Guybrush Threepwood is back! I can't believe I've missed that blonde beautiful blue-eyed man, but I have. Telltale Games produced and LucasArts published, our favorite pirate is getting a new way to do things.
Will it work? Or is it as bad as LeChuck? Let's find out.
Oh yeah? You're mom!
Getting right to it, the game starts off with a kidnapped Elaine (Guybrush's main squeeze), a ruthless pirate captor LeChuck and Guybrush in hot pursuit. You immediately see two things that the game offers right from the get-go. First and foremost, you have some outstanding visuals, for a download. While it certainly isn't using the unreal engine 2, the character models are cartoony and fit right in with the series. You'll find some fun looking elements and facial features, especially LeChuck and Guybrush, that reinforce the goofiness of the game (while it's trying to be serious). The voice-over work from the actors is spot-on, as it doesn't try to be too cute, but does try to entertain and match the overall feel to the story. With that said, you'll also find the ocean just as jarring and real as the ships sailing on it. Thanks to that, you'll have a hard time at the beginning of the game with the controls. I found the very beginning to be distracting and frustrating mostly. The two ships meet side-by-side and you have to move Guybrush through his ship to find a way onto LeChuck's ship. You also, while you're finding a way on, have to put together a magical saber to defeat LeChuck. To do so, you'll need to find elements on the ship. It's a fine way of introducing the controls, in theory, but because you have to fight with the rocking boats it's so damn annoying to try to move. That's the introduction to the game and in my opinion, while pretty, it's a poor way to start off.
If you can get through it though, much like the waves after a storm, the game smoothes out considerably. So, the introduction gives you just that, an introduction. It introduces you to the controls, the story and reminds you of the characters personalities. It's a generous way of introducing you to things, but it isn't perfect. Once you get shipped wrecked on the island you can't get off of (not yet anyway), you'll find mild puzzles waiting for you. Much like Sam and Max, you'll have a good portion of the beginning as the exploration part. You'll have to find out where everything is, well not everything, and meet personalities along the way. I'm going to stop explaining the adventure to you, because I don't want to give much away (although I think you'll love the doctor portion of the game). Let's talk about how the game feels.
Unlike LucasArts originals, this game uses a lot less controls onscreen. You no longer get that menu that you have come to love and respect. What you do get is a lot of mouse movements that lead into different commands. If you hold your left mouse button down you can guide Guybrush anyway you want. It's not that bad considering what you use to have to do, which was basically click on different areas of the screen to get the man to move. Once you get use to that, you'll begin to learn the inventory system. If you move your mouse over to the right side of the screen, you'll get a prompt to open the inventory. Once you open it, you have basically three different types of commands: look at, combine and close the inventory. Again, simplicity in this game seems to be the key when it comes to managing your items. The 'look at' command is self explanatory, but thanks to wanting to type more words here in this space, let me explain it. You basically click on an item and move it over the 'look at' icon and click on it. It gives you some clever explanation of what it is. The combine command is equally as simple, if you want to combine two items (such as a saber and some root beer), you need only put one item in the blank space up top and the other item in the blank space on the bottom. Once they are placed there, there's a huge 'plus' symbol between them that you click on to combine them. Again, very simple stuff and it works well as the motif of the game.
Now with all the controls explained, let's talk about the puzzles. Eighty percent of the game is tough, while twenty percent is pretty explanatory. Once you're on the island and you obtain your first quest, getting a pirate story to the local newspaper, you understand how difficult this game can be. You'll need to go into the jungle behind the local town and find a ninja doll for a stranded pirate who needs it to complete his doll collection (errr... action figures). You obtain a map from the man and you have to follow certain paths (which randomly go places) to make it to a particular wishing-well. Once there, you look at the map he gave you and figure out, without much detail, what you have to do. While this isn't rocket-science, it can frustrate the hell out of gamers, but that's what you bought this game for. The game just gets more difficult from that point on. I do understand the need for longevity if people buy this per episode, but giving some sort of sign of process or how to proceed is certainly necessary. I guess this is where the game loses some of its charm. I know there are some people out there who can figure out the Da Vinci Code, but this gamer longs for the ridiculous days of 'point-and-click' where the difficulty was mild, but the substance of the game was high. Tales of Monkey Island seems to be a bit much in terms of difficulty; it might actually make you not want to play the game at certain times. That's a worry when it comes to this title, it might turn off some people; there has to be an even balance between difficulty and substance. This just appears to carry more difficulty than substance. It forces you to try all the things you can before you move on, which is (again) frustrating.
Nothing like a good pirate tale
The story is damn good. I know I mentioned the acting up top, but the story really does bring a lot comedy and some memories of the original series back to life. For example, you meet a stranded pirate who blows glass for a living (get your minds out of the gutter!); who cleverly will insult you at any given moment. It's great because of the history behind the insulting and Monkey Island games. It works well because it keeps you focused and let's you know what you're playing. Moments like this also help you realize that you need to get off the island before you become a stranded pirate and it will motivate you to figure out how to progress. There are little elements like this throughout the game that motivate you to keep pushing forward and get the heck out of there and on to the next chapter.
While we only got to play the first episode, I'm still dying to know what's next in Guybrush's life. It's very addictive.
The entire series of chapters is $34.95. The price isn't too bad for as much playing time you'll be getting out of this. Try the demo first, though; you'll want to see if this is your cup of tea. I can't stress to you enough about the fluctuation of difficulty in the game. It's very imbalanced, but if you can work through that you'll find something that is completely worth you time and money. Each episode is going to be around 3-5 hours of gameplay. You're looking at 15-25 hours of gameplay total from the entire story. For that price it isn't bad at all. I know some excellent games for $59.99 that can't boast that much gameplay. Still, I want you to try the demo before you make the leap. Try it on and see how it fits because the game isn't for everyone.
I guess the biggest question you need to ask yourself is "are you a point-and-click" type of person? That's the other part of the value that you'll need to determine. For me, I love 'point-and-click' adventures. Steven McGehee and I always talk about how great The Dig and other LucasArts classics were back in the day. I cut my PC teeth on Maniac Manson and never looked back sense. Tales of Monkey Island follows in the footsteps of the originals and makes some fantastic improvements on their concepts. It still carries the torch of them and will deliver the same type of gameplay. For the new generation of gamers out there this isn't an instant gratification type of game. If you're looking for complete control and fast moving game then you probably need to look elsewhere. If you're looking for a game that moves at its own pace and makes you go back-and-forth-back-and-forth-back-and-forth then this game is for you. Sure that sounds boring, but it actually brings back some very wonderful memories of when games were made for entertainment and not for 'prettiness'.