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Posts Tagged ‘Telltale Games’

Run! I mean swim!

The newest episode of Tales of Monkey Island brings a much needed change of scenery to the series. The two first episodes repeated each other with an island setting and both even had a forest maze. Compared to them a giant manatee’s stomach is very original.

In the end of Siege of Spinner Cay Guybrush, his sole crewmate and pirate hunter Morgan LeFlay got swallowed by a giant manatee. In its mouth our heroes find treasure hunter Coronado DeCava who is also after the Lesponga Grande, which will fix the voodoo pox infecting Guybrush himself and other pirates . The problem Guybrush faces this time is the ear of the manatee. A part controlling its sense of direction has been stolen and is being held by DeCava’s mutinous crew of four. They have formed a brotherhood which Guybrush must join if he wishes to heal the manatee and get the sponge.

Piratehunter

The game world being essentially a stomach the area in which to walk and interact is a lot smaller, solving a lot of the problems with the control scheme, a big problem in the earlier episodes. Walking up and down the same staircase because of a wronglytimed press of the mouse, as often happened in Siege of Spinner Cay, is gone. Also gone is the time consuming running around. There is even a possibility to use tubes  in the manatee’s stomach (don’t ask me) for speedier travel.

With the control problems all but gone the player is free to concentrate on what makes Monkey Island so good: The dialogue and humor. When it comes to these two Telltale ups the ante considerably. Lair of the Leviathan presents four new characters and they’re all very funny, my personal favorite being Moose, sort of a surfer-type hippie pirate. A friend from older Monkey Islands also makes an appearance.

Coronado DeCava

Different from the earlier episodes is that the characters have a lot more facial animation and many of the jokes involve more facial expressions, instead of only leaning on dialogue. Piratehunter Morgan LeFlay for example grows very disappointed in Guybrush as the episode progresses and makes faces to Guyrush each time he walks past her. The episode even includes a competition of making scary pirate faces, or just downright dumb expressions.

AHOY, SPOILERS AHEAD

Many of the puzzles deserve an honorary mention. Guybrush playing the part of a wingman to the giant manatee with the help of a manatee speaking horn was my personal favorite. As it happens the horn is a tourist edition and the player needs to figure out which available answer fits best with a female manatee’s comments. With choices varying from “I have nothing to declare” to “I want to go to the theater” this is not necessarily an easy task. In a way the puzzle is a reinvention of insult swordfighting, without the grind. While many of the puzzles were amusing, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal’s puzzle in LeSinge’s lab remains my favorite in the series.

END OF SPOILERS

An old friend

Lair of the Leviathan, with very little to complain about, is the funniest episode so far. At some points I actually paused and thought something on the lines of: “Damn, that was amusing”. Perhaps because I was not stuck in the puzzles for as long as in the earlier episodes I also thought the pacing of the game was a lot better. If you have doubts about Tales of Monkey Island on the whole at least play Lair of the Leviathan.

(Here’s a link to the walkthrough I used, from Roger Davies.)

The official trailer:

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The tales of Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate, continue with the second episode. I rather liked the launch of the series of game so I expected a lot from Siege of Spinner Cay. In some ways it fulfilled those expectations but still fell short in many ways.

First off Launch of the Screaming Narwhal ended in very exciting circumstances with Guybrush’s throat threatened by the blade of a mysterious pirate hunter spoken of only in hushed whispers, if at all. Right off the bat the excitement I felt at finding out who Threepwood’s mysterious assailant was, got somewhat diminished by noticing that she was not only a huge fan of our pirate hero, but also poor at swordfighting and most importantly not menacing at all. Like the pirate hunter, the whole game suffers from a sense of let-down.

Another way Siege of Spinner Cay dulled my excitement was that right after the intro sequence to the game, Elaine Marley, Guybrush’s wife, appears unscathed, as if they’d never been separated. I thought Guybrush might have had some saving to do or what not, but Elaine apparently can take care of herself (unlike some videogame heroines I might mention). I’m not undermining videogame women here, but before starting to play I felt finding out what happened to Elaine was one of the exciting things to happen in the episode. By bringing her in almost right away cleaned the table for the story in a way and then had to bring up some suspense again.

