In 1991, Guybrush and co. made their return in LucasFilm Games’ (now known at this point as LucasArts) first ever sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.
Taking place months after the events of the first installment, the plot revolves around Guybrush (who now sprouts a fine goatee) searching for the treasure of Big Whoop, while LeChuck, the antagonist of the first game, returns as a zombie to seek his revenge. Development of the game began a month after the release of the first, with LucasFilm in utter surprise at how well it did financially and critically. Most of the development team from the first returned, such as Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer. During production, a port for the Sega CD was planned, but was ultimately sent on a one-way trip to the shelf after the Sega CD port of the first game failed to meet expectations sales-wise. The game also features a numerous amount of references to Disney theme park rides, the ending (which I won’t tell due to just how weird it is) being a shining example. When the game was released, it was met with the same amount of critical acclaim as the first, with praise going to the significantly improved graphics, puzzles, and writing in comparison to the first.
Sadly, after the release of LeChuck’s Revenge, Gilbert had quit LucasArts in order to pursue other opportunities. Though a Monkey Island 3 wasn’t entirely out of the question, this did mean however that it would not happen for quite some time.
In 1993, LucasArts unleashed their next big game, a sequel to Maniac Mansion entitled Day of the Tentacle.
Taking place five years after the events of MM, the game focuses on Bernard, one of Dave’s friends and sidekicks, as he must thwart the evil plot of one of the Edison family’s pet tentacles, Purple. Accompanying him in his adventure is Laverne, a medical student who may or may not be legally insane, and Hoagie, a chubby roadie. One of the more immediately striking aspects about this game is its’ visual style; in comparison to the more realistic and down to earth (well, as down to earth as pirates, mystical realms, crazy scientists, and aliens can get anyways) visual styles of LucasArts’ previous games, DOTT aims for a much more stylized and cartoonish look. This was the intent of David Grossman and Tim Schafer, the creative directors of the game, as they were inspired by classic Warner Bros. cartoon shorts in terms of humor and design, most notably the ones directed by the late great Chuck Jones. The game also features an amusing take on the concept of time travel, as the characters end up getting separated and stranded in different time periods when an attempt to use a time machine called the Chron-o-John that is meant to send them back in time to stop Purple ends up going horribly wrong. When the game was released, it was met with even bigger praise than any LucasArts game before it, with compliments going to the art style, the humorous tone, and the puzzles, with one review going as far as calling it “light years ahead of the original”. In terms of sales, the game did fairly well, managing to sell a total of 80,000 copies.
After the release of DOT, LucasArts turned their attention away from focusing on their own IPs to do something rather different; a game based off of Steve Purcell’s ever-so-popular comic book dog and rabbit buddy cop duo, in 1993’s Sam & Max Hit the Road.
Based off of an 1989 story entitled “On the Road”, the plot revolves around the titular characters as they hit the road in order to track down a stolen bigfoot, engaging in a wide variety of humorous situations and parodies of American culture along the way. The game’s origins go all the way back to Purcell himself being an employee of LucasArts at the time. Having initially used the characters as test models for the rapidly-evolving SCUMM engine, many of the studio’s employees took a liking to the duo when a number of comic strips featuring them were published in its’ quarterly newsletter. Wanting to do something new after having dabbled in a string of sequels, LucasArts and Purcell reached an agreement to develop a game starring the characters. Many locations in the game were inspired by Purcell’s childhood experiences, such as being dragged out to a supposed “Frog Rock” only to be disappointed that it didn’t even look like a frog. At one point, Bill Farmer (if you’re not familiar with him, this might give you something of a hint) was set to voice Sam, but he was nearly dismissed due to his take “sounding too dry”, though he did ultimately win over LucasArts. Upon release, the game didn’t quite set the scores on fire like LucasArts’ previous games did, though it was still met with a good enough reception, with the comedy, graphics, and design being considered the major highlights. During the early-to-mid 2000’s, a sequel by the subtitle of “Freelance Police” was planned, but was ultimately cancelled.
To be continued…