Tales of Monkey Island: Launch
of the Screaming Narwhal
LeChuck advanced on Guybrush Threepwood as he stood between the possessed pirate and his lady love, Elaine.
"Say yer prayers, bilge-rat!"
"But, it's not even bedtime! And besides, I'm not done with you yet," Guybrush quipped as he swung at the pirate again with his cutlass.
"By the way," Guybrush paused in mid-sword fight, "did you know they're coming out with a new Monkey Island series?"
"Surely this isn't the time for this?" Elaine pointed out.
"No, really, it's being made by those guys that did Sam and Max, and the one about the guy and his dog."
"You mean Charlie Brown and Snoopy?" LeChuck interjected in mid-swing.
"No, no. The other guy and his dog. You know."
"Oh, you mean Wallace and Gromit!" Elaine exclaimed. "I love them!"
"Enough of this! Let's have at it, boy!" and LeChuck took another swing at Guybrush, which he artfully dodged.
"Look, how can I tell you about this new episodic adventure starring me, Elaine, and a whole cast of new piratey characters if you keep swinging that thing at me?"
"I dunno, but let us know when ya figure it out," LeChuch sneered.
"It's got lots of adventure, and puzzles, and... ummm... action figures!"
LeChuck stopped in mid-swing again. "Action figures, ya say?"
"I think you've got him, love!" Elaine whispered, "Now, finish him off and get us out of here."
"Not until I finish talking about chapter one of this great new adventure, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal!" Guybrush said.
"Oh, Guybrush," Elaine sighed. She would have put her head in her hands, but they were tied behind her, and she had already come to the conclusion that her head didn't tilt that way.
Yes, Guybrush, Elaine, and even LeChuck are back for more adventures in the first installment of the new Monkey Island episodes from Telltale Games. I'm happy to report that this classic adventure series is in very good hands.
For those who were looking for the remake of The Secret of Monkey Island, that one is set for release later this month. Tales of Monkey Island is a completely new series, an adventure that takes place "sometime after an imaginary Monkey Island 5" according to design director Dave Grossman. And from scene one, it looks, acts, and feels like it. We are greeted by familiar voices right off the bat, as both Dominic Armato and Alexandra Boyd have returned to provide the dialog for Guybrush and his lady love, Elaine. Unfortunately, Earl Boen was unable to return to voice LeChuck, but you will be able to hear him in the Secret of Monkey Island remake.
Analysis: The style of Tales of Monkey Island is in keeping with the style of the original series. In fact, the character designs and backgrounds are very similar to the series' first 3D outing, Escape from Monkey Island. Here the game is rendered in real-time, unlike Escape which mostly used pre-rendered backgrounds. Other advanced graphics effects are in use here, as well, such as lighting and focus pulling. The engine also supports high resolutions, although it ran somewhat choppy on my system at my maximum screen resolution of 1440x900. Lower resolutions render the game just fine, and it looks gorgeous anyway.
Of course, the sound here is top-notch. The voice acting, as always with the series, is extremely well done. Unlike other recent entries into the point-and-click adventure genre such as Jack Keane, the voice acting doesn't sound like it's being provide by the rejects of the local community theatre troop. Micheal Land returns to provide the background music for the new series and does a fantastic job. The soundtrack adds to the scenes in front of you without taking over, and is great to listen to in its own right.
The hallmark of the Monkey Island series has always been the writing, and series writers Mark Darin, Michael Stemmle, and Sean Vanaman do not disappoint. The snappy banter is there, as are the silly one-liners that Guybrush seems to always come up with. There are some great moments, such as when Guybrush is trying to guess what the password is to get in to see Deep Gut. "What's the word?" "I understand that the bird is, in fact, the word." Other encounters with characters are also well done. As you go through the dialog, you are presented with choices as to what to say next. One thing that I noticed is that you often do not say the text that you choose. I am assuming that perhaps we are given an insight into Guybrush's internal dialog as he talks with the characters, but it is odd, never-the-less.
The one complaint that I have about the game comes in when you have to control your main man, Guybrush Threepwood. Unlike previous games in the series (and pretty much every other point-and-click adventure game) Telltale Games has chosen to drop the usual "click to go here" control scheme. Instead, you have the choice of using the [WASD] keys or clicking and holding the left mouse button and rotating Guybrush in the direction you want him to walk. The click and rotate scheme gets annoying about 25 and half seconds into the game, as you bumble around the deck of your ship trying to find some root beer. Why they didn't stick with the standard interface is beyond me, but if you use the keyboard, you'll be a much happier pirate.
While Launch of the Screaming Narwwhal may not have the replayability of other entries in the Monkey Island series, it is an excellent lead-in to the set of episodes, and it includes enough witty dialog and head-scratching puzzles to keep you busy until The Siege of Spinner Cay makes it's appearance next month. With plenty of comedic value, and a surprising cliff-hanger of an ending, you'll definitely want to set sail with Tales of Monkey Island.
"You fight like a dairy farmer..."
"How appropriate, you fight like a cow." (Sorry, had to do it.)