It’s a tough time being a pirate. Gone are the simple days of walking the plank, or swabbing the poop deck. These days you’re fined 80,000 dollars per illegal Mp3 you have in your captains quarters (the conversion into doubloons is in the process of being calculated as we speak). Luckily the pirate name has not been completely tarnished, thanks to the mighty pirate Guybrush Threepwood.
Launch of the Screaming Narwhal (the first in a planned 5 episode saga) begins with our hero Guybrush Threepwood out to rescue his wife Elaine from the clutches of his arch nemesis, the un-dead pirate LeChuck. Upon reaching their ship, he accidentally breaks the secret ingredient he needed to defeat him. Quick on his feet, Guybrush finds an acceptable way to improvise. It’s acceptable up until LeChuck infects Threepwood’s left hand with a supernatural pox that allow the zombie captain to take control of his hand at any point from anywhere. With an accidental explosion, Guybrush and his pox infected hand are blasted overboard. And thus begins out adventure!
Awaking on an unfamiliar island is always a confusing experience. Luckily for us, our hero is very resourceful. Unfortunately this trait only gets you so far when you’re trapped on an island with wind blowing inward (which makes it nearly impossible to escape).
For those of you who have played past Telltale titles, the controls will be familiar yet new. It seems that they heard certain criticisms on the new control scheme introduced in Wallace and Gromit, based on new upgrades. Now you have a choice between either moving the character around with the WASD keys or using your mouse as a virtual joystick (click and point rather than point and click). In addition to control tweaks, a noticeable upgrade in the graphics is also apparent (although the games still scale very well to lower end machines). The depth of field effects add to the already good looking game.
Out of all of the Telltale episodic adaptations the Monkey Island universe is the least familiar to me, but the game is very inviting to new players while keeping inside jokes and references in for the series veterans. I always love when games break the fourth wall (when characters acknowledging that they’re in a game), and many of the other jokes are surprisingly subtle which only adds to the humor. I also enjoyed hearing pop culture references sprinkled in. The humor carries over into the puzzles as well. Whenever I would find myself stumped, I would think ‘what would be the silliest/most entertaining solution to this?’ which would often lead to the solution to the puzzle. Actually thinking the solution through makes the payoff that much sweeter. Although there were certain puzzles that required you to constantly check a map, and the lazy part of me ended up printscreen-ing it and leaving it up on my second monitor for quick reference. Additionally there was another map puzzle shortly after where I made a list of the order I needed to go in on a scrap piece of paper I had on my desk. While this wasn’t especially annoying, I’m hoping future episodes work to space these puzzles out a bit throughout the length of the game.
With Monkey Island’s grand return, Tales lives up to the precedent set by previous installment’s. Telltale Games consistantly top themselves with each new titles release. I am eagerly awaiting my return to the world of Monkey Island when the next episode rolls out in August.
You can grab a season pass (with a nice DVD at the end) or individual episodes at the Telltale Store.