Maintaining excitement is another one of my gripes with the game. I felt the plot didn’t proceed very quick and a lot of the time I felt like saying get on with it to the game. This is because of the game’s puzzles. Compared to Launch of the Screaming Narwhal there is a big leap in difficulty. Some of the puzzles required great heaps of luck like one involving a broken mast and an island containing a rubber palm tree. Said puzzle required noticing the palm tree on an earlier visit and then going to the island  later when there really wasn’t any incentive to go there. Needless to say, I kept referring to a walkthrough way too many times. Having spent so much time being stuck at times the story went on in short bursts which messed with the pacing of the game.

When I wasn’t stuck and the story was progressing I did enjoy myself a lot though. The dialogue is witty and especially the character of Le Chuck has a lot of charm, so much so that he stole the show everytime he was in a scene. Guybrush even seemed rather jealous at times to the ex-Ghost Pirate Captain and now regular good (if rather dumb) pirate.  There’s also the matter of a flower that Le Chuck handed to Elaine in episode one to consider. Perhaps Guybrush has something to worry about there?

I hope Lair of the Leviathan, the third episode, turns out to be as exciting as the ending to Siege of Spinner Cay would entail. At least we should see something different to the islands of the first two episodes, unless Leviathan has swallowed one of them. Perhaps it will be the seaside village of Jetsam that we find ourselves wandering around next time around.

And here the short teaser for the game featuring one of my favorite characters: the pyrite parrot. Such witty puns he throws.

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The Finnish review went up some time ago and now its turn for some musings in English. First off, I’ve only played the first chapter of the first Monkey Island and what’s more have never played a Telltale Games-game before. You might gasp and think that I’m uneducated when it comes to classics and newer adventure games, but think rather that you’ll be getting a different view of the game if you keep reading.

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is a strong game and very enjoyable to play, if there is the occasional impossible-at-first-but-oh-so-simple-now-I-read-the-answer-from-a-faq-puzzle. I don’t like being stuck or feeling stupid so that subtracted from my experience somewhat. Another gripe I had was with the jokes. Most of them were thrown without too much context with the story. Threepwood, the mighty pirate antagonist, might joke at an ex-pirate glassblower who has a liking for unicorns, or a treasure hunter collecting porcelain action figures. Both of these characters are jokes themselves as well, who have a certain part to fill in the game and then cease to be amusing. There are a lot of potentially funny stuff if it was only built a bit more. Perhaps this will happen in the episodes to come and considering that Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is only the first perhaps a lower key beginning was to be expected. I hear Sam&Max got better as it progressed also.

The jokes were pretty much my biggest problem in the game, but I really liked the character design and the island(Flotsam) were the game takes place. All the characters were very memorable even if rather shallow. Threepwood himself was especially stunning. But the biggest exclamation mark, !, goes to Flotsam. As soon as Threepwood finds himself landed, this wind starts blowing and the sound transports you into the world of the game. Just this simple looping sound effect has such an amazing effect. I can’t imagine Flotsam without that wind, at points I looked out only to notice that the air was still and the sea had disappeared somewhere. The jungle surrounding the town has animal sounds that are also a part of the puzzle set there. The music is a traditional Monkey Island fare and does help create the atmosphere, but I felt the soundtrack was a bit too pronounced at times. Sometimes in the game the music did fade and you were left with the sounds of the jungle as company which set the mood a lot better.

The puzzles of course deserve a mention. Even if I dratted them for being too hard, most were just the right difficulty even for a landlubber like me. There was one pearl among them that stood out above all other puzzles in the game and I’m not going to spoil it for you. Let’s just say that an evil doctor is involved. An evil doctor dressed ridiculously, but rather evil still, if embarrassing. I’ve got nothing against dressing the way he did but I’d never wear his clothes, even if I was in a pirate parody video-game. Some bland jokes and a limited wardrobe aside Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is a strong beginning and I can’t wait to get back to cracking jokes and solving ridiculous puzzles(or looking them up from a walkthrough)

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