Tales of Monkey Island Review (PC)

When Telltale announced that it was working on new Monkey Island content, the adventure gaming Internet shook a little for the first time in years. Ok, we understand the rebirth of Sam & Max caused quite a stir, but a Monkey Island sequel is what all fans have really been longing for since LucasArts canned Guybrush nine years ago.

However, in amongst all that excitement were understandably fears of whether a brand new team could recapture the magic of the now old series. As Monkey Island magic isn’t just good graphics, a decent story and some witty one-liners: it’s about atmosphere and charm. That’s an extremely difficult thing to code and well, let us just say this, Telltale has cracked it. Within five minutes of playing the game it was like being in some kind of magical time warp. In short, we were very impressed indeed.

Vodoo Lady, shakin’ that stick, drive me crazy.
Meet Hemlock, two-pegged legged pirate.

The writing is especially good. The game is littered with laugh-out-loud moments as well as sighs and groans of cheesy, obvious humour that is always delivered with a self-effacing wit that simply harps back to the heady days of the Ron Gilbert/Tim Schafer LucasArts adventures. Without wishing to spoil things, the mad doctor Marquis de Singe and his electromagnetic monkey Jacques are a hoot as is Hemlock the two-pegged legged pirate. Everyone you come across has their own personality and charm, the hallmark of any great adventure title, and this is a true sign that Telltale have definitely realised what made MI great back in the day and should finally allay the fears of the sternest Monkey Island sceptic.

Another great Monkey Island trait is the soundtrack and Launch of the Screaming Narwhal has all the right tunes to accompany your adventuring. The classic sound of the steely drums never got boring in the early games and it has the same effect here. The music becomes more dramatic as the plot moves up a notch and the whole score really ads to the atmosphere of the game and gives it that Monkey Island feel of old.

We’ve talked about the plot, we’ve talked about the music, but what about the puzzles? Without spoiling the plot, you’re washed up on the island of Flotsam and need to commandeer a ship in order to get off and find Elaine. In order to do this you need cheese, a U-Tube (made us laugh) and a bunch of flowers. The hardcore adventurers among you might be a little disappointed to learn that everything is pretty much instantly do-able and fairly logical, if not a little left field. In fact, we completed that first chapter in two sittings. Some of the Monkey Island puzzles of old took weeks to work out, but Telltale has tailored ‘Narwhal’ to the new, and perhaps more impatient, gamer audience of today. Still, there are a few puzzles in there that took their time and us old-timers who now have families and like our gaming bite-sized, the complicity level is just about right.

Meet the new Guybrish Threepwood, mighty pirate!
See how long it takes you to knock this guy off the boat.

The only real issue we have with the game is the graphical department. For a start, we still haven’t warmed to Guybrush’s new look. The pointy chin and goatee beard wouldn’t have been our first choice when drawing a revamped Guybrush. However, if we’re being honest, the superbly timed and delivered voice acting more than make up for the questionable choice of appearance.

Another niggle is the camera. In the Monkey Islands of old, the FOV was always pulled back so you could see a great deal of detail on screen at any one time. A negative aspect to this meant sometimes you had to go through hours of pixel hunting with the cursor but on the positive side, it really made the world feel rich and interesting. In Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, the camera is much closer to the action meaning sometimes the game world can feel just a tad empty.

As mentioned earlier, Tales of MI took us about four to five hours to complete, so as an episodic title – there are four more to come – you certainly get value for money here. In fact, those four to five hours weren’t nearly long enough, we wanted more! We’d just reacquainted ourselves with the style, atmosphere, humour and puzzling and it was all over. Not many games leave us this excited but Tales of Monkey Island really is dangling the carrot in front of the three-headed monkey. A month can’t go by soon enough.

The island of Flotsam where Launch of the Screaming Narwhal takes place.
A yo-ho-ho and a bottle of grog!

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’ve never played a Monkey Island game before, then don’t be dissuaded, as although some of the jokes are references to the earlier games, there’s enough in there for newcomers to find funny. In fact, yet again, Telltale has got the balance just right in this respect.

Adventure games have been going through a mini renaissance of late and we can all thank Telltale for its massive contribution in bringing puzzling back from the dead and treating the genre with the love and respect is has duly deserved. With Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal the Telltale team has outdone themselves: a true return to form for the series and an unmissable title that we think everyone must own.

Top game moment: Finally working out how to bury Dark Ninja Dave

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By Jake_SI (SI Elite) on Jul 08, 2009
I'm looking forward to getting this!
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jul 08, 2009
Wow 8.5! Guybrish is back! I am not sure I am still in adventure games but I wasn't when I got the first Monkey Island and I loved it...
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Jul 13, 2009
its a great improvement over the old one, i really think its a great game, got a 9 from me!
By fredyzg (SI Core) on Aug 30, 2009
after long time i will play adventure.i this one point and click or like in escape from m.i.?