It’s been a while. It was believed that the days of rubber chickens with pulleys, grog that eats through tin cups, q-tips the size of tree trunks and disembodied skulls named Murray were long over. For many years now the point-and-click adventure genre seemed all but dead, and our lateral thinking skills seemed to go with it. The tides over at LucasArts changed direction, however, and with that change has come a renaissance; a downright rebirth of not only the genre us older gamers hold dear, but with the crown jewel of the entire genre tarred to its masthead. Telltale Games has teamed up once again with LucasArts (the Sam & Max series served as proof of Telltale’s ability to bring these titles back in a manner befitting their heritage) and brought us the first Monkey Island title since 2000, replete with the input of the original creators. Telltale plans to release the game in five episodic installments, and the first one just hit the deck… will it make the captain proud, or will it be walking the plank? Will anyone pronounce Guybrush’s name correctly? Will the bite of a deadly piranha poodle become infected? Will Elaine fall into the clutches of LeChuck? Avast, ye matey! To keep readin’ is what ye be needin!
In a nutshell, Monkey Island has returned in top form. Although this review is based on the first episode out of five, it can be said that all of the silliness, wit, sardonic humor and pop culture references are present and in full force. There are many moments that will have players grinning with delight, and quite a few other moments that will have you laughing out loud. Many of the beloved characters of episodes past return here (and the promise of many more in subsequent episodes), new characters are introduced and the execution of the title strikes all the right balances. It can be said in no uncertain terms… this is what we’ve been waiting for all these years.
Players once again control our meek but mighty pirate, Guybrush Threepwood, in a quest to overcome the evils of his dreaded nemesis and recurring itch LeChuck, the undead ghost pirate. Right from the opening sequence it seems Guybrush has bested his foe once again, only to have things take a turn for the worse and land our hero right smack into a world of obscure puzzles, objects and personalities in order to set things right. Although some puzzles may seem downright silly, never does it get too complicated or difficult to overcome Guybrush’s plight. In some cases the game’s scenarios may seem a bit too easy, especially when compared to the original game’s unique brain teasers. The laws of adventure gaming still apply after all these years, meaning a player should pick up everything that is not nailed down, and then try to figure out how to pick up some of the items that are. This also includes mixing items in your inventory in order to create different (and much sillier) items that you just know you’re going to need to escape some sort of wild conundrum.
The graphics have been given a major overhaul and have more in common with the latter Monkey titles (Curse of Monkey Island) than the original (in its original state, that is). Everything is rendered in 3D and the animations are top notch silliness (as you would hope). The sound effects are spot on, even though the repetition of certain noises can be a bit irritating after a while (audio cues play a big role in solving a couple of puzzles in this episode). One strange aspect of the game is that when first installed it seems to play a bit choppy even on the most beastly of machines, but then smoothes out after the first sequence. An odd thing indeed, but really no big deal. Michael Land’s classic score of upbeat Caribbean melodies is back with a new mix and remastering… classic stuff born again. The control scheme using solely the mouse is likely to take a bit of criticism, as it seems a bit awkward. Using the WASD keys to move Guybrush around, however, solves the problem entirely.
Even at this early stage (1 of 5), Tales of Monkey Island earns a full recommendation for adventure fans that are pining for the days when games had a strong mental challenge and the payoff was completely hysterical lunacy. It should be noted that in addition to the new Tales Of Monkey Island series, the original game, Secret Of Monkey Island, is being remastered for both PC and Xbox 360. Find some pieces of eight and get yourself over to Telltale’s website or Steam and grab yourself a copy with the reckless abandon of a boatswain’s mate drunk on grog. The long wait is over, dear adventurers, and our renaissance is here!