rescue his love.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

The second game, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge from 1991, was available for fewer platforms; it was only released for PC MS-DOS, Amiga, Macintosh, and later for FM Towns. A Special Edition version, in a similar style as The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, was released in July 2010 for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

As Guybrush, with a treasure chest in hand, and Elaine hang onto ropes in a void, he tells her the story of the game. He has decided to find the greatest of all treasures, that of Big Whoop. Unwittingly, he helps revive LeChuck, who is now in zombie form. Guybrush is eventually captured by his nemesis, but escapes with help from Wally and finds the treasure only to find himself dangling from a rope, as depicted at the beginning of the game. As Guybrush concludes his story, his rope breaks and he finds himself facing LeChuck, whom he finally defeats using voodoo. The surrealistic ending is open to a number of interpretations. In the manual of The Curse of Monkey Island, it is stated that Guybrush falls victim to a hex implemented by LeChuck.

The Curse of Monkey Island

The Curse of Monkey Island, the third in the series, was exclusively available for PC Windows in 1997 after a 6-year hiatus. The Curse of Monkey Island was released after what could be said to be the biggest technological change in the gaming industry. This new era saw the advent of digital audio, CD-ROM technology, and advancements in graphics.

Monkey Island I and II were originally released on floppy discs with text dialog only. The visuals of the third installment was also a huge advancement over the old titles, using a unique cartoon-like cel drawn animation style. The Curse of Monkey Island is the only title in the series to feature this style of animation. The subsequent titles abandoned this style in favor of 3D polygon animation.

Guybrush unwittingly turns Elaine into a gold statue with a cursed ring, and she is soon stolen by pirates. He tracks her down before searching for a ring that can lift the curse. LeChuck appears in a fiery demon form, and is on the heels of Guybrush until a stand-off in LeChuck's amusement park ride, Monkey Mountain.

Escape from Monkey Island

Escape from Monkey Island, the fourth installment, was released in 2000 for PC Windows, and in 2001 for Macintosh and PlayStation 2.

When Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley return from their honeymoon, they find that Elaine has been declared officially dead, her mansion is under destruction order, and her position as governor is up for election. Guybrush investigates and unearths a conspiracy by LeChuck and evil real estate developer Ozzie Mandrill to use a voodoo talisman, "The Ultimate Insult," to make all pirates docile in order to turn the Caribbean into a center of tourism.

Tales of Monkey Island

Tales of Monkey Island is the fifth installment within the series, co-developed by Telltale Games and LucasArts, with a simultaneous release both on WiiWare and PC. Unlike other installments, Tales is an episodic adventure consisting of five different episodes. The first episode was released on July 7, with the last one released on December 8, 2009.[4]

During a heated battle with his nemesis, the evil pirate LeChuck, Guybrush unwittingly unleashes an insidious pox that rapidly spreads across the Caribbean, turning pirates into zombie-like monsters. The Voodoo Lady sends Guybrush in search of a legendary sea sponge to stem the epidemic, but this seemingly straightforward quest has surprises around every corner.[5] Tales of Monkey Island also released on PlayStation Network as a bundle for US$20.00.

Future of the series

In November 2011, when CEO of Telltale games Dan Conners was asked a question about another season of Monkey island, he replied "I wish we had the rights to do more Monkey but we don't. Right now what I gather is LA is focused on building AAA titles internally but honestly we don't talk much these days."[6]

There has also been some speculation on Telltale Games forums about a possible sequel to Tales of Monkey Island, although this was dismissed by Ron Gilbert who stated, "Basically, when we were working on Tales, I understood that ... I'm too old for that job now" in an interview with Edge Magazine in March 2010. The Tales team claims that, despite a considerably increasing fanbase since 2009–10, there are not any plans to continue the series within the next five-year interval.[7]

With the purchase of LucasArts by The Walt Disney Company in 2012, the rights to the franchise are now property of Disney. Ron Gilbert has been quoted in November 2012 as not being optimistic about the franchise's future, believing that Disney might abandon the franchise in favour of Pirates of the Caribbean;[8] however, in December 2012, he was also quoted as wishing to contact Disney, hoping to "make the game he wants to make".[9]

In May 2016, Disney Interactive announced that they would cease production on gaming and transition to a licensing model. Ron Gilbert then took to Twitter on 23 May 2016 to express a desire to buy back the franchise saying "Please sell me my Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion IP. I'll pay actual money for them." Whilst not a formal offer, the tweet has gained considerable attention.

