LucasArts returns to their legendary Monkey Island franchise with Tales Of Monkey Island, a five-part downloadable title just released on the PlayStation Network. One year after the Windows and Nintendo Wii iterations launched, Telltale Games has brought Guybrush Threepwood and his quest to defeat LeChuck to a new console and a new island; with Guybrush stuck on Flotsam Island, he must find a way to escape the island, which no man has accomplished before.
Undoubtedly, these titles are lengthy; a few hours in to the first chapter, Launch Of The Screaming Narwhal, hasn’t appeared to progress more than halfway. Much like the adventure games of the past, you simply walk around, interact with and acquire items, and make things work to progress in the game. If anything, it’s a thinking-man’s Metroid without any actual action elements. While you have to use certain things at certain locations, it will be far from clear. For example, the first real puzzle you encounter is to coat your sword with fizzy root beer… made from combining the root of a tree with a bottle of grog (hence, “root beer”). While you think this might lead you to a sword fight where you take control, though, you basically end up selecting “attack” and watching cinemas.
The acting and writing so far are strong, rife with jokes and references that will fly over some heads while hitting you perfectly on others (“Reginald Van Winslow” is effectively a combination of both the actor and character of the father on Family Matters, in name and appearance). Sure, you may tire of hearing Guybrush repeatedly say the same thing as you attempt to figure out the goal, but it’s smartly written that most goals will be figured out before frustration sets in.
… and then comes the animation. For a franchise that’s well-known for it’s sprite based graphics, bringing it to 3D is a mixed bag. Designs look nice and translate well, and the 3D world offers an extra dimension of searching, if only it’s truly superficial. Once characters talk, and you really start to look at the graphics, and at best, it’s a strong Dreamcast level of graphics. Understandably, the game was designed for the Wii, which leads it to having lower goals in the graphical department, but with no real polishing done for the powerhouse that is the PlayStation 3. Seriously, outside of the designs looking good, the game is nearly a visual embarrassment; mouths move robotically at most times, and the game usually tries to have actions occur off-screen as to not animate. For example, Guybrush might drop a bottle on screen, and you’ll cut to the ground where it’s shattered and leaking.
Still, the gameplay is where it’s at, and the series seems to advance the critically-acclaimed adventure series. If anything, check out the first chapter’s demo to see if you want to stick with the legendary pirate on his adventure.