Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tales of Monkey Island - Power Pirates Included

Despite their fairly niche market, point and click adventure games have always been classed highly amongst enthusiasts. Some titles have even debatably broken into the ‘mature’ games category in terms of plot, such as Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky. Although groups such as the developers of the SCUMMVM emulator have built bridges to widen the audience base of these games, the last few platform generations have seen a notable push toward console gaming, and the days of point-and-click have been somewhat lost.

All however is not in vain, as Telltale games have now moved on from Sam & Max to a revival of the Monkey Island franchise. ‘Tales of Monkey Island’ is being delivered to both PC and Wii as an episodic title as is Telltale’s MO. Although unlike predecessors, each episode is no longer standalone but a continuous adventure simply split into five monthly chapters.

The game opens with Guybrush Threepwood (mighty pirate) back at the helm with his wife Elaine beside him, battling the forces of the evil pirate LeChuck. Although it sounds like the same old thing, the originality comes from the fact that the opening holds resemblance to the finale of previous Monkey Island games. It’s nice to see Telltale do something original and tell you their own story and not simply replicating the game with slightly different puzzles. To delve too much into the plot would spoil the experience you have with it. Needless to say the tone is pitch perfect for a Monkey Island game and it’s apparent that Telltale have spent a lot of time studying the older titles in the series in effort to attain the same quality.

As immersive as the narrative and humor is, something has to be said for the few things that pull the player out of the experience. Some of the puzzles are a little un-intuitive, though I hasten to add only a few. Thankfully, less so than original point and click titles due to general human decency and a really well implemented hint system. However there were times of impatience where a FAQ had to be loaded, only to then make me feel like an idiot when reading the solution.

On the more technical side the control system should be mentioned. Unlike regular point and click games where simply clicking the desired destination was enough, the system in place involves clicking and then dragging the mouse in the direction of travel. WASD/Arrow keys are also available, and about ten minutes with it should be sufficient to stop the player walking into everything. Thinking about it though, it should play very well on the Wii, and remove the awkward precision of clicking constantly on the ground and instead just holding down A and moving the Wii remote left and right.

The visuals of the game would be best described as ‘animated caricature’, somewhat resembling the art style of Monkey Island 3, but in 3D. Also coming out on the Wii it’s obvious that the game isn’t going to give it’s jungle environment the same fidelity and realism seen in Uncharted, but it doesn’t need it. Anything more than what’s been delivered would simply distract from the story, and if anything make the nature of the gameplay harder, as the more detail makes it harder to find the items you need to solve things.

Some negativity has arisen from the fact that the player pays for all five episodes before playing at all. The principal of this is apparent, but when the quality of the first episode is so high, and the promise of four more months of content that can be nothing less but equal in quality. You can’t be anything but satisfied.

The first two episodes in the Tales of Monkey Island series are available to play now and Telltale are the perfect match of developer to continue the franchise. Their iteration of the series is both loyal and original, with enough to immensely satisfy fans of the old games, whilst also grab in a brand new audience who missed it first time round.

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