Why EMI's Puzzles Are Good
Escape from Monkey Island continues LucasArts's tradition of well-crafted, tightly-designed adventure games. LucasArts, more than any other company, is the inheritor of Infocom's mantle as an adventure game company you can trust.
One of the great innovations LucasArts introduced from the beginning was their no-death always-winnable policy. At the time LucasArts got into the adventure game business, it was easy to die in adventure games. Some games killed you off as soon as you stepped foot in the wrong room. It was also easy to close off a game through your actions, leaving you with no way to win. In LucasArts games, no action you took could kill you* or render the game unwinnable, which freed you to experiment with reckless abandon.
This is true in EMI as well. If you lose an item you need to win, you can get another. You say you let the incandescent fish steal your bait? Go get more. The chef removed the paint brush from the sushi boat mechanism before you could solve that puzzle? He leaves the paint brush for you, giving you the chance to try again. Such an approach invites the experimentation required to solve EMI's puzzles.
The game's puzzles are logical, though they do not adhere to real-world logic. As I have said before, puzzle logic does not have to be the logic of real life, as long as the puzzle logic is self-consistent and sufficiently explained within the confines of the game world.
A good example of this is how you get Pegnose Pete to come out of his hideout: with a duck. On the face of it, this is a goofy solution, one which you should not be expected to come up with on your own. However, if you've talked to people on Lucre Island about Pegnose Pete you'll find that local legend holds that Pete's nose was nibbled off by a duck. And what do you know, there's a duck in front of the Bait Shoppe which you can take. The logic is clearly explained within the game.
Another good example is the time paradox puzzle in the Mystes O' Tyme Marshe. When you meet yourself for the second time, you have to reproduce all of the actions that the then-future you performed. All of the information you need is presented to you the first time you meet yourself, and you even can try over and over until you get it right.
Several puzzles require lateral thinking: you must look at things in a different light and see connections which are not instantly obvious. One such puzzle is how you get into the bank. Outside the bank there is a manhole; three names are written on the manhole cover. If you talk to Deadeye Dave, owner of the Palace of Prostheses, he will trade you an experimental prosthesis if you fill in the blanks of a story. The blanks he wants you to fill in are the names of the participants. If you give him the names from the manhole cover, he gives you prosthetic skin which you can stretch across the open manhole and use as a trampoline to get into the bank. The names on the manhole cover are meant to remind you of Dave's stories; the fact that you got the names from the manhole cover are meant to suggest that you need to use the skin Dave gives you with the manhole.
Navigating through the Mystes O' Tyme Marshe is another. The directions you're given involve times, so you have to use the chess-player's clock to navigate through the marshe.
*Yes, I know. You can kill Guybrush in The Secret of Monkey Island. But you have to really, really want to see him dead.
This article copyright © 2002, Stephen Granade