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New Monkey Island Game Finally Released After a Decade – A Review

Tales of Monkey Island Released Today!

Tales of Monkey Island

Developer Telltale Games
Designer Dave Grossman
Writer(s) Mark Darin
Michael Stemmle
Sean Vanaman
Composer Michael Land
Series Monkey Island
Platforms Windows, Wii (WiiWare)
Release date(s) starting July 7, 2009
Genre Graphic adventure
Mode(s) Single-player
Media Download, DVD
System requirements 2.0 GHz CPU
512 MB RAM
64 MB video card[1]
Input methods Keyboard and mouse,
Wii Remote, Wii Nunchuk

Pro game reviewers always give the advice that you should always present a game review as though the reader has never heard of the game before. With a game like Tales of Monkey Island I am faced with a challenge – to give you an objective review of a game that continues the story of characters and ambiance from some of the most beloved and important adventure games of the past, the Monkey Island series.

Monkey Island is to adventure gaming as Fallout is to role playing games, and in that sense Tales of Monkey Island is like Fallout 3. Except, in my opinion Tales of Monkey Island Episode: 1 is more successful in capturing the essence of what make the Monkey Island games great than other mentioned game was with its respective attempt, and that is saying a lot for a game with fans who say things like this quote:

Waiting for another Monkey Island game has become a religion. I filled it in on census forms and on my Facebook page. Thinking of the possibility that it may actually happen one day soon made me almost fall to my knees in praise. This is the f***ing rapture of me!

I wonder what adoring fan said that.. 😀

My video review:

My text review…

Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 1 – Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

The game follows the story of the Mighty Pirate Guybrush Threepwood on his various adventures, and it is as “Adventure” as it gets these days. There is no timer or action sequences, and the puzzles are both tricky yet seamlessly weaved into the storyline, just as it should be! The game is designed to avoid punishing the player as much as possible – the various dialogue options lead to different humorous responses rather than trapping players along a path from which they can’t return, and there are no situations where Guybrush dies and the game ends, forcing players back to an old save point. The player is free to explore and have fun, with rewards for finding the correct solution to puzzles, and instant feedback in the form of mild, humorous rebukes if choices are incorrect.

mi game photos

The interface is intuitive and the learning curve very short (10 minutes for adventure gamers, half an hour for non-adventure gamers). Movement is accomplished through the standard W-A-S-D keys or through left-clicking and dragging the mouse (I would have preferred point-and-click to move, but the controls are not clunky). Parts of the environment that the player may interact with are indicated with a mouse-over, and interaction is simple.

Want to examine an object and/or play with it? Click on it. Want to use an object in inventory on the mysterious barrel? Click on the object, then click on the barrel. The interface is designed the same way the puzzles are – encouraging the player to be curious, and rewarding the player’s curiosity through humorous interaction. I would have liked to have seen more camera rotation/angles, but the camera is not a distraction (and players of past Monkey Island games should enjoy the camera/interface improvements). Another technical mention, this time on the upside was the keeping save and load feature being very useful with the plot recaps so I always kept track of the storyline.

The story is rich and immersive, throwing both Monkey Island veterans and newbies into the same boat (pun intended) from the get-go. The beginning of the game finds Guybrush right in the middle of boarding a vessel captained by a dread pirate who is holding his wife Elaine (and various monkeys) prisoner, and presented with hints of various adventures that led up to this point. For veterans of the Monkey Island games this is an assumed “missing episode,” and for players new to the series the classic games are simply part of the back story. A player feels right at home even if they have never heard of Monkey Island before, though those familiar with past games are rewarded through amusing references and jokes.

monky island game

The game’s look and feel is compelling, yet something is missing for me. The graphics are very bright, cartoon-like, and very detailed – very nice for an adventure game, but I couldn’t help the feeling that they could have done a bit better job with today’s graphics card capabilities. The voice acting was excellent, an enhancement to the game’s story rather than a detriment from it, and the sounds were appropriate, detailed, and even used at some points as part of the puzzles (a pleasant surprise for me). The background music is cheerful but not overpowering, though somewhat ignorable and mildly repetitive.

Overall I found the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island to be a very enjoyable, rewarding experience. The plot was riveting and not very predictable, the puzzles were fun and engaging, and the various missions flowed effortlessly together, avoiding the feeling of running errands or completing chores. The hallmark of Monkey Island games has always been its humor, and ToMI has it in spades (pun intended), making fun of anything and everything, including itself. The only thing keeping this game from being one of my all-time favorites is its light-hearted nature.

I wanted to be pulled into the story and to really care about saving my wife and the world from danger, but I was having too much fun to do so. Where another Lucasarts production, Grim Fandango, immersed me in the story and used humor to enhance the game, the point of ToMI was the humor and to have fun above all else – there was never a sense that Guybrush or any of the other characters were in real danger, making it hard for me to be fully engaged in their plight.

I had a blast with the first installment of Tales of Monkey Island, and I heartily recommend it for anyone who likes adventure games, or any gamer looking for a light-hearted romp and a good laugh. The game doesn’t take itself seriously, and neither should its players. It is pure fun from start to finish, and well worth the price of admission.

Speaking of price.. The five-episode Tales of Monkey Island series sells for $34.95, from Telltale Games. After the monthly releases are complete, you will have the opportunity to get a Collectors DVD containing all five games and bonus content, for just the cost of shipping.