point-and-click adventure game. The mere mention of that
long-neglected genre brings back memories of a time when
Lucasarts had more in their stable than Star Wars and Indiana
Jones. A time when games were about linear progression, and
having endless storage space in your trousers, and sliding the
mouse cursor over the right pixel in order to solve the puzzle,
Tales of Monkey
Island, from Telltale games, is an attempt to revive the long
lost art of adventure gaming for modern audiences. This DVD
version contains the 5-part season that was released for
download back in 2009.
already downloaded and enjoyed Tales then there isn’t a lot to
entice you to buy this retail copy. If, however, you’re
approaching the series with a fresh set of eyes, then you’re in
for a unique and original treat.
As in previous
games in the series, you assume the persona of Guybrush
Threepwood, ‘mighty pirate.’ As soon as play begins you find
yourself in a dire emergency: Your beloved wife Elaine is held
captive aboard her own ship, and the evil pirate LeChuck is
about to enact a voodoo ritual with the help of some sacred
monkeys. After you botch a plan to eliminate LeChuck you find
yourself washed up on the beach of Flotsam island, with nothing
but your wits. Over the course of the next 5 episodes, your goal
is to rid yourself of your pox-infected hand, rescue your wife
and stop LeChuck from becoming the most powerful and terrible
pirate in the Caribbean.
As with any
point-and-click adventure, the fun factor is derived from the
quality of the story and the puzzles, and both of these are
top-notch in Tales.
In the first
chapter your time will largely be spent roaming the island,
combining items in your inventory and speaking to NPCs to
further the plot. This will be very familiar to anyone who has
played an adventure game before, but thankfully the formula gets
a shake-up before too long.
In one scenario
you’ll be strapped to a madman’s dissection table, and left to
try to free yourself using only the items within reach. It’s
challenging because you can’t just click away happily- you’ll
have to orient the table in the correct way so that you can
reach the object in question.
themselves are ever-changing and fun to play in: One moment
you’ll be locked in a swordfight with a pirate hunter, trying to
solve a complex puzzle as your character parries and leaps
around the deck of your ship- the next, you’ll be inside a giant
manatee, suspended in a cage that will plunge you into the
creature’s bowel should you fail to answer a serious of
questions about your fake wife.
If there is a
flaw to this game, it would be the way it sometimes dumps you
out of a cutscene with no real clue as to what you’re supposed
to do next, with the only recourse being a long slog around the
island, clicking on every NPC and object to find the minute
detail that you’ve overlooked. The developers have tried to
alleviate this by including a ‘hint frequency’ control in the
settings menu that governs how often Guybrush will chime in with
some helpful advice. The problem is that the control only
effects the frequency, not the overall helpfulness of a hint.
Hearing the same, equally cryptic hint a dozen times over
doesn’t help- it just makes you want to slap Guybrush around the
face with a marlin.
these moments of frustration are rare; once you’ve become
accustomed to the game’s interior logic, the puzzles aren’t that
hard to solve. And after you have solved something the game will
reward you with some sort of positive reinforcement, usually a
chime or a comment from Guybrush, to let you know that you’re on
the right track.
A staple of the
Monkey Island series is its sense of humour, and Tales doesn’t
disappoint on that front either. Most of the quips are delivered
by Threepwood himself, with his endearing, enthusiastic wit.
While some of his remarks are truly groan-worthy (U-tubes?) most
of the jokes are enough to elicit a wry smile.
game appears a little dated, with simple, if expressive
character models and a bright, simple palette. It would have
been refreshing if Telltale and Lucasarts had returned to a
vivid hand-drawn look more in line with the earlier games,
because they were much richer in appearance. Having said that,
Tales isn’t without its own sense of charm. The camera pans out
and around for some suitably cinematic moments, and the
environments are nicely detailed. The flip-side of the basic
game engine is of course the fact that it will run on lower-spec
machines without much trouble.
The sound is
something of a mixed bag: while the monkey island theme is as
catchy as ever, most of the sound effects and music tracks are
average in quality.
Tales of Monkey
Island is a good, hearty adventure game broth that draws you in
with its charm and character. Solving each puzzle comes with its
own sense of achievement, and completing the whole thing makes
you regret that it’s over. And I don’t care what anyone says-
trying to combine the sharp end of a weather vane with your
enemy’s exposed posterior is funny.