Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal - PC - Review
Telltale games, having repeatedly struck gold with their countless adventure games, has been blessed with the opportunity to revive one of the most beloved franchises in the genre’s history: Monkey Island. For years, the best thing many adventure games could count on was the zany misadventures of Guybrush Threepwood, gallantly outthinking his foes and thwarting zombie pirates in an effort to rescue his beloved Elaine. Now that technology has opened up the possibilities for what can be achieved in an adventure title, many fans were eager to learn if the franchise was able to hold its own.
The initial distinction between the older and newer versions of Monkey Island can be seen plainly in the visual style. Granted, the artists have not attempted to completely reinvent the aesthetic design by utilizing lifelike characters or system-straining graphical effects. That being said, the new Monkey Island does hold up very nicely on the graphical front. The quirky, exaggerated characters still appear as such, only now they are three dimensional. The change might be jarring for fans of the original 2-D animated graphical design, but the signature visual style does seem to be miraculously maintained. Threepwood is still the gangly, sarcastic buccaneer, and Le Chuck remains a burly nemesis with a grossly unkempt beard. The comedic contrast extends far beyond the game’s presentation, however.
Being mostly bare-bones as far as narrative and gameplay, it is to be expected that the franchise’s revival does not require any hard experience with the previous titles. At the core of this latest outing, like any good adventure game, is a strong script. The garbled nonsense that comprises the title of this first chapter, “Launch of the Screaming Narwhal,” should give newcomers a reasonable first impression of what they’re in for. In keeping with the tradition of Monkey Island humor, many of the jokes are anachronistic and playful. The player isn’t necessarily enveloped in the game world, but the experience is comparable to an interactive Saturday morning cartoon. Silly characters, absurd scenarios, and an occasional play on words might keep some of the younger crowd away from Monkey Island, but there isn’t anything wholly inappropriate about the game. All told, this should be a suitable title for all ages, even if some of the jokes will right go over the heads of children.
Telltale has smartly introduced the main characters within the first few minutes, which is not only effective on a practical level, but also helps to solidify the protagonist’s primary motivation throughout the tale. Everyone’s rescued the damsel in distress before, but Elaine is not your old-fashioned dame; in fact, the animation and voice acting during her brief reintroduction lends authentic appeal and charm to her character, so the player instantly cares about her. One might say she is even more the traditional rugged hero than Threepwood himself, which makes the premise considerably more refreshing. The majority of the tale follows Threepwood’s efforts to locate his roguishly charismatic spouse, after being stranded on a bizarre island.
For the uninitiated, gameplay remains as simply as ever. The player character is effortlessly guided through the world either with the arrow keys or the mouse-dragging method, so the game can be played with the mouse exclusively. The puzzles, though not overwhelmingly difficult, do require enough concentration that you will feel pleasantly distracted yet not altogether consumed by the experience. This aspect lends itself nicely to the casual crowd of gamers, though some might find themselves wishing for a bit more depth. Interaction with characters is just the same as before; simply select a line of dialogue or subject matter, and Threepwood will mouth off appropriately (or inappropriately, as the case may be). Thorough conversationalists will find many hidden jokes, but it isn’t quite enough to turn up the replay value of the entire title.
Richly laden with consummate voice acting and familiar musical cues, the audio is probably the highlight of Chapter 1. This is fortunate, given the high level of reliance on audio; at least one puzzle forced me to actually turn the speakers up considerably before I could solve it. As fun as the adventure might have been, this outing does feel a bit on the short side. This might be overlooked given the game’s context with a series, but without greater replayability, it’s hard to say just how many people will find Monkey Island to be well-suited to their tastes. Make no mistake, though – this is still a worthy successor to the series, and fans will certainly rejoice at the rebirth of Threepwood and company.
Review Scoring Details for Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
Monkey Island is simple to pick up and play, and therefore has little in the way of “glitches.” Generally a smooth experience.
Simple and smooth, though a bit more polish would have enhanced the characters.
Some of the audio feels lackluster, but this can be ignored with all the great voice acting.
Puzzles have a reasonable challenge, while the characters’ verbal hints seem to rap ever so pleasantly upon the fourth wall.
Not exactly original or innovative, Telltale seems to have taken the safer, traditional route. The mechanics still manage to work, though.
It’s a short ride, and not something you’ll probably be playing time and again. For what’s there, Chapter 1 certainly delivers an adequate adventure for a classic hero. It just seems like something new could have been done with it.