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The Secret of Monkey Island Returns

One of my favorite video games of all time is The Secret of Monkey Island, an adventure game published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. Monkey Island successfully combined humor, adventure gaming (walking around, picking stuff up, talking to people), and terrific music. It was also notable in its emphasis on fun and puzzle-solving -- you can't die, and puzzles are always solvable. It's sort of a low-key game in that sense: though there is some light swashbuckling, it's never about jumping or clicking fast or shooting. And it's genuinely funny. That's rare in a computer game.

So the big news for Monkey Island fans is that there's a reissue of the original game coming to Xbox 360 and the PC later this year. The art has been repainted in HD -- a bit of a step up from the original 320x240 resolution -- and the interface has been updated. In a recent blog post, Monkey Island author Ron Gilbert played through the original MI and recorded his notes, along with some screenshots. It's a great read for old-school gaming fans, and gives some insight into his game design decisions. For example:

While Insult Sword Fighting is one of the first things people think of when they hear Monkey Island, I thought it seemed little tedious (but fun) as I played though it again. There is a point where you say "I get it", but your [sic] still forced to go though the motions again and again. If I was going to do Insult Sword Fighting in a future game, I'd make it more free form allowing the player to be clever and construct their own sentences.

During the early stages of the Monkey Island design, we would watch old Errol Flynn era pirate movies. One thing that stood out was during the fights they always taunted each other with insults. I knew we needed to have sword fighting in the game - it was about pirates after all - but I didn't want to introduce any action game play and the old pirate moves provided the perfect solution.

So now that you're pumped up with nerdy anticipation, preview the Monkey Island reissue, read Ron Gilbert's notes on the original, or watch this amazing video in which someone plays through the entire Monkey Island game (the Amiga version). The whole thing. On YouTube. It takes two and a half hours. (Though it took me weeks.)

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© Nintendo
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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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10 Unlikely TV Shows That Got Turned Into Video Games

Video games based on outside properties have come a long way since the likes of Atari’s E.T., which was so poorly received that it almost destroyed the gaming industry. Now video games based on movies and comic books are routinely among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed titles every year.

Video games based on television shows, on the other hand, are a different story—which might have something to do with some of the more bizarre shows that have been adapted over the years. Here are 10 unlikely TV shows that got turned into video games.

1. DALLAS QUEST (1984)

In 1984, the family drama, corporate intrigue, and 10-gallon hats made famous in Dallas found their way onto the Commodore 64 in the form of Dallas Quest, a text adventure that puts players in the role of a renowned detective hired by Sue Ellen to track down a mysterious map that leads to a South American oil field (and, of course, piles of Dallas-y oil money).

By inputting commands (such as “look” or “dig”), players can investigate the Ewing estate, traverse through hazardous jungles, or (in one spectacularly odd sequence) tickle an anaconda to get to the bottom of this mystery. Much like the show itself, Dallas Quest rewards the eagle-eyed player that pores through the mountains of dialogue that leave hints and clues for each puzzle. Though text adventures are long extinct, and likely can’t hold the attention of most modern gamers, the spirit of Dallas was a perfect match for the genre.

2. ALF (1989)

Remember ALF? Well here he is in video game form, complete with all of his loveable cat-snatching hijinks. The game revolves around ALF attempting to find the parts necessary to repair his spaceship so he can take a joyride to Mars to visit his girlfriend. Along the way, players journey through dank caves, city streets, and the Tanner family home as Alf fights off wave after wave of enemies.

The game does occasionally stray from the typical side-scrolling formula by introducing underwater levels and a section where ALF needs to ride a flying Segway to victory. The whole thing ends up with ALF on the moon, where his spaceship repair kit just so happens to be.

3. THE ADVENTURES OF GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1990)

If the mere prospect of releasing a video game based on Gilligan’s Island wasn’t strange enough, consider that this 8-bit oddity hit shelves about 23 years after the sitcom had gone off the air. This crude action game puts players in the role of the Skipper (followed closely behind by Gilligan) as he traverses the island, completing a number of tasks, like building a hut during a storm or finding Mrs. Howell’s wedding ring after it is stolen by a bird (players are rewarded with a jar of caviar once they return it to her).

Much like the show itself, the game consists of a lot of walking around; overcoming the occasional obstacle like gorillas, tigers, and cannibals; and wrangling the computer-controlled Gilligan long enough to complete the game’s story. To its credit, the game tries its best to replicate the dialogue found in the show with some banter that feels authentic to the characters (though there's sadly no button to whomp Gilligan with your hat).

4. HOME IMPROVEMENT: POWER TOOL PURSUIT! (1994)

Remember the episode of Home Improvement when Tim Allen had to battle an army of velociraptors, mummies, and scorpions the size of Buicks? Well it had to exist somewhere, because in 1994 that was the entire premise of a Super Nintendo game called Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit.

