Codex Gamicus
Monkey Island (series)
Basic Information
LucasArts, Telltale Games
Atari ST, Amiga, MS-DOS, iOS, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Mega-CD, PlayStation 2, Wii and Xbox 360

Monkey Island is the collective name given to a series of five graphical adventure games produced and published by LucasArts, originally known as LucasFilm Games through the development of the first game in the series. 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 governor Elaine Marley. Each game's plot usually involves the mysterious Monkey Island and its impenetrable secrets.

The games were 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 both of them also left. The rights to Monkey Island remained with LucasArts, and the third and fourth games were created without the input of the original writing crew. Development of the fifth game was headed by Dave Grossman, with work from Michael Stemmle; while not actively engaged in the project, 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 in the 18th century. 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 titular 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: Guybrush Threepwood (the protagonist); Elaine Marley (the primary foil as the object of Guybrush and LeChuck's affection); and LeChuck (the primary antagonist).


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.

The games[]

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge#Special EditionThe Secret of Monkey IslandTales of Monkey IslandEscape from Monkey IslandThe Curse of Monkey IslandMonkey Island 2: LeChuck's RevengeThe Secret of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island[]

The series debuted in 1990 with The Secret of Monkey Island on the PC MS-DOS, Atari ST and Macintosh platforms; the game was later ported to Amiga, FM Towns and Mega-CD (1993). A remastered version with updated graphics and new voiceovers was released for PlayStation Network, PC Windows and Xbox Live Arcade.[3] An iPhone version was also released on 23 July 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 arch-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. It should be noted that while LeChuck's Revenge was designed by Ron Gilbert, The Curse Of Monkey Island was not, suggesting a possible break in continuity between the episodes. However, the ending to the Special Edition alludes to this, suggesting the "hex story" has become canon.

The Curse of Monkey Island[]

The Curse of Monkey Island, the third in the series, was exclusively available for PC Windows in 1997.

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 standoff in LeChuck's amusement park ride, the Rollercoaster of Doom.

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 $20.00 USD.

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 IslandTM 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.


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 time with legitimate ingredients, and one time with improvised ingredients. The same goes with the hangover medicine in 'Curse' and the Ultimate Insult in 'Escape'. 'Tales' requires Guybrush to put together a 'feast of the senses', 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 Swordfighting in the first and third games, a number-based "password" as well as a spitting contest in the second, banjo fighting in the third, and insult arm wrestling and Monkey Kombat in the fourth. 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.

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". However, 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.[6] 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 Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle in the special edition versions.

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.[7] A large article about the subject can be found here.

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.[8]

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. Ron Gilbert (2004-09-20). On Stranger Tides. Grumpy Gamer. Retrieved on April 17, 2006
  3. LucasArts (2009-06-01). The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition product page. LucasArts. Retrieved on June 1, 2009
  4. Description by ponii.
  6. Ron Gilbert (2006-06-24). The Monkey Island Movie. Grumpy Gamer. Retrieved on 2008-03-31
  7. Greg Kasavin (30 June 2006). Designer Threads feat. Ron Gilbert. Retrieved on 2007-05-23
  8. Idle Thumbs, Ron Gilbert Speaks: Part 2

External links[]