by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Returning to Monkey Island
Ahhh, Melee Island... A tranquil little place filled with all the stereotypical aspects of a pirate town. There is a governor’s mansion where a fine young lass awaits for a handsome young man to whisk her away from her life of boredom. There is a bar where all the pirates hang out and sing sea-shanties whilst skolling their grog. There are lovely beaches and palm trees as far as the eye can see, as well as some inland forests where buried treasure can be, well... buried. And, of course, there is a notorious pirate who has his eyes set on both the island itself and the Governor’s lovely daughter.
Well, that was the original story many years ago (1990 to be precise) and it was up to you, as young handsome pirate wannabe Guybrush Threepwood, to rescue the beautiful maiden from the clutches of the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. The Secret of Monkey Island was a huge success and spawned a number of sequels, the last of which (Escape from Monkey Island) was released in 2000. The series was a favourite for many gamers, largely due to the humour of the dialogue and the zany puzzles. Otherwise, the point and click adventures were not much different to any other game of the genre in that period.
The point and click adventure genre seemed to be slowly going the way of the dinosaurs, until Sam and Max Save the World (another in the original LucasArts stable) returned on the Telltale label in 2006. The episodic releases left old-style gamers wanting more of the old-fashioned gameplay, whilst introducing younger gamers to point and click adventures. And with that, the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood have been rekindled with Tales of Monkey Island.
Tales of Monkey Island has (as with the Sam and Max series) been given episodic treatment, with the first chapter being set several years after Escape from Monkey Island. The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal (the first chapter’s by-title) begins with Guybrush aboard his ship alongside that of the evil pirate LeChuck. LeChuck again has Elaine (now Guybrush’s wife, former Governor’s daughter) captive aboard his ship.
Of course, Guybrush being Guybrush means that things go horribly wrong in his attempt to rescue Elaine and destroy LeChuck once and for all. Guybrush ends up marooned on an island, with no ship and seemingly no way off the island. To make matters worse, it seems that even if Guybrush could build or acquire a ship, the winds around the island would make it impossible for him to leave, as they all blow inward.
Along the way, Guybrush will meet a number of new characters. There is a ship captain who won’t give up his ship to Guybrush without a fight, a newspaper reporter who is looking for some great piratical stories, a crazy French doctor, a pirate who plays with dolls (ahem... action figures) and of course, there is a voodoo lady. Each of these characters, as well as Guybrush, is superbly voiced with appropriate accents. In fact, the audio as a whole is superb. The music is reminiscent of past Monkey Island games and continues the calypso and reggae theme.
The sights and sounds of Flotsam Island
The visuals are also quite good. The characters actually had me thinking about Sid Meier’s Pirates. Maybe it was just Guybrush’s costume that gives me that similar feeling. Otherwise the characters have a similar style to those from the Sam and Max series (without the slightly oversized heads). The locations are varied enough to make the game interesting, whilst they are filled with colour and look delightful.
The puzzles are a mixture of simple problems and maddening brainteasers. There is quite a bit of walking back-and-forth between locations to complete some puzzles, but nothing that would worry too many gamers. Also, it wouldn’t be a proper pirate themed game without some treasure hunting, even though the treasure wouldn’t seem to be that valuable to Guybrush.
The humour continues
And of course, the game wouldn’t be a Monkey Island game without the humour. Whilst the game didn’t make my sides hurt from laughing, it certainly had me chuckling to myself at times. Guybrush provides much of the comedy with his clumsiness and his witty dialogue. Whilst the use of pirate jokes, references to pop-culture (such as Youtube and Dora the Explorer) and the inevitable fart jokes provide enough material to keep gamers smiling.
The controls are quite intuitive even if they are slightly different from other point and click adventures. All items that can be picked up are required in some way. Some items need to be combined with other items and this is done simply by using the combining tool in the inventory. Items can then be inspected or used with other items in game (those not able to be picked up).
To be continued...
In all, The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is definitely a great start to the series. It certainly brings back some happy gaming memories for me and will no doubt do the same for other fans of the series. The music is first rate, whilst the puzzles will be simple enough for most experienced adventure gamers to complete the game in a few hours. The characters (some of who will no doubt be recurring) are appealing enough and the game finishes in a cliffhanger, with Guybrush on the verge of rescuing Elaine. I for one am looking forward to the next instalment. In the meantime, I’ll be searching for the treasure of Shuttlemoc, the god of the breeze that ruins badminton matches.
Feels like returning to an old friend
Having to wait for the next instalment