Giant Bomb Review

29 Comments

Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Review

4
  • PC

Telltale delivers a breezy pirate adventure with its first episode, easing into the fiction while still honoring the Monkey Island name.


By the Cursed Cutlass of Kaflu!
People are pretty crazy about Monkey Island, and with good reason. Though the series had its ups and downs, when the Monkey Island games were at their best, they were one of the high watermarks for how funny and clever a game could be. It's been a while since we've seen the continued adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, and now Telltale is at the helm with Tales of Monkey Island, a brand-new five-episode adventure, the first episode of which is available now. Considering the actual quality of the previous Monkey Island games, as well as the legend that people have built up in their minds during their eight-year absence, expectations are high. Luckily, Telltale is staffed to the gills with folks who were key players in past Monkey Island games, and they don't seem to have lost their touch with Tales.

Launch of the Screaming Narwhal initially catches our hero Guybrush Threepwood in the middle of another jam involving his wife and former governor of Mêlée Island, Elaine Marley-Threepwood, and the voodoo-ghost-zombie-demon-pirate LeChuck. After an ill-considered root beer incantation, Elaine is left in the clutches of a re-mortalized LeChuck, and Guybrush is marooned with a LeChuck-possessed hand on Flotsam Island, which is where this episode takes place. The title refers to the only ship on Flotsam Island, which Guybrush must wrest from a local pirate, though he also has to contend with a mysterious weather system that keeps the inhabitants of Flotsam Island trapped there as well.

This episode seems very deliberately designed to ease you back into the world of Monkey Island, and the events on Flotsam Island feel like a warm-up for the proper adventure. Elaine and LeChuck don't figure in too heavily just yet, allowing you to get familiar with the unique way in which Guybrush buckles swash, as well as the series' goofy, anachronistic, easy-going approach to the topics of piracy and island voodoo. There's still plenty of room for callbacks and references tailored for established Monkey Islanders, though it's rarely so inside that first-timers won't be able to find the humor in silly pirates and sillier names for pirate stuff.

There's a good amount of funny, well-delivered dialog here, and the story is propelled by puzzles that tend to focus on combining and using inventory items in unconventional ways, as well as the deciphering of treasure maps. As far as the complexity and obscurity of the puzzles, I only found myself stumped by Launch of the Screaming Narwhal once, and the solution ended up being far simpler than I had assumed. There's a subtle hint system to occasionally nudge you in the right direction, something you can adjust the prominence of or turn off entirely.

Strange things are afoot on Flotsam Island.
My only substantial gripe about Tales of Monkey Island so far is the way the hybrid controls handle. Rather than opt for pure point-and-click, you've got direct control over Guybrush using either the keyboard or the mouse, though you still have to use the mouse to interact with people and objects. Fixed camera angles and a certain lack of fidelity in the controls just make both control options feel like a little bit of a struggle. There's also some awkwardness to the way you open up your inventory and use items from it. It has no significant ill impact on the actual puzzles, but it's kind of clunky.

If this first episode is any indication, Tales of Monkey Island is shaping up to be Telltale's most visually ambitious game yet. Everything is nicely stylized with a palette that recalls the old Monkey Island games, and with few minor exceptions, the animation is all very lively. Though there's a nice little depth of field effect, this isn't going to win any technical awards. Still, there's just a jauntiness to the whole look of the game that compliments the humor really well.

I was really satisfied with the three or four hours it took me to get through Launch of the Narwhal, and the episode ends on a delicious cliffhanger that has me eager to see what happens in next month's episode.
29 Comments
Edited by ververdan0226

Games like this make me wish that my PC didn't suck.

First!

EDIT: Its on the Wii shop? Hurrah...

Posted by Absurd

Only read the first paragraph, but NOW IM EVEN MORE STOKED FOR THE GAME!

Posted by DerekDanahy

Seems cool.

Posted by RedSox8933

It took a while to go up, but I'm going to play it right now.

Posted by MasterOfPenguins_Zell

Never played a Telltale game, but I might check this one out. It's getting a lot of good buzz.

Posted by Brackynews

Heavens, I JUST came to GB to find out something about this game and the review's up.
Guess I've had my head in the water about the XBLA port.. I didn't have this rebake on my radar... DELIGHT!

Posted by JJOR64

Awesome.  I might get this when it hits 360.

