When the Monkey Island 30th Anniversary Anthology from Limited Run Games was delivered yesterday two interrelated thoughts immediately popped into my head. The first was just how quickly I jumped on this when pre-orders opened (despite, at the time never having purchased a Limited Run product before). A subsequent question arose almost instantly; just how long ago had I ordered this? In this rather mushy and fluid timey-wimey world we currently live in, I honestly couldn’t pin it down.
Regarding my initial rush to purchase, I need to come clean and state that I’ve not actually played the Monkey Island games in any great depth, never mind to completion. Although I had a copy of the original on the Atari ST, purchased and played the sublime Special Editions on iPhone (sadly no longer available), and have tinkered with the original on the Antream Arcade streaming gaming service, I’m a relative noob with this series. Many of the puzzles will be new to me, the characters will be fresh, and I’ve no doubt many of the jokes will sail past my head (see what I did there?). When I became aware of this release I felt a strong compulsion to grab the full package so that I could finally dig deep into the games, the lore, the characters, and the humour. All the while getting stuck with some of the puzzles and looking up walkthroughs online (I hold no shame in this, I’ve been getting stuck in adventure games since Adventure on the Atari 2600 and the original King’s Quest on PC).
Thought number two regarding the year-plus interval between ordering and delivery requires a degree of unpacking, more so than I have space to do here (and I will explore this further in subsequent articles and media). Needless to say, I do hold a niggling degree of cynicism toward the Limited Run Games’ (hereafter referred to as LRG) business model.
Order. Wait for manufacture. Wait for delays in manufacture (understandable in this current worldwide supply-chain challenged environment). Wait for shipping notification. Wait. Wait. And so on. Additionally, around the time I ordered this anthology I also grabbed a number of other LRG exclusives including box sets and gaming music on vinyl; to this date I’ve not received any of them. I have no doubt that they’ll eventually arrive, I have complete confidence in LRG’s professionalism and ultimate ability to deliver. Beyond this initial flurry of credit card damage, I’ve become a little wary. Perhaps I took umbrage at the delays, perhaps I re-evaluated the ‘need’ to have all the things. The fact I’ve skipped on all subsequent Star Wars special edition box sets (when I own nearly every Star Wars title ever released, including variations – seriously I have a compulsion to catch them all) made me question why. Was it the seemingly up-front avarice of LRG’s approach? Was I fatigued by the never-ending commercialisation of retro gaming?
To be fair each and every retro gaming themed hardware and software release world-over, no matter how niche, could have the same accusations levelled against them. Or perhaps it was simply the practicality of room to house these things. My passing on limited edition Star Wars gaming stuff perhaps was an indication of growth and acceptance of not needing ‘stuff’. Still, I was looking forward to seeing what the deal was with these LRG things, were they of decent quality, and how well the idea of such a collection stacked up against reality.
One thing that escaped my attention until now is that when the anthology was first announced in October 2020, the number of tchotchkes included weren’t as comprehensive as in the ultimately shipped box-set. Although the lack of “evolution” Guybrush pins depicting the more detailed (I hesitate to say improved) graphical style of the main character in games subsequent to the original would have been a welcome inclusion, the final product is a definite improvement with the number and variety of trinkets.
Compare the pair by clicking on each image
Onto the anthology itself. Straight from the LRG website, The Monkey Island 30th Anniversary Anthology Collector’s Edition includes:
- “Certificate of Arrr!thenticity” (individually hand-signed by series creator Ron Gilbert – not a printed autograph)
- Disk 22 Floppy Diskette
- BIG WHOOP Amusement Park “E” Ticket
- “ASK ME ABOUT LOOM” Button
- 6″ GUYBRUSH Resin Statue
- Code Wheels
- Enamel Pin Set
- Resin Murray Candle Holder
- Behind-The-Scenes 160+ Page Anniversary Book
- 5 Reversible 8 x 10 inch Mini-Posters featuring maps and promo art on reverse-side
- 4-Disc DVD-ROM Collection containing all five games
- USB with all 5 games!
