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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 3: Lair of the Leviathan – The Verdict

Tales of Monkey Island: Episode 3: Lair of the Leviathan – The Verdict

MI2

Reviewing an episodic game is one of the few things that gets easier the longer the series goes on. No new gameplay mechanics to detail and assess, it all boils down to story telling, plot and the general atmosphere of the product. In short, the important parts of any adventure game.

This new episode of Monkey Island begins with Guybrush and co. trapped inside the mouth of the second biggest manatee I’ve ever seen after an attempt to discover the location of La Esponja Grande. To make matters worse, a smokin’ hot pirate hunter managed to sneak her way on board prior to the devouring, and is now in the process of sulking. It’s a somewhat unbelievable situation, but like with all Monkey Island plots it manages to work.

There is a feeling that every Telltale game up to this point have been, to some extent, prototypes for this rather than games in their own right. It’s not a feeling that existed before this game, but when one takes into account the various changes in the production method for Monkey Island, it becomes a little clear. The lack of repetition and back tracking between the various episodes, the serialised plot, the clearly defined and individual characters, they all stand out in ways that Sam and Max or Wallace and Gromit did not.

Despite the serialised nature of the series, episode 3 has done well in providing the monthly dose of progress and achievement that you require from an episodic title. Your goals are clearly defined, and achieving them feels like a success rather than a trap to pull you into the next chapter. It can’t stand on its own as a game, but then it’s not meant to. An episode of Lost will not stand on its own either, for example, and while Monkey Island is nowhere near as convoluted and drawn out as that show it still borrows from the same serial model.

Telltale have said before that this series of Monkey Island can be thought of as one game split into five parts, and their commitment to that borders on caste-iron. There are a few flaws that nibble into the game’s success, but they are quite minor and often countered by something awesome not long afterwards. For instance, without giving too much away, a lazy mechanic is used at the start of the episode to deprive you of an item you will have carried through the previous episodes, only for a much cooler item to be acquired later, albeit for a much shorter time. It’s almost a one-step backwards, two forwards approach except I am loathe to bestow that upon them just yet. Not until they fix the needlessly stupid item combination mechanic.

MI1

People have picked up on this before, and perhaps Ben has even mentioned this in his previous reviews, but when games created by amateurs using a freeware toolset allow items to be combined by clicking one item onto the other, Telltale’s method is flawed. I would almost go so far as to say their combination box is old hat, but even some of the very earliest point-and-click adventure games had no problem with item combination. They’ve managed to create a solution for a problem that never existed, and it’s not even nearly as good as the solution already available.

I don’t like the way you move Guybrush either. Why have they suddenly decided that pointing and clicking is unacceptable? You use it for interacting with the world in every other way, so why not moving?

These are not new problems to the series, however, and they are minor niggles at best. In fact, I’m hard pressed to find anything to complain about properly in this new episode. The jokes are funny, almost laugh-out-loud so on some occasions, the plot works, and despite some disappointing stereotypes the new characters are entertaining. The only thing I can comment on is something that has yet to become an actual problem, only has the potential to become so.

MI3

Telltale love the franchise, that much is very clear, and are very aware of what it is the fans want to see. To that end they’ve slipped in references and homages to older games, brought back old voice actors and characters, and it has worked very well. I just worry that they are beginning to edge closer to the fanservice line. They’re not there yet, not by a long shot, and they’ve done a remarkable job of having a proper position in the story for any returning characters, but all it would take is a single slip. One gratuitous piece of fanservice could, in my opinion, dent the merit of this series. They’re not there yet, and hopefully they never will be, I just hope they are aware of the dangers.

I’m sure they are.

This is the sort of piracy even Lily Allen would endorse.
This is the sort of piracy even Lily Allen would endorse.
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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