I had originally planned on writing one big massive review of all the Telltale games, but I still haven’t finished playing through The Walking Dead and Wallace & Gromit (on this one it might be because I loathe Wallace & Gromit), and I don’t even have Jurassic Park, so I’ll write up individual reviews for each game. This time it’s Tales of Monkey Island.
I used to assume everyone knew, at least knew, what Monkey Island was, until I met a few girls and both were like “what the hell is that?”, so I’m not going to assume and give you a little background info on the series, nothing extensive of course, there’s Wikipedia for that.
Monkey Island is a series of Point & Click adventure games by LucasArts. The story revolves around Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™; a very “unique” pirate. Tall, lanky and skinny, with long blond hair and delicate features, Guybrush doesn’t match the pirate ideal at all, but he makes up for it with charisma and a hell of a lot of wit.
On each game you fight the notorious and evil Voodoo Pirate LeChuck, who changes shape in each game, first a ghost, then going through zombie, demon and even statue. Joining the cast of regulars are also Elaine Marley aka Elaine Threepwood, Guybrush’ wife and Pirate Governor of Melee Island, Booty Island and Plunder Island, aka the Tri-Island Area; and the all-knowing and ever-cryptic Voodoo Lady, a plump black voodoo priestess who pisses you off as much as she offers help (Tales of Monkey Island also features a certain talking skull first introduced in Curse of Monkey Island, whose name shall not be named, lest we summon him; and a particularly annoying salesman in a Technicolor Suit).
From left to right: Guybrush Threepwod, Mighty Pirate™, Voodoo Pirate LeChuck, Elaine Threepwood and The Voodoo Lady
Monkey Island, the original LucasArts series, ran for four games:
- The Secret of Monkey Island
- Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
- The Curse of Monkey Island
- Escape from Monkey Island
After the fourth game, released in 2000, the series stopped, until 2009 when LucasArts announced along with The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition (the one you can get on Steam), that they had partnered up with Telltale Games to make Tales of Monkey Island, an episodic Monkey Island game.
The story is split into Five Episodes, each beginning were the last one left off, all part of the same plot (unlike previous Telltale games where there was an overarching plot but each episode was standalone). The game starts off with yet another clash between Guybrush & LeChuck, who’s just collected the Twelve Sacred Monkeys of Montevideo (not kidding, this is the actual name. Monkey Island is famous for using hilariously stupid names for its magical stuff) and you must stop his ritual. As is usual in Monkey Island, Guybrush manages to screw up something important, in this case messing up the voodoo recipe needed to enchant a sword to stop LeChuck (including the Monkey Island sure-fire weapon against Ghosts: Root beer), and instead of destroying him releases all the voodoo magic in him, turning him human and spreading his evil mojo to the winds, turning it into a magical voodoo pox that only infects Pirates (very specific that Pox and very aptly named The Pox of LeChuck). Being the closest person to LeChuck when his mojo went boom, Guybrush is infected, well, his hand at least, which starts acting on its own.
After the blast, Guybrush arrives on Flotsam Island, where magical draw ships to the Island’s massively destructive corals, hence the name of the island. The winds also draw the blunt of the Pox to it.
Not much to see is there? Don’t worry, the town’s big and the jungle is bigger!
There on the island, after going around doing favors and screwing people over, as usual in MI games, you finally meet the Voodoo Lady who tells you the only way to cure everyone from the Pox is La Esponja Grande (The Big Sponge), a name so ridiculous even the character asks if she’s serious. This becomes the main objective for most of the episodes. On Flotsam you also meet The Marquis de Singe, a French speaking mad scientist, obsessed with the Pox, as he believes it can bestow immortality. He becomes the primary antagonist for most of the Season. LeChuck, however, becomes a friendly and honest man once he’s purged from all the evil mojo. I won’t go into details here, you should play for yourself.
Human LeChuck and Le Marquis De Singe
Monkey Island, like most Point & Click Adventures, controls very easily. Movements is done by dragging the mouse while pressing the left mouse button, and pressing the right one while you do that will make Guybrush run (however, there is no point & click movement). Alternatively you can control him using W, A, S, D and Shift to run. You use the mouse to move over the screen and click on “hotspots”, those being the places where the mouse pointer (in this game it’s a Pirate-y X) glows and a tooltip with a name pops up. You click on them to pick things up, to observe, interacts, talk, etc.
