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Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

Score: 90%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

It's been many years since we've gotten to go on an adventure with everyone's favorite hapless pirate, Guybrush Threepwood, and Telltale's latest episodic series does just that and kicks off with Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.

While many of Telltale's other series make it a point to use the same look and feel of the license's previous incarnations, the Tales of Monkey Island games move away from the series' previous 2D and cartoon-based graphics to a more modern, fully 3D interactive world with stylized characters and surroundings that while look not exactly the same as the previous versions, still draw from their styles. Guybrush himself is filled with detail and ends up being a very expressive character as he reacts to the many strange happenings of Flotsam Island. But while Guybrush, The Voodoo Lady, LeChuck and Elaine all look good, the game's secondary characters, at least the pirates in it, tend to look the same. There are a few that simply look like the same character model, with some clothes swapped and maybe a change in skin tone, which is quite disappointing considering there are only six or so inhabitants of Flotsam.

Whatever the game's minor shortcomings may be in the graphics department is taken care of in the audio side of things. Not only does pretty much every main character's voice actor return for this latest game, but the background music fits as well. Chief amongst these good points is the game's dialogue. With many possible conversation points to select with each person that Guybrush meets, it's nice to see that the actors didn't phone in any of their lines. Of course, a lot of this also has to do with the quality of the dialogue they are reading, and the many one-liners or topics covered in Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is really solid.


Gameplay:

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal starts off with what should be Guybrush's final confrontation with the voodoo-powered ghost pirate, LeChuck. After consulting The Voodoo Lady and getting everything together, Guybrush has cast a spell on a cutlass designed to end the curse of LeChuck once and for all. Unfortunately, because of some klutziness, before applying the final ingredient (root beer, of course), Guybrush loses his supply and is forced to make a rough substitute before running the evil pirate through. Of course, this variation in the formula causes the spell to backfire and instead of getting rid of LeChuck, it turns him human and releases the voodoo curse contained within him on the world (a major portion of it going into Guybrush's hand).

A shipwreck later, Guybrush washes ashore on a small bit of land known as Flotsam Island where the winds plot against anyone who arrives there since they all blow into the island (a strange phenomenon indeed). So as you would expect from this setup, this first episode in the new Monkey Island adventure is all about getting off of Flotsam Island and reuniting with LeChuck, as well as Guybrush's wife, Elaine. Along the way, Guybrush will have to revive the sleepy island's pirating roots, uncover the reason for the strange wind conditions, win a ship (the Screaming Narwhal, of course) and use such odd random objects as a glass tube shaped like a U (a U-tube you see), a voodoo weather vane and even a lit bomb in a pair of lacy women's pink underwear.

While Tales of Monkey Island seems to be pretty approachable to any gamer (not a whole lot of background knowledge is really needed for this adventure), there is plenty of fan service sprinkled throughout Launch of the Screaming Narwhal for long-time followers of the license. Besides the pop-culture references (like the aforementioned U-tube) that have dominated the series, you can have Guybrush explain that he is selling fine leather jackets and even suspect a couple of random skulls found in the game of being Murray.


Difficulty:

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is paced to take only 2 or 3 hours, depending on how familiar you are with the genre. There were only a couple of points in the game where I found myself truly stuck, and in both cases, it was simply due to a lack of observation skills. There are some pixel-hunting issues in this game, but not so much as to be truly annoying and, for the most part, the puzzles are solved rather logically. There were times, however, when I was surprised to be able to use an inventory item with an object in the world and I simply had no idea why it let me do that until a later part where it all came together. Whether that is due to my lack of foresight or the puzzle itself being less than clear, I'm not sure. But at least there weren't any points in the game where I simply felt like I didn't know where to go or what my next major goal was.

Game Mechanics:

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal adds two new mechanics to Telltale's toolkit. Neither of these features have been seen in previous games from the company, and hopefully they will be added in future releases. One of these is the ability to combine objects in your inventory, and the other is dialogue choices when talking with NPCs. Both of these mechanics have been around... well, for almost as long as the Monkey Island series, and while they haven't been in Telltale's previous games, they didn't need them. It is nice to see the company chose to tackle these mechanics since they were continuing such a long-standing license.

Combining objects is simple: simply bring up your inventory and drag an item into one of the two containers to the left of the list of items. Drag another into the second bucket and click the cross between them. If they combine, a new item will appear in your inventory, and if they don't, they will simply bump together and nothing will happen. This inventory menu also lets you examine your items more closely. In the case of maps (of which there are a couple), you will actually pull up the map and be able to give it a nice long look before choosing where to go next, while other items will simply result in a one-liner from Guybrush.

The dialogue choices also help to bring the series' old-school feel to the forefront. Instead of pre-designated conversations that occur simply because you want to talk to an NPC, you will be presented with choices, and while there are times when these choices simply don't matter, there are plenty where they become helpful reminders of the tasks ahead (especially when you have several things to do for the same NPC).

It should come as no surprise that I would recommend this game to anyone who has enjoyed the license so far. It does a great job bringing classic adventure series into the current generation and the story that Launch of the Narwhal is only the preamble to promises to be fun. As for those readers who weren't already waiting to purchase this game as soon as they heard about it, Telltale's quality of their past games speaks for itself. I've enjoyed every adventure they've put out so far, and Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is no exception, so adventure gamers (both those familiar with Monkey Island and those not) should definitely take notice of this game.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP / Vista Operating System, 2.0 GHz + (3 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent recommended) CPU, 512MB (1GB recommended) RAM, DirectX 8.1 sound device, 64MB DirectX 8.1-compliant video card (128MB recommended), DirectX 9.0c or better
 

Test System:



Windows Vista Ultimate, AMD Phenom 9500 Quad-Core 2.20 GHz, 4 GB Ram, ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

Sony PlayStation 3 Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood Sony PlayStation 3 Battlefield 1943

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated