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Tales of Monkey Island Episode 5 – The Verdict

Tales of Monkey Island Episode 5 – The Verdict

A matter of grave importance. (You're fired - Obvious Pun Ed)
A matter of grave importance. (You're fired - Obvious Pun Ed)

So here we are, at the end of Telltale and LucasArts’ daring resurrection of the Monkey Island franchise. Has the gamble of bringing back much loved characters Guybrush, LeChuck, Elaine and many others paid off? Quite simply: yes! The final episode almost manages to be the exclamation point on what has been a wonderful series. Now before I go any further, it should be blindingly obvious but this review – along with the screenshots – contains MASSIVE SPOILERS to the rest of the series so far. So those of you who are a bit funny about things like this might want to jump to the last couple of paragraphs where I’ll talk about the series as a whole.

So we find Guybrush in pretty much the condition we left him in last episode: dead. Having been slain by LeChuck who has finally revealed himself to be as evil as he always was all along, he seeks to suck the voodoo energy from the pirate afterlife known as the Crossroads. Of course, anything LeChuck can do, Threepwood can do better – and as LeChuck has been resurrected more times than your average soap character – it’s up to the now Ghostly Threepwood to save the day, thwart LeChuck’s plans and save his wife Elaine. But first he must find a way to return to the land of the living to do so.

Well Dr Threepwood, is it serious?
Well Dr Threepwood, is it serious?

The entire series has seen some rather brave and bold moves from Telltale, and taking on the pirate land of the dead can be seen as yet another. Although it suffers from a rather dark palette – which is a bit of a theme throughout the episode – the locations are very clear and seem even more attuned to function than previous episodes. In a sense of playing the game, this makes the locations pretty easy to navigate but it does mean there are slightly less incidental object jokes in this final episode. Luckily no such comprimises are made in the rest of the dialogue – as it’s still packed with some great lines from both Guybrush and LeChuck.

The main thing that this final episode seems to drive home is that it is a bit of a ‘best of’ compilation of the previous episodes with some of the better characters and similar puzzles making an appearance from previous episodes. Thankfully the jungle maze having already been used twice in the series does not get a return, but the feast of the Sponge from episode 3 returns with a new twist, along with an interesting yet pretty clever take on the famous insult sword fighting. As has been the case for the entire series the voice acting remains brilliant with all the original cast in their roles, although it is a bit of a shame we don’t see Murray or Stan return for one last time.

How far will LeChuck chuck Threepwood?
How much would LeChuck chuck Threepwood if a LeChuck would chuck Threepwood? A: Lots.

However it’s certainly not the strongest episode this series. Some threads in the story are a tied up with slightly too much stretching, once again it makes little sense on it’s own without the previous episodes and it does seem to end a little too abruptly. However, it does manage to round up this first series well enough and it’s safe to say that Telltale should be proud of what they’ve achieved this series. So for this episode I will give it the following score:

A Pretty Good Game
Jumping the plank with a splash!

HOWEVER it would be wrong of me to not give you a verdict on the entire series. Funny, charming and with just the right amount of brainwork required to make the game fun, Telltale have done the Monkey Island franchise justice. It’s legacy is well known and the series is more than good enough to stand alongside it’s forefathers and dare I say it – is even better than LucasArts 3D attempt, Escape from Monkey Island. As modern day adventure games go, Tales of Monkey Island is a must buy for fans of the genre and comes highly recommended. I’m just hoping there’s a second Telltale Monkey Island series to come, because Telltale have made an episodic series that they and anyone who calls themselves a fan of the Monkey Island series proud.

So Tales of Monkey Island – The Complete Series gets an extremely well deserved headshot:

A Pretty Bloody Good Game
Swashbuckling Good Fun

Tales of Monkey Island Episode 4 – The Verdict

Tales of Monkey Island Episode 4 – The Verdict

The name's  Threepwood... Guybrush Threepwood.
Agent Guybrush Threepwood: License to Keelhaul.

We’re now at the penultimate episode of Telltale’s adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, and it’s fairly easy to say that The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood is the best one yet. Indeed, it’s the best Telltale game out of everything they’ve produced. But at the same time, it’s also the episode that makes it very clear that these singular episode reviews are becoming more and more redundant. Which is a horrible thing to admit in any review, never mind the first paragraph. Bear with me here.

At the end of the last installment, Guybrush and LeFlay escaped from the belly of a giant manatee, and Guybrush has finally recovered La Esponja Grande in order to remove the Vodoo Pox currently ravaging all of pirate kind. However a betrayal from LeFlay sees the pair returning to Flotsam Island from the first episode to face his de facto nemesis (LeChuck without his vodoo pox working for the forces of Good) Marquis DeSinge. It’s a given to assume things don’t quite go according to plan and Guybrush finds himself in Pirate Court on trial for three completely unrelated misdemeanours – for which you must help Threepwood be found innocent, setting up your first puzzle for this episode. This episode also marks the return of a new classic character from the series is introduced and this time it’s the turn of Stan – the salesman with the funky jacket always trying to make a quick buck – who turns out to be your prosecutor, along with the reintroduction of some of the pirates from earlier episodes.