The plot begins with a line of power tools going missing on the set of Tool Time, which obviously leads to Tim arming himself with a chainsaw to hunt vampires and other ghouls. The whole affair is a standard side-scroller, complete with power-ups (in the form of hardhats) and a choice of weapons like a nail gun and flamethrower. The game does manage to capture the spirit of the show in one way: There was no instruction manual included in the box. Instead, players were just left with a fake booklet with a sticker plastered across it that read “Real Men Don’t Need Instructions.” We’ll grunt to that.

5. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: THE GAME (2006)

Desperate Housewives doesn’t exactly lend itself to a typical gaming genre (though a Street Fighter II-inspired fighting game sounds intriguing), but this Sims homage is probably the most appropriate for the show. In this game, players are tasked with creating their character—the new Housewife on the block—along with her husband and children. In typical soap opera fashion, your new housewife also has amnesia and has to piece her life together (and stir up salacious drama).

Gameplay objectives include shopping, gardening, socializing, and housekeeping, all while navigating a story that involves finding out your neighbor’s deepest, darkest secrets. Oh, you can also have an affair with pretty much anyone on your block, including the mailman and your maid. In that respect, Desperate Housewives: The Game might be the most faithful game on this list.

6. THE OFFICE (2007)

Few shows were as big as The Office was at its peak, so it’s only natural that someone would try to squeeze a little more cash out of the show by turning it into a video game. The problem is: How would an Office game actually work? In 2007, developer Reveille came up with a gameplay model that mixed the show’s humor with fairly casual gameplay reminiscent of Diner Dash.

This PC title featured the main Office cast as exaggerated bobblehead versions of themselves, with players running around Dunder Mifflin, playing pranks and handing off different supplies (folders, cash, paperwork) to the appropriate worker. There are some memorable quotes from the show sprinkled throughout, as well as some Easter eggs from the series, such as Pam laying Michael’s Foreman Grill on the floor to prank him. It may not be the in-depth Office simulator you were hoping for, but it’s an easy way to kill an afternoon.

7. LITTLE BRITAIN: THE VIDEO GAME (2007)

It’s only fair that a TV show as crude as Little Britain gets a game that’s equally as rough around the edges. There’s no story to progress through in the game; instead, there are seven mini-games to play, all centered around different characters from the BBC comedy. This includes a rather nonsensical roller skating mini-game with Vicky Pollard; Lou and Andy in a diving competition; and Marjorie Dawes in a Pac-Man rip-off.

The idea was for the mini-games to mirror the sketch comedy style of the show. It didn’t quite work, as the game predictably received unanimously horrid reviews.

8. IRON CHEF AMERICA: SUPREME CUISINE (2008)

In this Nintendo Wii adaptation of Iron Chef America, you can grate, mince, and dice your way to victory through the use of the system’s motion controls. The game boils down to a series of mini-games that you have to complete quickly and efficiently as you cook the dish the show’s host gives to you.

With voice acting provided by the show’s hosts, including Alton Brown and Mark Dacascos, Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is as faithful an adaptation of the show as you’re likely to find. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to fun, as both the Wii and Nintendo DS versions of the game have been soundly battered by critics.

9. MURDER, SHE WROTE (2009)

If you think Murder, She Wrote doesn’t lend itself to the world of gaming, you’d be wrong. It just doesn’t lend itself to the world of modern gaming. Taking its cues from the point and click adventure games of the ’80s and ‘90s, this 2009 release features five murder mysteries, leaving players to find the culprit behind each. Clues are discovered by watching conversations unfold and then clicking around locations until hints present themselves.

Though the game sets up the type of plots that a viewer would find in the Murder, She Wrote TV series, none of the actors lent their voices to the game; the mere likeness of Dame Angela Lansbury is all you’ll get. The game must have done something right, though, because Murder, She Wrote 2: Return to Cabot Cove came out just a few years after the original.

10. GREY’S ANATOMY: THE VIDEO GAME (2009)

Part dating simulator, part surgery minigame, 2009’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game attempted to squeeze all of the romantic dalliances, brooding, and occasional doctoring of the show into one cohesive title. During the course of the game, players take control of a number of Grey’s main cast, including Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, as you guide them through the everyday drama that is being a doctor, including surgeries and flirting with your co-workers.

For Dr. Grey, you start the game out with a decision to make: Do you play hard to get with Dr. Shepherd, or do you go right at him and make some not-so-thinly-veiled advances on him in the elevator? As Dr. Yang, an early mission has you literally destroying bubbles of doubt as you build up your courage meter. Each decision dictates what graphic will appear afterwards (like whether or not you get to make out with Dr. McDreamy during your shift).

Some of these challenges do involve simulated medical procedures, but don’t expect anything harder than clicking and dragging your way to an easy victory (thankfully the Nintendo Wii graphics are as detailed as a WikiHow page, so you won’t get squeamish).

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