Zombies are everywhere. Not in the literal shambling around eating your loved ones sense perhaps, but in terms of popular culture they’re ubiquitous. Comic books, films, TV series and of course games are rife with the bitey buggers. One zombie brand in particular has made the leap across multiple formats, from comic books, to TV and most recently to games.
AMC’s The Walking Dead television series, adapted from Robert Kirkman’s comics at first promised to be a breathtaking serialisation of the zombie apocalypse. We watched in our millions as that bloke from This Life and Teachers did his best silly American accent, all the while wielding a giant handgun that gaming’s finest zombie-killer (Barry Burton) would be proud of. It’s inevitable in zombie fiction, that the tale becomes not about the zombies themselves, but the breakdown of human society and the collapse of morality in an ailing world. It becomes about humans being human and humans turning in monsters of a different sort. Sadly, for the Walking Dead TV show, it also seemed to be about sitting around on a farm, awkward love triangles and silent black men standing in the corner, their only form of communication; the frantic look in their eye that screams ‘please, just give me one line this episode, just one! I promise I won’t mess it up’ It’s a show that frequently fails to deliver on the compelling premise and becomes mired in melodrama, though it sprinkles enough Zombie thrills that we yet retain some hope that it will eventually come good. …
There are many ways games series can approach a new game. Some sequels keep the same gameplay and just progress the story, others innovate with the gameplay and some overhaul both the gameplay and story. Puzzle Agent 2 sits firmly in the first of these categories and does little to differentiate itself from its predecessor in the gameplay department. …
Puzzle Agent has to be one of the most aptly named games around. The premise is as simple as it is absurd, Nathan Tethers of the FBI’s puzzle division is sent out to investigate the closing down of an eraser factory in the fictional town of Scoggins. …
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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, …
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: