Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monkey Island 2: The Lost Cutscene?

Typically I go through phases where I'm really interested in this or that thing. Currently I'm very interested in the Monkey Island series of graphic adventure games, particularly the curiosities of the second game, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. I've been trying to come up with an explanation for the ending, and I've been scouring blogs, interviews and game transcripts looking for any scraps of information which will help me to piece together a more coherent explanation for the ending than that which has come before. I haven't quite managed that yet, because so far I feel like nothing seems to really cover every bit of the plot, but in my exploration I have come upon something else. For my own amusement I was using a program to look through the recorded dialogue for the Special Edition of Monkey Island 2 and came across some curious dialogue I hadn't heard before. At first I thought it was maybe something they'd recorded for the Special Edition which was never implemented, but then I checked a transcript of the game's dialogue which was made before the Special Edition was released.

As a result, I believe, at the risk of tooting my own horn somewhat, that I've discovered a lost cutscene in the game which has hitherto been unrecognised by Monkey Island enthusiasts over the past twenty-five years. Now I could be wrong. Maybe other people are aware of this, but so far my online searches have revealed nothing. Basically, what I've discovered is an additional cutaway to LeChuck's fortress which seems to have been set between the first cutaway, which featured Largo, the Voodoo Priest and the newly-resurrected LeChuck, and the second cutaway, which is Largo and LeChuck discussing Guybrush having acquired the first map piece to Big Whoop. I'll let the dialogue speak for itself. If you want to find a pre-Special Edition version of this dialogue, check here.

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, back at the fortress...

LECHUCK: Largo...
LECHUCK: I hear that Guybrush is looking for the lost treasure of Big Whoop.
LECHUCK: This be true?

LARGO: Well... yes sir, but...
LARGO: What good can a chest full of money do him?

LECHUCK: It is not the treasure that is important.
LECHUCK: It is what is buried beneath the treasure that concerns me.
LECHUCK: He must not find the treasure of Big Whoop.
LECHUCK: See to it.

LARGO: Yes sir.
I wonder if this was written but never implemented because the designers felt that it gave away too much about the end of the game. In any event, as far as I can tell there's no time in the game in which this cutscene ever appears. That being said, it's clearly been lying around in the game script, because they got the voice actors to record it. Presumably they just printed out everything and got them to record all the dialogue they found just to be on the safe side.
This is just to illustrate the scene. Given they used everywhere else,
my guess is that the dungeon room would have been used for the lost cutscene.
On the one hand, this is an interesting cutscene because it establishes more clearly why LeChuck cares about Guybrush looking for Big Whoop. Something I always found confusing about the game over the years were the existing cutscenes, because I couldn't figure out what it mattered to LeChuck whether Guybrush found Big Whoop or not. In these cutscenes, Largo keeps showing up to tell LeChuck about Guybrush's progress, and LeChuck is increasingly frustrated. Why does he even care? It felt to me like the designers thought that LeChuck should just oppose Guybrush's goal simply because he's the villain. Recently I decided that it must have been that LeChuck, like the Voodoo Lady, knew that Big Whoop contained the "secret to another world" and wanted to stop Guybrush from finding it because if he escaped into another world he could never get his titular revenge.

Now I'm not so sure. This cutscene seems to reveal that LeChuck knows all along that there is something buried under Big Whoop. In my opinion this also means that, in Monkey Island 2, Big Whoop is definitely just the treasure, and "Big Whoop" isn't the name for what is buried underneath, ie the tunnels and whatever else is going on in the weird ending, although apparently it is the name of the mysterious Amusement Park at the end. That being said, I have a couple of theories about all this.
  1. It's possible that the tunnels and so forth under Big Whoop compose at least part of the "plenty of booby traps" which Marley and his crew apparently buried with the treasure. How the four of them built this massive system of tunnels is beyond me, but then again implausible stuff happens in those old Monkey Island games all the time. These would have been designed to keep safe the "secret to another world" contained in Big Whoop, which appears to be the E-Ticket. That doesn't explain, however, why there is so much stuff specifically from Guybrush's past down there, unless part of the "booby trap" is that the tunnels take shape as a sort of "dream" of whoever is inside. Seems like a bit of a stretch. LeChuck would want to stop Guybrush finding this because if Guybrush was trapped or killed by this, it would deny him his Revenge.
  2. The tunnels are some kind of means of accessing different times and places. Someone once suggested a similar idea to Ron Gilbert and he said it was wrong, so I'm kind of doubtful about this one too. My only theory based on this would be that the tunnels link Dinky Island to an amusement park where Guybrush became separated from his parents as a child, as well as to the back streets of Mêlée Island at a time when the street was literally "closed for construction": ie part of the town was being built. LeChuck would obviously want to stop Guybrush finding these because it might allow him to escape into another place and time. I don't think this one is right either, although Mr. Gilbert has implied that time travel is involved in Monkey Island at some point and this seems to be the most likely place.
  3. Okay this one is going to get really weird. A lot of people argue that the ending of Monkey Island 2 reveals that the whole thing was just a daydream on the part of a young boy and the Monkey Island world isn't real. It's a fair argument, but it doesn't explain all the facts, like Elaine waiting by the hole, Chuckie's eyes, or the simple fact that Ron Gilbert has said this one is wrong too. I'm going to rework this one a bit: the Monkey Island world is "real" within its own narrative, but there is another world where the Monkey Island world is fictional. This world is sort of like the actual real world but rather than Monkey Island being a series of computer games, Monkey Island is a set of attractions at an amusement park. It's possible that Guybrush is from this world but ended up in the "real Monkey Island" world as a child. This explains the E-Ticket: it's a piece of evidence proving the existence of another world. Marley and his crew would have sealed it up due to the appalling existential dread they experienced at the discovery that their world was partly-real, shared its existence with another world, or seemed to be the figment of other people's imaginations. This of course doesn't explain how LeChuck could possibly know any of this such that he would have a motive to stop Guybrush from finding it, apart from the fact that it would allow Guybrush to escape him, although in Revenge LeChuck generally does seem to know more than he's letting on about quite a few things.
I can't explain it, but I do feel as if this cutscene adds some more fuel to the fire. Maybe one day the circumstances will arise which will allow Ron Gilbert to make his "true" Monkey Island 3, or maybe one day he'll just give up and spill the beans. He has said that his Monkey Island 3 would take place "two minutes" after the end of Monkey Island 2, "in a carnival" which seems to suggest that at least what's happening at the end isn't some kind of fleeting illusion. Who knows, though. At the end of the day, though, this is the sign of a good composition, a good work of art, even: a comedy adventure game which keeps people like me wondering about its ending twenty-five years later. Somehow I feel like if I cudgel my brains sufficiently the answer will reveal itself, but it hasn't so far. Then again, I've never really been that good at solving adventure game puzzles.

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