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Tales of Monkey Island PC Review - -

Gameplay 8.0
Graphics 7.0
Sound 6.5
Value 8.0
Distributor: All for All
Review Date:
April 2011
Andrew Proverbs


Tales of Monkey Island

Ah, the 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, and… monkeys. 

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. 

If you’ve 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. 

The settings 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.  

Thankfully 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.  

Graphically the 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.  

Closing comments:

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. 



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