Game Review: Tales of Monkey Island
Release: June 15/16, 2010
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Developer: Telltale Games
Available Platforms: PlayStation 3
MSRP: $19.99 (for the whole bundle)
ESRB Rating: Everyone (Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief)
Website: Tales of Monkey Island
If you’ve been playing games, specially on the PC, for the last 20-25 years, then you probably nostalgically remember Telltales Games’s Monkey Island series. With the advent of free-roaming 3D gaming, however, this heralded and beloved franchise just stopped being profitable and no more games were released. Nevertheless, Monkey Island’s fans were rewarded last year with a plethora of the franchise goodness, including a couple of remakes as well as the new game in the series: Tales of Monkey Island, now available for the PSN.
The game tells the story of Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™, who after his latest encounter with arch-nemesis LeChuck, ends up releasing a lethal voodoo pox, losing his wife Elaine and casted away in an island called Flotsam, whose winds go inward, making sailing out an impossible task. Guybrush is then forced to make some piratey headlines for a journalist in order to get info on someone who can help him out of the island. This, however, is no easy task, as Guybrush has little to no belongings and needs to use his power of observation to arm himself with items that could prove useful later.
In a nutshell, this is a game about solving puzzles with items you gather by talking to people, or deploying special circumstances with people and/or environments, in order to keep advancing through the various objectives the story keeps throwing at you. Gameplay-wise, the game is pretty solid. All the action takes place in a colorful 3D world, where you can freely move Guybrush using the left stick, and examine spots with X. As you gather items, you’ll be able to deploy a menu with the triangle button to either examine or take out given item. Once you take an item out, you can use it to interact with objects and/or people, therefore solving puzzles or getting even more clues. You can even combine items to create new ones, as some of the objectives need you to do so, in order to move forward with your 40+ hours quest.
The quest itself starts pretty simple, but once you get full control of your environment, you’ll realize how complex the game really is. It’s not overly frustrating, nor ever gets boring, but it clearly isn’t a game for kids, as it asks you to be truly observant of your surroundings and to pay close attention to everything people tell you around the island, which is certainly one of ToMI‘s greatest strengths. It is a game that will make you think a lot, and is kind of limited in what you can do with your items, but figuring out how to advance or solve a puzzle is very rewarding and satisfying.
Questing just for the sake of questing would not be that fun if you don’t know why you’re doing it, and that’s why Telltale Games, faithful to its tradition, developed a very interesting, bizarre and hilarious story to accompany all the puzzle solving. The lines of dialogue for the characters are incredibly well written, with healthy doses of wittiness and charisma. Guybrush is specially likable, with most of his famous and hilarious lines of old, such as: “Look behind you, a three headed monkey!”; as well as new ones like my personal favorite: “Can I call you D’Oro the Explorer?”.
Visually the game is charming, but it’s definitely not a visual showcase. Worlds are varied, bright and colorful, as well as the characters, who are also nicely animated. It’s a low-poly, (mostly) low-res game, but it doesn’t really need those aspects in order to be a great piece of entertainment.
In terms of sound, the game certainly excels, with a nice selection of incidental music that properly sets the mood for the game, never getting in the way of the actual pirating and/or puzzle solving. As previously stated, the voices are mostly top-notch, with Dominic Armato’s role as Guybrush, really highlighting the quality of the overall dialogue.
Unfortunately, not everything is sugar and rainbows, and a couple of not-so-minor issues cloud an otherwise fantastic experience. First, the PS3 controller will give some trouble for the uninitiated, or those who grew accustomed to a mouse or Wii remote configuration. The game is not intuitive in the way you point at the environment, mostly because there’s no actual pointer. Instead, you have to choose what you want to interact with, getting closer to the object/place, or using either L1 or R1 to swap between the place’s active spots. It’s worth noting you can highlight all the active spots at once pressing R2, which is incredibly useful later on. In addition, Guybrush moves painfully slow, which considering all the backtracking you have to do, is quite an issue.
Julian’s Conclusion: The only relevant flaw of this game, is that it screams for PlayStation Move implementation, but other than that, it’s a game that begs to be played, specially the newer generation of gamers who missed those incredible years where point-and-click adventures were king. Being a 40+ hours adventure, at only $19.99 for the 5 chapters; Tales of Monkey Island is a fantastic example of those long-gone days, and a must-play to anyone who calls him/herself a gamer.