Posted by buzz_killington

They always start with a mediocre episode, and usually their second and third episodes are much better (as the case with Strong Bad, Wallace and Grommit, and Sam & Max's second season).

Posted by damnboyadvance

Looks pretty good, just like with most of Telltale Games' games.

Posted by LonelySpacePanda

The Xbox360 version of Sam&Max got knocked for having to use mouse-like controls, and your biggest complaint with Monkey Island for PC is that you have to use console-like controls.  Smells like irony.  Makes me happy, however, since I plan to pick it up on XBLA.

Posted by Izick

Good review

Posted by Metal_Mills

I keep getting stuck. :(

Posted by TheSixthHorseman

I beat it over an hour ago and it was a great experience. Anyone who likes adventure games or Monkey Island needs to pick this up. Also, if any of you have any problems, send me a msg and I'll provide a hint.

Posted by ShadowDoGG

lol i love the ryan pic

Posted by makari

I just finished it. It's definitely a 4 star game. The wires that get crossed from wasd movement and clicking on objects don't really get uncrossed by the time you finish it, but it's not really that big a deal. It would have been nice if you could toggle running on and off without having to hold the shift key to run, though. The difficulty is breezy, but I think that's a better thing than making it a frustratingly hard pixel hunt. It's definitely not the nightmare scenario of butchering the series, the humour and story is pretty faithful to the first couple of games in the series. I really enjoyed it and can't wait for the rest of the episodes.

Posted by TheToecutter

Anyone know why this isn't going to be on XBLA?

Posted by darkjester74
@TheToecutter said:
" Anyone know why this isn't going to be on XBLA? "
The reboot of the ORIGINAL Monkey Island is coming to XBLA next week, I believe.  Telltale might make an XBLA version of THIS game at some point, if they follow their regular pattern.  (i.e. Sam & Max, Wallace & Grommit, etc.)  It's up to them, of course, but I wouldnt be surprised if they release an XBLA version some point in the future.
Posted by giyanks22

Looks pretty good.

Posted by Twazzock

Why is this game so demanding? I can't understand it. My laptop maxes UT3 at 30FPS, but barely gets 25 while maxing this. Doesn't make any sense, just poor optimization?

Edited by SockLobster
@Twazzock:
Probably a case of poor optimisation as the Unreal engine is extremely well optimised.
Posted by InsanePotato

Got it last night. I'm enjoying it alot. It's definitely a Monkey Island adventure :P.

Posted by Media_Master

nice, so its funny and fun to play

Posted by kurruptfeds

this game looks awesome i think i'm going to get it!

Posted by roe

Is it just me, or is it not available through the european Wii Shop yet? Or simply not at all through the Wii Shop yet?

Posted by billysea

Will wait for the Wii version.

Edited by jamescheong

I just beat this game and I have to say, I'm IMPRESSED. There was some seriously hilarious dialogue and commentary from Guybrush, the kind I expect from the MI series. What looked terrible in still screenshots prior to release actually looks very nice and emotive in action. Sign me up for the next 4 episodes, they can't come soon enough. Take it from a diehard MI 1-3 fan, this is definitely a return to the series' roots, except a bit more friendly in the puzzle department (no silly door passwords or mugs of caustic grog). By the way, I'd skip this video review if you don't want to get spoiled regarding a puzzle.

Posted by skunk
@koi said:
" I just beat this game and I have to say, I'm IMPRESSED. There was some seriously hilarious dialogue and commentary from Guybrush, the kind I expect from the MI series. What looked terrible in still screenshots prior to release actually looks very nice and emotive in action. Sign me up for the next 4 episodes, they can't come soon enough. Take it from a diehard MI 1-3 fan, this is definitely a return to the series' roots, except a bit more friendly in the puzzle department (no silly door passwords or mugs of caustic grog). By the way, I'd skip this video review if you don't want to get spoiled regarding a puzzle. "
Just beat it today aswell and I couldn've put it better myself, right down to the review spoilers. Luckily, I skipped this review to avoid just that.
Posted by Myxomatosis

Eugh just sell the game back to Ron Gilbert and let him make Monkey Island 3a pleeeeeeeaaaaseeeee! >_<

Posted by Byeohazard

Delicious!  hehe thats funny!  Nice vid review!