Tales of Monkey Island – Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

Shiver me timbers and swash me buckles, it’s been nine years since the last Monkey Island, and 12 since a good ’un, but you should always bet your golden doubloons on adventure game gods, Telltale to set the record straight with a slew of new Monkey episodes.

Adopting the classic PC franchise is a tall order, with thousand of rabid wannabe-pirates, myself included, ready to insult swordfight anyone who should mess up the series. But, with four seasons worth of games already under their belt, Telltale have proven that they don’t fight like a cow (or a dairy farmer) and are abundantly qualified to take the helm.

Despite years of pirating, and four best-selling adventure games, under his belt, Guybrush Threepwood is still finding himself crossing paths with the ghost pirate Lechuck, the scourge of the Caribbean. This time round, Guybrush miscalculates the ingredients for his voodoo sword and, instead of sealing LeChuck’s spirit in the underworld, manages to unleash the pox of the evil buccaneer across the oceans. Whoops.

Rescuing Elaine, defeating LeChuck and removing the curse from the Caribbean might be a little too much to squeeze in a three hour episodic release, so Tales is a serialised adventure with each episode featuring new locations, characters and adventures, as the entire story unravels. Plus, no cosy office or West Wallaby Street home to retire too.

Tales of Monkey Island is a classic point and click adventure, revived for the 21st century by Telltale Games. This band of Californian neo-adventurers have bought us Sam & Max, Wallace and Gromit and Strong Bad themed adventures, going from strength to strength with each release.

Very much like LucasArt’s classic line of SCUMM games, Telltale’s franchises all share similar traits, but expand on their predecessors with ample updates. Item combinations have now been added in elegant fashion and the control method has once again been scrapped for a mostly-successful mix between Wallace’s keyboard control and classic point and click.

And, as expected, Monkey Island appears with a collection of dazzlingly creative, yet devilishly well presented puzzles, creating a bunch of head scratchers that are solved before you heed the call of online walkthroughs. The trademark dynamic hint system is also back, and as subtle as ever, in case you need the extra push.

One of the most important aspects, the writing, is handled exceptionally well. Guybrush’s (voiced by series veteran Dominic Armato) quips, retorts and bafflingly dumb observations never divert from his character and the jokes are well timed. There are few references to his past antics, but it helps the game feel like a brand new adventure, rather than a nostalgic re-run.

And a brand new adventure is exactly what Telltale has delivered. Tales of Monkey Island’s first episode manages to stand tall amongst the classic franchise (and beats out Escape from Monkey Island effortlessly) with hilarious writing, brilliant puzzle design and a maddening month long cliff-hanger!







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