by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Yo, ho! Yo, ho! A pirate’s life for me!
Nearly 20 years ago, The Secret of Monkey Island appeared, and was soon greeted with the cheers of gamers of several genre. It was Adventure, but with a boatload of humor attached. The designers’ collective tongues were so firmly planted in their cheeks, I wondered if their jaws ached. In a word, the game was a hoot. A year later in 1991, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge appeared, and gamers once more got to smile and chuckle their way through one misadventure after another.
There was something of a shift in tone in the third installment six years later when it arrived in the form of The Curse of Monkey Island. For the first time, voice acting was incorporated, and the graphics which had been of comic book quality moved up a notch to animated cartoon. And though the games had been tongue-in-cheek all along, all connection to the slightest hint of historical foundation was lost once the player found himself at LeChuck’s pirate amusement park on Monkey Island. One might attribute that shift to a change in writers – and one would most likely be right. Three more years and it is the new millennia, the year 2000. Our hero Guybrush Threepwood is in danger of, now that he is married, settling down to a life of domestic tranquility. That is, until he and wife Governor Elaine Marley return from their honeymoon only to discover that Elaine has been declared officially dead. That launches them on a course that leads to their Escape From Monkey Island.
Tempus fugit. Since that last game, it looked like LucasArts had pretty much abandoned Adventure games for good. Indy had shuffled off to the dusty halls of academia. Sam & Max hit the road and haven’t been seen since. And it looked like Guybrush and Elaine had indeed settled down to an obscure life of married tranquility.
Nothing like a recession to shake things up. Of all its hot intellectual properties, LucasArts decided that Monkey Island would be the best candidate for re–entering the Adventure game arena. Of course, by 2008, pretty much everyone that had ever worked on a Monkey Island game had been long gone from LucasArts. Fortunately, many of the LucasArts expatriates could be found at Telltale Games, including Dave Grossman who was one of the designers for the first two games, and Michael Stemmle, who was a co–designer on Escape etc. There is a generous sprinkling of others that worked on several of the games in the series, but probably the most beneficial are Dominic Armato (as the voice of Guybrush) and Alexandra Boyd (as the voice of Elaine) who will offer the strongest sense of connection between back then and now.
When does the fifth game not get a “V”?
Though Tales of Monkey Island is the fifth game in the series, Telltale Games insists that it is NOT Monkey Island V. The designers – which, remember, all worked on MI games at various times – feel that Monkey Island V should be a blockbuster of a game that will keep players glued to their chairs for at least 40 hours of gameplay. Tales, on the other hand is more like a made-for-TV mini-series. The game as a whole comes as a five-episode set, with each episode taking only 2-4 hours for the player to zip through, depending on how good he is at solving game puzzles. Sort of like how “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” is not an Indy movie, but you can still appreciate the short vignettes in and of themselves.