Tales Of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

The Monkey Island series of games have always been up there as my favourite point-and-click puzzle adventures, even given Lucasarts' impressive repertoire of them (before they stopped and now make only Star Wars games). They managed to combine some tricky but creative puzzles with great humour, enjoyable characters, a solid storyline and above all buckets of silliness that even Monty Python would think was a bit too silly. So after a long time the franchise returns with TellTale Games at the helm, but can the makers of the enjoyable Strong Bad (see my review >here) and the Wallace and Gromit series of games carry on their success with Launch of the Screaming Narwhal?

The first thing to mention is that this isn't the full game. Well, not yet - ToMI is set to be released over five episodes, all of which lead on into each other and carry the narrative through from episode one right through to the finale in episode five. This marks a departure from previous episodic releases, particularly the two mentioned above, who had five separate mini-adventures which were self-contained within each episode and you could either choose a couple to buy, or get the whole bunch. This however is a different kettle of fish - you only have the option of paying for all five episodes, which makes sense given the content, but why aren't Telltale just releasing this as one whole game, with a disc and everything? There seems to be no need for the episode malarkey except for maybe getting some money coming in while they finish off each episode as they go. Does episodic gaming really work in terms of hooking a gamer? I guess Telltale Games are going to find out.

For those of you who don't know anything about the Monkey Island Games, here's a quick refresher: You play as Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate! who bumbles around like a clumsy Jack Sparrow trying to stop his significant other, Elaine, from being kidnapped by the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. LotSN begins with a showdown on LeChuck's ship, where you do your first combining in order to create a voodoo-enchanted sword with which to give LeChuck a good old stabbing.

Sounds like a quick episode doesn't it? But Guybrush being the screw-up that he is botches the enchantment, which only turns LeChuck human and leaves your hero with a voodoo-infected hand with a mind of its own, Evil Dead 2-style. After a big explosion you wake up aboard Flotsam Island, with neither LeChuck or Elaine nowhere to be seen. Your task is to find a way off the island, but with no ship and all winds blowing inland for the last few years it's not going to be easy...

The game itself is thankfully a good portrayal of the Monkey Island universe. The 3D graphics engine, although a little basic, has done a nice job of creating the vibrant, colourful characters and environments. Guybrush himself does look pretty nice, and aside from being a little rough around the edges it does the series justice. Many familiar characters make a reappearance, such as the Voodoo woman as the local newspaper's mysterious informant "Deepgut". The dialogue is typical Monkey Island fare, which will please the fans and newcomers to the series alike - Guybrush fires off one-liners like there's no tomorrow and the puzzles all have a humorous edge or solution to them. The first few puzzles I was expecting a little more from but later on there's a puzzle involving a map and buried "treasure" which was quite challenging and very reminiscent of the treasure quest in the original Monkey Island.

The only thing I would say is that perhaps the game is paying a little too much in homage to the series and by relying on a load of in-jokes or pre-existing characters they're making it less available for newcomers and also limiting their own creativity. However maybe it's for the best, as some of the new supporting characters, such as the fast-talking journo with a pen behind his ear and a New York accent, are a little stereotypical and one-dimensional, which the Monkey Island games have always tried so hard to replace with something funnier and more original.

However, as first steps in a franchise restart go, this is a good one. The puzzles are now suitable for all ages but still fun and challenging, the characters and dialogue work where it counts and Guybrush is the highlight of the episode. If you're a fan of the original Monkey Island games then you'll find a lot to love here, and will be anxiously awaiting the second instalment ('The Siege of Spinner Cay'). For those who enjoy light-hearted puzzle games on the PC and haven't played a Monkey Island game then shame on you! But there's no better place to start...

Best Bits

- Great Representation of the Monkey Island Universe.
- Great Characters and Humour.
- Puzzles that are fun and challenging.
Worst Bits

- Some characters a little one-dimensional.
- Maybe too many in-jokes?
- Too short - I wanted more!
- Episodic setup is pointless.

by: Crazypunk

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