It’s been nine years since we last heard from Guybrush Threepwood and the rest of the Monkey Island crew in their last swash-buckling adventure in 2000’s Escape From Monkey Island and boy have they changed. Not only has the developer of the title changed, but some of the visuals have received an update as well. With all of this updating, does the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island have the same feel as the previous Monkey Island games, or did that get an unnecessary update as well?
In Tales of Monkey Island: Episode One, you play as Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™. The game’s opening sequence introduces Elaine, Guybrush’s wife, and The Ghost Pirate LeChuck, who has kidnapped Elaine in order to make her his bride….again. Guybrush comes sailing in to rescue his wife, only to be blown away from the ship and stranded on an unknown island with a cursed hand courteous of LeChuck. Once you begin your adventure on the island, that is when you get the sense of this being a true Monkey Island game. One of your first missions on the island is to prove yourself a mighty pirate, which acts as an homage to how The Secret of Monkey Island started. The Tales of Monkey Island thankfully doesn’t require players to have played any of the previous Monkey Island games. Long time fans will be able to pick out little references to the past games, but that doesn’t mean this title is only for the die-hard Monkey Island fans as there’s plenty in this title for new players who enjoy a good adventure game.
The controls for Tales Of Monkey Island are a mix of on-screen clicks to particular points of interest and moving Guybrush around using the WASD keys. FPS shooter players will be familiar with this control scheme, but Guybrush’s movements feel clunky at times and it’s hard to navigate him through the 3D world. Guybrush can also be moved by holding down a mouse button and pulling him towards the intended destination, but that feels a little strange at times as well.
The interface has also received a bit of an upgrade. Gone are the actions like “Look At” and “Talk To” to which now you simply point at a particular point of interest, click, and Guybrush will interact with it. If it’s an item, he’ll either comment on it or pick it up. If it’s a character, he’ll start a dialogue with them. Items in your inventory can be called up with the TAB key, but you can also move your mouse to the right edge of the screen to call it up as well. In previous Monkey Island games, to combine items, you simply took one item, put it on another, and the items would be used together. In Tales of Monkey Island, there are two slots in your inventory screen where you can place the items individually in order to combine them.
Graphically, The Tales of Monkey Island isn’t anything spectacular in comparison to current-gen games. This is neither a good thing nor bad as the Monkey Island series has never been known to push the envelope graphically. The main players in the game received a nice artistic upgrade, but some of the side characters can look awfully familiar at times, such as the pirate you commandeer a boat from and the news reporter you meet early on in the game. Regardless of that, the visual style overall is reminiscent of a true Monkey Island game.
When I think of a Monkey Island game, the one thing that sticks out the most is the humor. The humor in Tales of Monkey Island is spot-on to the past games. As you progress through the story, the dialog between Guybrush and other characters is always entertaining and rarely bores you enough to want to skip through the dialog. Most of what you’ll encounter in the dialog will be nonsense and won’t make a difference to the game’s story, but learning all of the little intricacies of the characters that populate the island are always entertaining.
FINAL THOUGHT: It’s safe to say that the Monkey Island series is in good hands with TellTale Games. The sights, sounds, puzzles, and dialog are all reminiscent of a true Monkey Island game. Adventure game fans will be pleased with the offering TellTale has made with the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island.