Telltale Games – Tales of Monkey Island: Episode 1 review

first in new five-part episodic Monkey Island adventure
Photo of Telltale Games – Tales of Monkey Island: Episode 1
$34.95 (approx. £22)

If you talk to adventure gamers about the Golden Age of their particular genre, they become all dewy-eyed and emotional, remembering back to a time when LucasArts was king and produced spectacularly engrossing animated adventures such as The Dig, Full Throttle and the Monkey Island series.

Now those same aficionados can prepare themselves for maximum excitement as a reworking of The Secret of Monkey Island is shortly going to be released and a brand new adventure, The Tales of Monkey Island, is currently hitting the shelves.

LucasArts employed Telltale Games to produce The Tales of Monkey Island because the developers have a distinguished record at creating episodic adventures and, as with Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit’s Great Adventures, this story is being released in five downloadable monthly instalments for the all-in price of $34.95. The main difference compared with the other Telltale products, though, is that each download is another chapter in an ongoing story rather than a standalone episode.

In the four previous Monkey Island games, we watched the trials and tribulations of witty young pirate Guybrush Threepwood as he won the heart of the gorgeous Elaine Marley and fought against the evil plots of his Nemesis, the zombie pirate LeChuck.

The latest events begin with Elaine as a prisoner on LeChuck’s ship and Guy attempting to rescue her by attacking LeChuck with an enchanted cutlass. Because of his incompetence, Guy dips the cutlass in a makeshift killer potion that only succeeds in turning his enemy human and transferring LeChuck’s voodoo power into his hand. Shortly after the ship blows up, the three characters are separated and Guy is washed up on Flotsam island.

There he learns that the pox in his hand is threatening to spread and turn all it comes in contact with into more zombies, so with the help of an old friend, the Voodoo Lady, he plots how to get off the island and find the mystical La Esponja Grande which will rid him of his curse.

Fans of the original games will be delighted that the knockabout sarcastic humour is preserved throughout and the island is populated with the expected gallery of eccentrics including a mad French Physician still dressed in the clothes of the Revolution, a pirate who collects action figures, another who makes glass unicorns and the publisher of the local paper that’s struggling to find any new pirate stories.

The gameplay follows the standard pattern of gathering items into your inventory and then either using them directly or combining them (a new element from the originals) to solve the puzzles. There are four levels of hints in case you get stuck but the solutions are rarely too taxing and you should be able to whip through this first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, in just a few hours. Moving Guy around is achieved by holding down the left mouse button and dragging, which may not be to everyone’s liking but there’s also a map that speeds up travel times.

The 3D graphics are splendid and there are plenty of visual gags to keep you amused alongside the mickey-taking dialogue. Hopefully we’ll see more of Elaine and LeChuck in future instalments but for fans of the Monkey Island franchise, it’s time to raise the skull and crossbones and cry triumphantly, “Ahoy me hearties!”

Company: Telltale Games

It's been a long wait for the legions of fans of the Monkey Island series but this new episodic adventure maintains the madcap humour and style of the originals whilst giving the graphics a welcome boost and providing plenty of offbeat puzzles to tax your imagination.