reviews\ Aug 27, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 2: Siege of Spinner Cay - PC - Review

When Guybrush Threepwood was last left in the previous Monkey Island chapter, he was in stuck in yet another prickly pickle. A nefarious villain held his wife captive, and he’d finally acquired the means to track them down when suddenly some unseen assailant drew a blade to the hero’s throat. Yes, Monkey Island makes full use of every swashbuckling cliché in the book. Fortunately, the tale plays out just as captivatingly (if not more so) than previous pirate yarns thanks to its stylish presentation and generous use of humor.

Any fan of the franchise knows how integral humor is to the Monkey Island games. Many times, you will find yourself struggling with that last bit of an absurd puzzle, just so you can hear what Threepwood is going to say next. Like a contemporary Odysseus, our young hero relies on his guile and guts to get through each adventure. More than perhaps any other character, Threepwood possesses the gift of an acerbic tongue. No matter how desperate or dire the circumstances, he always manages to find a clever solution and spout a few wisecracks along the way. His intelligence might not be what you’d call “genius,” but that really doesn’t matter when most of the other characters are so thoroughly idiotic.

Like the previous chapter, “Siege of Spinner Cay” begins with an action sequence. In classic Monkey Island fashion, all potentially fatal events are met by Threepwood with an air of smug sarcasm. It is during this fully-animated duel sequence that the player is tasked with working out the first few interactions aboard the Screaming Narwhal, Threepwood’s latest vessel. This is a rather unusual introduction to the gameplay, as rather than moving the character with the traditional keypad or mouse, Threepwood must interfere with the pace of combat by tossing insults at his foe. This rather brilliant integration of cinematic scripting allows the combatants to leap from one part of the vessel to the next, giving Threepwood access to a few interesting things that offer him the upper hand in the fight. Once the fight is finished, Threepwood is reunited with his wife, and the real game begins.

Upon reaching the oddly-named “Jerk Bait” islands, Threepwood has most of his work cut out for him. Zelda fans might roll their eyes at the Zora-like native populace, but most of the environments feel nicely diversified, a substantial improvement over the previous chapter. Also of note is the seemingly elevated number of sex jokes littered throughout the game. Admirably, most of them are sly innuendos which could scarcely cause offense to younger audiences, so parents needn’t break into a panic over them. The bulk of the narrative is pleasantly spread across a variety of scenarios, without as much of the annoying back-tracking of the previous game. Telltale deserves credit for integrating gameplay mechanics that are just as clever as the in-game dialogue.

As before, there are a few interactions that reward the quick thinker. Special timed events require Threepwood to perform a certain action, for example, in a stealthy manner so as not to alert a briefly distracted guard. These can get tricky when you’re fumbling with the mouse, but it should be worth nothing that Threepwood can break into a full sprint by double-clicking the mouse before holding the button down. This also lets him cover ground more quickly, which can be helpful during those prolonged island treks.

The visual style of the previous game is well-preserved in Spinner Cay; however, the variety of environments does certainly spruce things up a bit. This adventure is certainly easy on the eyes, with flowing geometry and whimsical color schemes aplenty. Not surprisingly, the audio holds up very well, with memorable voice performances from every character encountered, and catchy musical numbers highlighting every significant event. I would say that Spinner Cay is a pleasant surprise for adventure gamers, but only because some felt let down by the first chapter. Fortunately, this is a definite improvement over the first outing, and highly recommended. 

Review Scoring Details for Tales of Monkey Island: The Siege of Spinner Cay

Gameplay: 8.0
Highly accessible gameplay, yet the puzzles are clever enough to keep seasoned players interested.

Graphics: 7.0 
Vivid colors and lively animations make the characters not only credible, but genuinely likeable.

Sound: 8.5
Great voice work and music, as we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

Difficulty: Medium
There are hints offered to help overcome some obstacles, but a few are still good head-scratchers.

Concept: 6.0 
A continuation is rarely a source of great innovation, but the improvements here are very reassuring.

Overall: 8.4
A very satisfying and incredibly funny romp through Threepwood’s twisted world of pirating, this chapter definitely outshines its predecessor. Adventure lovers will be pleased.


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