From used ship salesman to prosecutor. Not a huge career shift, then.
Telltale's version of Stan looks far better than his Escape incarnation.

This episode really shows that Telltale have been learning a lot this series. It’s a welcome relief to acknowledge that the rules of three puzzle system that had pretty much been the cornerstone of previous Telltale games finally put to rest, or at the very least be far less obvious this time around. There’s even a little nod to the annoyance of the rather lacklustre sound based jungle navigation puzzle of the first episode. The characters that were largely deadweight in earlier episodes have been culled, leaving only the really defined ones which is a marked improvement on earlier episodes. They feel as if they’ve had far more attention put into them, the bipolar judge/barkeep and Stan being particular highlights in this respect. There was a slight worry – and I know Steve mentioned this in his review of the previous episode – that Telltale would rely too heavily on the fan service to the detriment of the rest of the game, but this episode proves those doubts to be unfounded.

As has been the case all season, this episode continues the tradition of shining in the script department. Dialogue is genuinely funny and some of the scenes are marvellous. Anyone following the story so far knew Elaine and LeFlay were eventually going to meet and not only does the payoff deliver, it does so with aplomb – it’s one of the finest and funniest scenes in the episode. The puzzles are still for the most part well done, but I do hope Telltale start including less locks in subsequent episodes – it has the negative side effect of making it look like they’re slightly running out of steam with the current catch all solution to them with the same one being used three times. Overall they’re tiny components of the overall puzzles and thus a small niggle, but hopefully the last episode is setting up to solve this problem. There’s also a puzzle towards the end that, although makes logical sense once figured out, seems to ignore previously established game logic and might be a bit of a stumbling block. Again though, these are only minor faults in what is overall, an excellent adventure game.

Ahh, typical marital bliss.
Ahh, typical marital bliss.

So, back to the original point about this review being largely useless: as it stands, I’m telling you how good each individual episode is. The main problem with the game is that without playing the other episodes, this one is simply not going to make much sense on it’s own. To truly get the best out of it, you’ve got to play through the series. Yet at the same time, the episodes are not available individually. So as a review I’m faced with a bit of a dilemma – why should I mark this episode down because it doesn’t stand well on it’s own when it’s not even available alone? Well, it’s more of a self inflicted dilemma – this episode is certainly good enough to justify a purchase of the entire season. If you’ve been holding off buying until the complete package is out I dare say this may make you bring your decision forward a month, because it’s already worthy of standing proud in your collection and certainly to stand alongside the other Monkey Island games on it’s own merit.

The best TV series provide plenty of “Did you see?” moments the next day you want to talk about to people who’ve seen it, while simultaneously not give away too much to those that haven’t because you want them to experience it themselves. Sam & Max and Homestar became repetitive, and Wallace and Gromit massively ran out of steam towards the end. With Tales of Monkey Island, Telltale have finally nailed it. If the ending to this episode doesn’t make you look forward and excited for the next episode then it’s simply not for you. For the rest of us, The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood cements it – Tales of Monkey Island is good enough to deserve a renewal for another season.

A Pretty Bloody Good Game
Sail of the Century

Tales of Monkey Island Episode Two – The Verdict

Tales of Monkey Island Episode Two – The Verdict

Always believe in your soooouuulllll!
Always believe in your soooouuulllll!

So, as you may have gathered from last month’s review, we at the Reticule rather liked the first episode of the resurrection of gaming’s favourite pirate Guybrush Threepwood. After setting such a high precedent with Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, can Telltale match the high standard for the second episode,

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Mark Darin – Telltale Games Interview

Mark Darin – Telltale Games Interview

guybrush-lechuck

Adventure games never went anywhere, but if there’s one developer that’s given the genre a massive resurgence of late, then it’s the guys at Telltale Games. Taking some well loved and fondly remembered classic properties like Sam & Max, Wallace & Gromit and Homestar Runner, they appear to be the only company that has truly made the episodic gaming formula work on a long term basis. Their latest treasure comes from the booty of a collaboration with the former masters of the genre, LucasArts with the bloody good Tales of Monkey Island series. So we at The Reticule decided to send some questions (in a bottle, of course) to one Mark Darin, designer on the new Monkey Island games. His reply washed ashore recently, and here’s what he had to say:


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Tales of Monkey Island Episode One – The Verdict

Tales of Monkey Island Episode One – The Verdict

It’s another of those licenses that takes a developer with balls to accept. But it’s not as if Telltale doesn’t have the pedigree. With former LucasArts adventure Sam & Max under their belt and a proven track record with the Strong Bad and Wallace & Gromit games, it was only a matter of time before LucasArts themselves entrusted one of their other prize jewels with the studio made up of former comrades – and so we see the first episode of Telltale’s latest offering: Tales of Monkey Island. Does it have the right to hold the Monkey Island flag high? If this first episode is anything to go by, it looks promising.