Appearances in other media

In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine, Geralt can fight a character named "Mancomb"; referencing Mancomb Seepgood, one of the first pirates which Guybrush meets in the SCUMM bar. His look matches Threepwood's from The Secret of Monkey Island. Geralt is also made to fight him with insults rather than brawn, calling back to the insult sword fighting found in many Monkey Island games.

In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, Guybrush appears as an unlockable playable skin for Starkiller.

In Uncharted 4 there is a painting of an unnamed pirate who resembles Guybrush, when Nathan sends the image to his brother he replies stating he doesn't recognise the pirate with the monkey symbol. The promotional material lists this pirate's name as "Guy Wood."

In Poker Night at the Inventory and its sequel Poker Night 2, both by Telltale Games, Reginald Van Winslow is the proprietor of the Inventory. Also, a painting of a Vaycaylian appears behind Tycho in the first game.

In Dark Seed, the name G. Threepwood is engraved on a tombstone in the cemetery.

In Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, the cheat-code MAKEMEAPIRATE transforms Indiana Jones into Guybrush Threepwood. There is also a secret room that can be entered on the final level that is a 3D rendition of the barbershop from Curse of Monkey Island, and Indy also changes into Guybrush.

In Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble, fights begin by insulting your opponent in a similar fashion to Monkey Island. One of the Insults included in both games was "Look, a three-headed-monkey!".

In the Return to Zork PC game Guybrush appears underwater in a sunken ship although this is not part of the game.

In a scene from Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones can die from drowning because he is unable to "hold his breath as long as Guybrush Threepwood".

In Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire by Sierra On-Line, the developers added a nod to their rivals at LucasArts in the form of a rhyme that is shown when the Hero drowns after staying under water for too long: "This is the lesson you've been taught — Guybrush Threepwood you are not. When by water you are surrounded – Get to shore before you're drown-ed".

In the flash game Crunchball 3000, Guybrush Threepwood is one of the players of the "Butchers" and Herman Toothrot is one of the players of the "Thuggs."

In The Longest Journey, April Ryan has a small animatronic toy monkey she calls "Constable Guybrush."

In Hector: Badge of Carnage, also published by Telltale Games, multiple references to Monkey Island are made, such as when Hector says "Murray?" to a skull, or when using the eyepatch on Lambert causes him to say "I'm a mighty pirate!"

In the book Blazed Union by H. O. Charles, Morghiad declares that Artemi fights "like a blazed dairy farmer", to which she replies, "How appropriate, because I am going to milk your blood!"

In the roguelike Dungeons of Dredmor a number of references to the Monkey Island series are made, including a drink called Grog which has the same ingredient list as the grog mentioned in the Secret of Monkey Island.

At the "A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas" interactive game attraction at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the theme to Monkey Island can be heard as one of the songs in the loop of background music when signing up for a quest and collecting your treasure map.

In "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag", by Ubisoft, one of Edward Kenway's assassination targets is named "Mancomb Seepgood". Mancomb Seepgood is one of the first pirates Guybrush meets in the Scumm Bar in "The Secret of Monkey Island".

In Telltale's Xbox 360 version of The Walking Dead (video game) one of the gamer achievements is called "You fight like a dairy farmer!", which is an insult used in the sword fighting scenes in "The Secret of Monkey Island".

In Edna & Harvey: The Breakout the barkeeper tells there was once a pirate in the institution who only wanted to drink grog: a mix of acids, paint and other chemical substances.

