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Jul 7, 2009

Review: Tales of Monkey Island: Ep.1 - Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

Tales of Monkey Island: Episode 1 – Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
Telltales Games
Available via PC download at the Official Telltale Games Website

Good news, all my plunder bunnies! The newest adventure in the life of Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate has finally arrived from the wonderful people at Telltale Games, the developers who brought us the new episodic adventures of Sam & Max, freelance police. Tales of Monkey Island, another episodic game series launched its first of 5 episodes on July 7th to the joyful tears of millions of old school LucasArts adventure game fans and this reviewer got the chance to check out an early press copy 5 days before actual release date. To think it wasn’t even my birthday.

In the first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, we are introduced to our favourite hero again, Guybrush Threepwood as she attempts to save his beloved wife, Elaine from LeChuck, the Zombie Pirate for 5th time I think. At this point, I’ve lose count how many times that woman has been kidnapped by LeChuck. Anyway, Guybrush uses a magical recipe on a sword to kill LeChuck but something goes wrong, and LeChuck is turned human, the boat blows up and Guybrush wakes up on an island only to find his hand has a mind of its mind. A nasty mind at that.
From here out, you must help Guybrush find a way off the island and back to his sweet Elaine. Much like previous adventure games, you must help Guybrush through his journey by talking to people, collecting items and solving his problems. Talking to people is done though dialog trees which give you a series of responses or questions to ask each person you talk to. Most responses are quite humorous which is what these games are famous for, that and three-headed monkeys.

Problem solving is usually complete with the aid of your item inventory, but you must remember not to use your item logically because that’s not how the game works. For example, in the beginning Guybrush drops his bottle of root beer, so you must replace the ingredient. Instead of finding for root bear, you instead find a plant with large roots and a barrel of grog which when combined together becomes root beer. See you have to think outside the box. Fans will love to hear that the plant is Chuck the Plant.

Fans of the previous MI series will be happy to know that former LucasArts employees worked on this game like Dave Grossman and Michael Stemmle and even MI series creator, Ron Gilbert helped brainstorm the initial project. Honestly you can tell these guys had a hand in the process because the game feels like series picked up right after Curse of Monkey Island and everyone forgot that horrible 3D version on the PS2 never even existed.

Graphically, Telltale Games decided to stay away from the original 2D graphics found in the first 3 Monkey Island games, despite cries from the fans and went with their successful 3D engine used on games like Sam & Max. The 3D cartoon graphics look spectacular and make each character really pop on screen. The control scheme is pretty decent with the use of either keyboard or mouse to move Guybrush around.

The music in the game is classic Monkey Island calypso with a hint of a jaunty pirate tune. The voice of Guybrush is provided by veteran voice actor, Dominic Armato, who provided his voice in Curse of Monkey Island and we also see the return of Alexandra Boyd, who voiced Elaine. Kudos to the developers for an excellent job on the voice sync, though I found it odd that text dialog picks didn’t come out the same vocally. The idea was the same but not the wording. They were still funny either way.

Now I did find a couple of glitches in the game but I had an early press copy that hadn’t been completely debugged yet. I found that the maps I found in the game when examined would be blank sometimes and I would have to re-examine them to fix the glitch. Also I had one spot where my inventory refused to open and I had to restart the game, but only happened once. Again though, I was playing an early build of the game and they always have a bug or two. The main game I’m sure with not have these issues, so honestly I can’t factor these in on final opinion of this game.

Now that I’m done reviewing the first episode of Tale of Monkey Island, the only thing I regret is that I have to wait another month to play the next episode. Obviously the purchase of this game should be a no-brainer for fans of the Monkey Island series, especially since there are so many long lost friends showing up to help Guybrush along the way and so many tributes to the franchise hidden in the game, but for the newbies uncertain about this game, I can only say this: Play this game and not only will you finally understand all the strange inside jokes your older PC gaming friends are making finally but you will open your mind to one of the greatest franchises that LucasArts has ever made. Well, besides Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Note: This game will be available in the future on Nintendo Wii via Wii Ware download.

Rating: 10 out of 10
Buy it!

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