I played the first Monkey Island more than 20 years ago and I remember that the user interface was showing many verbs/actions (give, open, close, pick up, etc.) to choose from. If I remember well I finished the game without ever using any of those actions and I always right-clicked on objects to execute the default action on them.

Was there any special use of the actions that I missed ?

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  • 2
    I think you had to use the flowers you picked in the forest (what kind of pirate picks flowers) use them on the meat from the kitchen then give that meat to the vicious guard poodles. Oct 20, 2014 at 8:10
  • Oh, thought I deleted that comment and added it as an answer as I remembered a few more instances. Oct 20, 2014 at 8:15

6 Answers 6


Short answer:
It's an old game and its predecessors used even more verbs.

Long answer:
To understand why they had all those verbs, you have to understand where it came from. Before LucasArts (née LucasFilms) started making Adventure games, Sierra was the driving force in the industry. In Sierra's adventure games, movement was done with the mouse, but all other interactions had to be typed.

Maniac Mansion, LucasFilm's first adventure game, started with a list of 15 verbs they thought were the most commonly used in adventure games.

Green Tentacle's bedroom from Maniac Mansion original.  Image is from Wikipedia.

It's important to note that Maniac Mansion didn't have auto-highlighting when you moved your mouse over something. "What Is" was used for this. "New Kid" was used to switch between the 3 characters on your team.

Either Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or Secret of Monkey Island also introduced the concept of a default action when you right-click. Right-click will seldom actually solve a puzzle even if what you need to do is the "obvious" action.

These verbs changed slightly over LucasArts first few games (except Loom) until you got the original Secret of Monkey Island interface.

Original Secret of Monkey Island screenshot (taken from Wikipedia)

You'll notice that Read, Unlock, and Fix were merged into Use, while What is was replaced with Look at when auto-highlighting was added.

However, LucasArts realized that more of these verbs were extraneous and pared it down even further in their next game, LeChuck's Revenge: Monkey Island 2.

Monkey Island 2 jail.  Image is from Wikipedia.

Turn On and Turn Off got merged into Use, while Walk to just lost its place entirely. Instead, you just click on something that's not an item and you walk there. At this point, LucasArts also changed the inventory from being a list of item names to having graphics for the items.

This was used in all subsequent games including the CD version of Secret of Monkey Island (pictured in the question), up until Sam and Max: Hit the Road.

Sam and Max was the first LucasArts game to remove the actions from the screen UI, giving the game designers more space to actually have the playable part of the game. LucasArts remaining SCUMM games did this is various ways:

  • Sam and Max had the cursor change depending on the current action. Right-click switches actions instead of being the default action. Items are accessed by clicking on the box.
  • The Dig had no actions, items are accessed by moving your mouse near the bottom of the screen.
  • Full Throttle and Curse of Monkey Island used a 3-item Verb Coin that only appeared when you held the left mouse button down. Items are accessed by pressing the Tab key.

(All above images are from Wikipedia)

  • Forgot to mention, Sam and Max also lowered the number of actions to... 5, I think. Walk To (which is its own item again), Look At, Pick Up, Talk To, and Use. Items would replace the cursor when you were using them... which also happens in Curse of Monkey Island and Full Throttle.
    – Powerlord
    Oct 22, 2014 at 20:35

The short version: Back in the days not everyone had a two button mouse.

But besides that, there were clickables that offered more than just the default verb. The defaults are there for convenience.

For example, in most of those old point and click adventures, you had to specifically open or close a door. But you could as well look at it and you might even be able to just use it.

  • Back in the day, was this game actually available for Macs? Never saw a PC without a 2-button mouse.
    – Flyto
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:41
  • I'm not sure to be honest, but in the 80's it wasn't uncommon for games to be released on PC, Atari, etc. quite similar to today's cross-platform releases (although with slightly more visual differences). Although most systems indeed had at least two mouse buttons.
    – Mario
    Oct 20, 2014 at 18:37
  • @SimonW - LucasArts graphic adventures games used a game engine called SCUMM - which was ported to a range of machines (pretty much everything from PC to Nintendo). The game exe contained the interpreter for their SCUMM scripts - most of these scripts never changed between different ports (only the main "exe" changed, or this was the idea). As for Monkey Island specifically, it was on the Mac OS too. It was also on the Amiga and Sega CD. I believe the first SCUMM game was on C64.
    – user101016
    Mar 3, 2015 at 11:02
  • @Mario - this link is also very relevant to your point: grumpygamer.com/maniac_mansion_joystick
    – user101016
    Mar 3, 2015 at 12:37

Surely you must have missed all the descriptions, which were often quite fun.

Apart from that, basically nothing, just look at how it has evolved in future versions.

money island 3 actions

BTW, are you sure you never used them? I find it quite hard to believe: could you use objects and combine them without using the actions?

  • 3
    I speculate he meant that there a number of them that he never used. Oct 19, 2014 at 21:21
  • Like I said I finished the game more than 20 years ago so I was about 12 years old, my memory is kind of blurry. Since then I played all new MI games. I don't remember how the object combinations were done, maybe someone who played the game recently would know.
    – rold2007
    Oct 20, 2014 at 7:21
  • I'm pretty sure the scene at the governor's mansion had at least one use for each of them...
    – Nigralbus
    Oct 20, 2014 at 7:32

If I recall clearly, you didn't miss much if at all. While there were many verbs, you didn't really need to use all of them. The times where you could have used a more specific verb (such as open/close) could also be done by the generic use verb now present in nearly all current adventure games.

There are only a few moments where you were required to use those "specialty" verbs in the monkey games as part of the puzzle (such as opening the safe by pushing/pulling on the handle). I believe there were also some comedic moments when you could pull on some things and you get a funny response or do something silly, but not absolutely required.

Nowadays, most of the verbs have been cleaned out. A lot of that due to the fact that it cluttered up the game and made it more difficult to grasp. All the more reason why many of those other verbs were useless and how the ubiquitous use verb remains.


The reason most of those verbs were there was due to the engine (SCUMM [Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion]) which was the base for most old Lucas arts adventure games. Since they were thought as necesary during the development of "Maniac Mansion" and removing them was more work than it was worth it, so for a lot of time those remained there as legacy code. Some of the verbs used in "Maniac Mansion" disappeared over time as they were redundant or confusing.


I think you had to use the flowers you picked in the forest (what kind of pirate picks flowers) use them on the meat from the kitchen then give that meat to the vicious guard poodles. Also there was the filling the grog from one mug to the other to melt the lock for the prisoner. I remember that one took my 12 year old brain a while to figure out.

Also picking up that stone idol under water, I'm almost certain you can't just right click that.

I can't remember any specific instances, but I do remember some of the absurd use of verbs gave some funny replies from Guybrush.

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