Cancelled film

In 2000, Lucasfilm together with Industrial Light & Magic were working on an animated film to be called Curse of Monkey Island,[10] which would be based on the series. Steve Purcell created the concept paintings and Ted Elliott wrote the story. However, during development the film was cancelled. Concept art of the film was released via Purcell's official blog.

In 2007, fan site World of Monkey Island was contacted by an anonymous source who told them that Ted Elliot had written the script for the film who before then remained unknown to the project. Elliot would later go on to write the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.[11]

Common themes

The games in the series share several minigames, puzzles, in-jokes, and references.


Each game contains a map puzzle, wherein Guybrush must use an unconventional map to find his way through a maze. The first game features a set of dance instructions that point the way through the dense forest of Mêlée Island to find the Island's fabled treasure. In the second game, Guybrush must use a song from a dream sequence to find his way through LeChuck's dungeon. The third game is the reverse of this, as the instructions the player receives are traditional directions and need to be used on a theatre light board. The fourth game has a set of directions based on time, and the fifth based on animal sounds and the direction of the wind and finally a map to get one of the items needed for "The Feast of the Senses".


Each game features a sequence of some sort, where players must gather the ingredients to create an item. Then, later in the game, the player has to create the item again, but this time around with improvised materials. In 'Secret', Guybrush must brew a voodoo concoction but, lacking ingredients, must improvise with the contents of his inventory, leading to amusing puns. In Monkey Island 2, at two points of the game, Guybrush has to create a voodoo doll, one of Largo LaGrande with legitimate ingredients, and one of LeChuck with improvised ingredients. The same goes with the hangover medicine in 'Curse' and the Ultimate Insult in 'Escape'. 'Tales' starts with Guybrush having to obtain fizzy root-beer then dropping it and him having to instead put together some fizzy root-grog. Later 'Tales' requires Guybrush to put together a 'feast of the senses' to increase the size of La Esponja Grande, and later track down a reversed recipe for the 'diet of the senses'.


Each game also contains a minigame based on learning and repetition of a sequence in order to become more proficient: Insult Sword fighting in the first and third games, a number-based "password" as well as a spitting contest in the second, banjo fighting in the third, insult arm wrestling and Monkey Kombat in the fourth, and Pirate Face-Off in the fifth. The first, second and fourth games also feature a puzzle which involves following another character through several locations, a trick also used in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Some other minigames include naval cannon battles, and platform diving.

Pop culture references

The Monkey Island series is full of spoofs, in-jokes, humorous references, and Easter eggs: so many, in fact, that entire web sites are dedicated to their detection and listing.

Running gags include lines such as "Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!", the introduction "My name is Guybrush Threepwood and I'm a mighty pirate", "How appropriate, you fight like a cow", "I'm selling these fine leather jackets" (a reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure), and "That's the second biggest [object] I've ever seen", a catchphrase from the TV series Get Smart (and in EMI "That's the second largest... No, that IS the largest conch shell I've ever seen!"), and the astounding fact that Guybrush can hold his breath for ten minutes.

The Secret of Monkey Island poked fun at rival company Sierra's game-over screens. For example, when Guybrush falls off a cliff, a "game over" window appears, but then Guybrush bounces back to the top of the cliff, explaining that he landed in a "rubber tree". Also, when Guybrush stays underwater for more than ten minutes, he dies and a "game over" dialog box identical to that of Sierra's King's Quest series appears, giving the player an option to restore a saved game and jokingly stating: "Hope you saved the game!"[12]

The "stump joke" made fun about the use of multiple floppy disks for one program, but was not initially recognized by gamers as a joke. In "The Secret of Monkey Island", Guybrush comes across a passageway hidden beneath a stump, at which point a screen says to insert Disk No. 144. Later, in "The Curse of Monkey Island", Guybrush looks through a crack in the ceiling of an underground crypt to find himself peeking out of the same stump.