In short, the quality of these inclusions is top-notch. The Guybrush statue and Murray candle holder are very well-made, although my Murray has a small piece of the ‘shell’ flaked off near the base; perhaps this occurred during shipping. I’m not overly concerned, as with some tiny dents on the box corners. This does not take away from the package at all as minor imperfections should be expected from anything this large shipped internationally. LRG packaged the whole thing in a tight external shipping box and any subsequent damage incurred is no indictment on their quality control. Inside the anthology big box is a custom high-density foam container that ensures all items fit snugly. This somewhat innocuous inclusion demonstrates their commitment to detail and care that I wasn’t necessarily expecting but definitely appreciated. The rest of the inclusions are as described (along with a bonus shiny LRG collectors card). I’ve not had a chance to play the games yet, nor have I explored the bonus inclusions on the USB drive. Those will be for future articles, perhaps when discussing my newly acquired Atari gaming ‘PC’ (more about that soon). Until then can check out the photo gallery of the anthology’s lovely set of bits and pieces below.
Click the above images to view slideshow in full-screen
Onto the so-called Behind-The-Scenes Anniversary Book. Touted as 160+ pages, and somewhat erroneously referred to as an ‘art book’, this 250 page tome is the absolute hero, the zenith, the apex of the package. The book is magnificent. It is beautifully presented, exquisitely produced, dense in content, and rich in history. The flow of the book starts (logically) at the beginning of the series and even includes context of what the various creators worked on prior to the Monkey Island titles. Quotes and anecdotes about 8-bit computers including the Commodore 64, earlier Lucasfilm games such as Rescue on Fractalus, and the development of the Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion (SCUMM) engine are just some of the early highlights that set the scene and mood. Original storyline development, alternate artwork, how the special editions of the games were created, how the dev-team evolved over the years, and how game development evolved from loose ideas and concepts through to the corporatisation of the gaming biz all combine to weave a compelling tale.
Tying the book together are the rich oral histories from creators Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and many others involved in the development of the numerous iterations of the Monkey Island series. The artwork and layout are superb, visual cues make it a comfortable read, and there’s a decent smattering of in-jokes and game references to make the reader smile. It took me nearly an hour to skim through the book an read just a few sections in detail; this will be an enjoyable and long read, it ain’t just no art book! As someone who spent years (too many!) researching and writing a thesis about games in education in Australia, I genuinely appreciate and enjoy what this book provides. I sincerely hope that LRG publications like this are ultimately made available separately (even if digital only) than to those who are inclined to pre-order. The amount of work devoted to this book’s creation and the sharing of gaming history that would otherwise be lost should not be wasted.
You can check out some snippets from the book in the gallery below.
Right click the above images to view in a new tab at full-size
It’s would be remiss of me to not mention that digital copies of the games can be purchased from GOG for a total of around $70 AU, especially as this anthology is no longer available at retail (don’t look at the eBay prices…). One does not need physical items to enjoy or justify a love and enjoyment of old games. If physical gaming items are not your thing or you have a paucity of space (like me!), these ‘limited edition’ box-sets are not necessary. But if you like ‘stuff’, they’re definitely worth considering. So, for the extra $200 AU, was it worth the buy? On a purely logical and rough number crunching level, I suspect the dollars spent would have been pretty much a wash. Even discounting the posters, e-ticket, and Certificate of Arrr!thenticity (I love writing that!), each which would have cost relatively negligible dollars to produce, the price of each of these items individually likely would add up to close to the on-off purchase price.
For die-hard fans, were these items to be available separately, going out of your way to procure them could well be fun and worthwhile; most retro gamers love the hunt, even if the wallet takes a beating. For someone familiar with the series who previously had zero to scant gameplay hours with these titles, as well as someone who irrationally enjoys collectibles, I didn’t have to think too long about grabbing it all in one go. For my first LRG experience, the time between ordering and delivery was only marginally annoying and slightly disappointingly extended, although not at all unexpected. The quality and volume of inclusions is excellent, and I’m more than impressed with the overall package. It’s easy to be cynical about such things and scowl at the long wait times; I could easily protest that “I won’t do pre-orders of gaming collectibles again”…but who am I trying to convince? Logic rarely factors in to these sorts of purchases.
All the while I wait for my next round of LRG products. In the meantime, I’ll have plenty of time to set up a display of Monkey Island memorabilia, actually play the games, and try to work out where the heck I’m going to store and display things the next time the postie knocks on my door.