Tales From Monkey Island

Part one, entitled Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, finds swashbuckling hero Guybush Threepwood about to save his wife Elaine from yet another of pirate ghost LeChuck’s evil schemes. In a short introductory sequence which also serves as the games tutorial, things quickly go awry, and Guybrush finds himself washed up on Flotsam Island without Elaine, LeChuck and an Evil Dead style possessed hand. Tasked with escaping the island in order to rescue Elaine, Narwhal has the player go on several tasks in order to eventually escape the island and those who have played any Telltale game before will instantly be in familiar territory. Once again the rule of three puzzle is employed, but is has to be said that this time it feels far less contrived than those in the Wallace and Gromit series. Occasionally they can be a bit problematic, and do not seem quite as straightforward. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will depend entirely on your adventure game experience, but there was more than one occasion where even upon finding out the answer, I did feel a little confused. There’s also a puzzle involving audio cues that’s almost unforgivable for the lack of closed captions for the hard of hearing and seems a silly oversight on Telltale’s part. However for the most the results are very well done and completely in the spirit of previous Monkey Island games.

MonkeyIslandGuybrush

The visuals too, are absolutely splendid. Although those who may have preferred the more ‘serious’ look of the original MI games, Tales manages to give their interpretation a wonderful style, and I dare say this looks better than LucasArts own 3D step into Monkey Island territory back in Escape From. It’s not just from a purely visual perspective either. The whole episode just exudes a joy that’s pretty hard to describe. The characters both old and new are very well written and defined without being annoying, and the quality of the dialogue and story as a whole is of a very high standard. The humour isn’t exactly going to have anyone rolling in the aisles, but I defy anyone who plays this episode and does not have a smile on their face at some point. Extra credit must go to Dominic Armato for his wonderful voice work, he really nails the charming bumbling of Guybrush well, and it’s a real coup for Telltale to secure his services for the new series. It’s a simple fact that Adventure games live and die on story, characterisation and all in all a decent narrative. This first episode really does manage to nail all these things, and come out the other end as a superb piece of quality gaming, not to mention an absolute nailing of the episodic series format this time.

MonkeyIslandLeChuck

So overall, it’s pretty safe to say this is definitely a game worthy of the Monkey Island name, and so far Tales from Monkey Island is shaping up to be Telltale’s best adventure to date. Sure there are a few niggles – not least wishing it wasn’t over so quickly – but I for one am really looking forward to the continuing adventures of Guybrush Threepwood. Monkey Island gets a thumbs up from me and a hearty swill of the finest Grog The Reticule has to offer. Yarrrr.

A Pretty Bloody Good Game
A Pretty Bloody Good Game

Wallace & Gromit Demo Released. Does Not Contain Cheese.

Wallace & Gromit Demo Released. Does Not Contain Cheese.

Can they really use 'Grand' again, after 'Grand Day Out'? You decide!

The Demo for the new, Tell Tale Games developed adventure game version of Wallace & Gromit has been released, and you’ll be pleased to know it’s rather good. It’s simple, amusing, and contains fingerprints. It features the first part of the first episode they’re releasing, called ‘Fright of the Bumblebees’, and involves substituting pepperpots for chess pieces, tickling a giant queen bee and tricking a crazy old veteran into giving you his snail.

The animations are largely solid, although sometimes the mouth movings suffer a little too much from Tell Tale trying to stick to the claymation look of W&G, and just coming off as slow framerates. Similarly, the voice acting is mostly good, except for Wallace’s voice being ever so slightly off. I think it’s one of those things that’ll get better as the series get on, as by the end of the demo I wasn’t really noticing it. The graphics, too, are pretty good, with the aforementioned fingerprints being there, but not in your face. And, of course, as with previous Tell Tale games, the puzzles are simple, but enjoyable. You can grab the demo here.


We Need Grave Dirt! A Vampyre Story

We Need Grave Dirt! A Vampyre Story

It's all about the stove.

I’ve just played through the demo for A Vampyre Story after I heard it was done by the Monkey Island chaps, which, while I’ve never played (please, no stones or arrows), does send pleasurably tingles down my newly awakened appreciation for adventure games (after playing The Longest Journey). This is taking the comical route of placing you in the ridiculous proportions of a newly turned vampi(y)re named Mona, with her bat pet/friend called Frederick. Impressions through the jump.


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