Monkey Island games are famous for having item combinations, such as building tools from seemingly random items in your inventory, and it makes a comeback in Tales. I mention it only because it’s not a feature present in most Telltale games. In previous titles you simply used an item with another and if the combination was possible it simply happened, but in Tales, your inventory has a special area just for combination, where you place the two items you can to mix and then press a button.
The glass thing you see there is an indestructible U-tube, only sold on Flotsam Island! The little space between the magnifying glass and the X is where you combine your items
The puzzles range from extremely simple to head-scratching, though none reach the level of complex obscurity as those present in the first two MI games (both of which can be found on Steam. Yes I do realize I’m advertising here, and no, no one’s paying me…sadly), but there are some hard ones there. One thing present in this MI is something that I’ve come to see as Telltale’s signature: “the conversation puzzle piece”, by that I mean moments were no item will move you forward but instead you must interact with a character and choose a specific line of dialog to get the effect you desire. It’s used substantially, though not as much as in other Telltale titles.
As with previous Monkey Islands, with the exception of LeChuck’s Revenge, there is a “Special Combat” bit. On the first it was Insult Swordfighting, on the 3rd it was Rhyming Insult Swordplay, on the 4th it was the ever confusing Monkey Kombat (a very clear reference there). This time around, starting from Episode III forwards you get Pirate Faces, or Face-Off, where you build your scary pirate face deciding on Brow, Eye and Mouth. Also on the last episode there’s a bit of the classic Insult Swordfighting, with a twist.
None of the faces are actually scary, just weird as hell!
Each episode is a few hours long, some a bit longer than others, but like all adventure games of its kind, if you’re stumped, you’ll spend a lot of time playing it.
The game is drawn in 3D, both characters and locations, and all the voice actors from previous games return on Tales, which, for a MI fan is just fantastic, and even for new players, the wonderful voice acting really helps sell the plot and drive the humour home.
The writing is amazing as with all Telltale games, capturing the Monkey Island sense of adventure and silliness. Guybrush will throw quips, complain or talk condescendingly if you try to do something impossible. LeChuck, when evil, will sound menacing, and when not will sound like a jolly good fellow. Elaine’s strength is felt with each line as does the Voodoo Lady’s mystique air. The secondary characters, of which there are many (with special mention to Morgan Le Flay Pirate Hunter, a character I wish returns in future seasons), never feel like cardboard cut-outs or stereotypes (even those who are plays on known stereotypes), instead each has their own distinct personality, which combined with top-notch voice acting results in deep immersion, something a game like this needs to pull itself off.
As with other Telltale games and more importantly, previous Monkey Island titles, there are many references to popular culture, previous games, music, etc, such as the Porcelain Power Pirates, Monkey Island’s version of the Power Rangers.
The Mystical Map to the Black Porcelain Power Pirate – Dark Ninja Dave, with Killer Karate Katana!
Speaking of sounds, the music is fantastic. Remixes of Caribbean and Pirate-y themes carry you through each ship, town, jungle and cave. At some point you get to the “other side” and the music and background sounds capture that creepiness and eeriness you’d expect from the world of the dead.
Touching on visuals one more time, the game, on Windows (also available on Wiiware, PSNetwork, iOS, OSX), doesn’t have strong system requirements, even if you plan on playing it on the highest resolution and graphic detail.
Before writing this I played through it all on PC but I had played it before on Wii. There are graphical differences, the Wii had strict, severe even, limitations on Wiiware game sizes, which meant a lot was discarded to meet that criteria, but the differences aren’t that great. There is, however, one strong downside to the Wii version: Stability. The Wiiware version is plagued with lockups, crashes, glitches, etc, etc. Having had my share of frustrations with it, I’ll tell you to only get that version if you have no other choice.
After you’ve finished the game, I can only say: Wait until after the credits on Episode V, the scene is really cool, and it sets up a potential Season 2, which I’m hoping will be released sooner or later.
I leave you with the Monkey Island Theme Song, it’s a catchy tune. I might write, if anyone wants, an in depth review of each Episode, filled with spoilers!