Ron Gilbert has openly admitted that sections of Monkey Island 2 borrowed extensively from the original Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland ride, such as the famous "dog holding the keys to the jail-cell". He has also said that he thought the second movie (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) may have 'borrowed' from the Monkey Island series.[13] The opening menu banjo music in Curse is also very reminiscent of the beginning of the Disneyland ride.

Each game in the series features cameo appearances by Steve Purcell's characters Sam & Max, who were featured in their own LucasArts adventure game, Sam & Max Hit the Road. These are replaced by the purple tentacle from yet another LucasArts adventure game Day of the Tentacle in the special edition versions.

There are many comic references to various Lucas projects, especially Star Wars. For instance, in Curse, when you click on the fort that has been damaged by cannon fire from LeChuck's ship, Guybrush replies "That's funny, the damage doesn't look as bad from out here," which is C-3PO's line after he and R2-D2 escape from Princess Leia's ship in the escape pod. In Part V of Curse, LeChuck says to Guybrush during the opening dialogue "Search yer feelings, you know it to be true!", to which Guybrush replies "OH NO! IT CAN'T BE!", lines similar to those between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back

In LeChuck's Revenge, the Governor of Phatt Island, Governor Phatt, says in his sleep "Be careful with those snacks, Eugene." in reference to the Pink Floyd song "Careful With That Axe, Eugene."

The Secret of Monkey Island

None of the games explicitly reveal the "Secret of Monkey Island" (although creator Ron Gilbert has stated that the secret was not revealed in any of the games, and that the true secret would be revealed if he got to work on the fifth entry in the series). LeChuck himself, when asked in the second and third games, refuses to answer the question; Guybrush can eventually prod LeChuck to confess that he does not know what the secret is.

Gilbert stated that he never told anyone what the true secret of Monkey Island is.[14][15]

Gilbert stated in a 2004 interview that when the game was originally conceived it was considered "too big", so they split it into three parts. He added that he "knows what the third [part] is" and "how the story's supposed to end," indicating that he had a definite concept of the secret and a conclusive third game.[16]

The team behind Escape from Monkey Island attempted to resolve the issue by showing that the Giant Monkey Head was actually the control room of a Giant Monkey Robot. The cut-scene in which the revelation was made is called "The Real Secret of Monkey Island".

See also


  1. Gilbert, Ron (September 20, 2004). "On Stranger Tides". Grumpy Gamer. Retrieved April 17, 2006.
  2. "The Secret of Creating Monkey Island – An Interview With Ron Gilbert, excerpt from LucasFilm Adventurer vol. 1, number 1, Fall 1990". June 16, 2004. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
  3. LucasArts (June 1, 2009). "The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition product page". LucasArts. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  4. Description by ponii.
  5. "Tales of Monkey Island". Telltale Games. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  6. Jason (November 20, 2011). "Dan Connors – he's here for you, man". The International House of Mojo.
  7. Ben Maxwell (July 14, 2010). "Interview: Ron Gilbert – Edge Magazine". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  8. Yin-Poole, Wesley. "Ron Gilbert wishes he owned Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion". Eurogamer.
  9. "Monkey Island creator will talk to rights owner Disney about new game plans". Eurogamer.
  10. Staff (July 15, 2013). "The Monkey Island SCUMM Bar – The Movie". The Monkey Island SCUMM Bar.
  11. Staff (September 2009). "Tails from Monkey Island". Retro Gamer. Imagine Publishing (70): 28–35.
  13. Ron Gilbert (June 24, 2006). "The Monkey Island Movie". Grumpy Gamer. Archived from the original on March 3, 2008. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  14. Greg Kasavin (June 30, 2006). "Designer Threads feat. Ron Gilbert". Retrieved May 23, 2007.
  15. "The Monkey Island SCUMM Bar – Just Monkey Island". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  16. Idle Thumbs, Ron Gilbert Speaks: Part 2
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