Getting a game from Telltale is like Christmas coming early, a small company that I first heard of when the announcement of Sam and Max episodic games hit the media, as a huge Sam and Max fan I prepared for disappointment. What we got was anything but, Telltale have had a fantastic track record of taking classic and iconic material, placing it in their point and click engine and watching pure gold come out the other side. With Wallace and Gromit episode 4 just hitting the market, it was a shock learning of a new series so soon after. It was even more of a shock to find they had got their hands on the LucasArts famous series Monkey Island. Can this new material live up to what can only be described as one of the most loved point and click (P&C) series of all time?
First off, Tales of Monkey Island is again episodic like all the other Telltale games so the price will be low and the games will be of reasonable length. Telltale have also got the licence to remake the original Monkey Island game, so this first attempt is a good show of how the risky remake may turn out. The bonus is that Telltale has a great record so far, and in this project are working closely with the people at LucasArts to faithfully reproduce the feel of the original series.
Guybrush Threepwood mighty pirate, returns as the hero (if you can call him that) of the games, beginning with saving his wife from the clutch of LeChuck in the first instalment ‘Launch of the Screaming Narwhal’. Things don’t quite go as planned and you find yourself stranded on a desert island with a case of Evil Dead syndrome. During your fight with LeChuck you manage to release horrors onto the seas and in turn, have your Hand possessed by an evil entity, cue hilarity and rude gestures. The plot is deserving of a LucasArts game and continues to travel into the downright stupid through-out your adventure.
The first thing that hits fans is the beautifully rendered models for the characters, brought to life by the team at Telltale. Guybrush looks suitably stupid yet heroic and LeChuck looks perfectly, well, zombie like. The second point of dispute will be the voices, unfortunately for those predicting disappointment the acting is fantastic, the lines are delivered just as you would have expected back in the original. The script is giggle and groan worthy, you find yourself thinking back to all those old school point and clicks as your playing and wishing for more dialogue like this in games today.
The controls are however, an experiment in the engine, with the ability to control the action through keyboard or mouse and even a combination of the two. WASD is enabled with the shift button acting as the run key and spacebar as you click; it works but doesn’t quite have the right feel. The mouse controls are strange, pointing and clicking on objects works as it should, but moving Guybrush requires you to hold click on him and drag him to your destination. This new mouse system just feels odd; you’ll find yourself clicking on empty ground expecting movement and becoming annoyed that you can’t. The best combination of controls does come from using WASD with the mouse to pick the objects and people of interest.
Puzzles make up the most of a P&C adventure and Tales of Monkey Island is no exception, you will find plenty of tricky situations to apply your brain matter to. The puzzles do feel reminiscent of the LucasArts games of old and therefore carry with them the same infuriation the older games had when you simply can’t figure out what to do, only to find a small item on the floor that you just hadn’t held your mouse over. However for the most part the puzzles are just taxing enough and shouldn’t pose too much of a hassle should you apply yourself.
The Episode is of reasonable length (judging from the price of episodes of Wallace and Gromit); depending on how well you tackle the puzzles you should at least get 3-5 hours out of it minimum. This all depends of course on your willingness to chat to the citizens of the island and want to click on random objects around the game only to hear what witty line Guybrush throws out. Of course if you’re not doing these things you are missing half the joy of the game as Telltale has gone to extreme lengths to make everything funny enough to at least bring a smile to your face.
As always with the engine the system requirements are low enough that anyone should be able to play the game with nigh on anyone wanting to play games on their PC having a 2GHz processor by now. The full 5 episodes will cost $34.95 from Telltales home website, with a collector’s edition DVD and bonus content being given to season purchasers upon release of all episodes for the price of shipping. The episodes will also be released on WiiWare with announcement on release coming soon; no major differences will exist apart from the obvious control scheme.
Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is a good start to what promises to be a very entertaining series of games that remain faithful to the much loved original games. A few control issues and obscure puzzles hold the title back, but much like Sam & Max, these issues will probably be treated as the episodes are released. Anyone who misses the days of classic point and click gaming could do far worse than this and fans of Telltales previous work won’t be disappointed with their latest project. Everything bods well for the remake later on this year, we’ll keep you informed on that one as news comes out.