|Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of the Pirate God|
|Platforms||Windows, OSX, WiiWare, PSN|
|Genre||Point and laugh adventure|
|Buy from Amazon|
As the first Monkey Island game in nine years, fans had high expectations for Tales of Monkey Island. Not only is the series one of those coveted, highly nostalgialized, fan favorites from our youth, but the last game, Escape from Monkey Island, simply wasn’t that good. There were a lot of questions whether Guybrush Threepwood is even funny in three dimensions as it had been tried and failed once already.
I certainly had my doubts, I had never played an episodic game before Tales of Monkey Island, so even the delivery method was questionable. I know that TellTale Games has had great success with season gaming, but would it work with Monkey Island? Would the episodes be too long? Too short? Too reliant on cliffhangers? Could a writing staff still capture Guybrush, Elaine, and Chuck?
Five episodes later, I have my definitive answer to all of these questions. Rise of the Pirate God serves as not only the finale for the season, but once again, could be the final chapter in Monkey Island’s 20 year history. Let’s talk first about the episode, and then the series as a whole.
Rise of the Pirate God obviously needed a strong finish to cap the season and the game, but in this case, a strong start was also required. At the end of The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, our lovable pirate hero was killed by LeChuck, as in actually dead. Now, if you’re going to kill your protagonist, you had better had a plan, but it’s a strong testament to the game’s first four episodes when I say, “I wasn’t worried.”
The episode opens with the camera pulling back from Guybrush’s grave without any obvious sign that you actually have control. A few surprisingly clicks later and ghost pirate Guybrush has escaped from his dirty grave and crawled onto the shores of the pirate equivalent of the River Styx. Getting back to the land of the living will take some work. You have access to five relatively small locations in pirate afterlife but very few actual characters to interact with. The place isn’t exactly heavily populated.
But thankfully, one among the dead is none other than Morgan LeFlay, who was also killed by LeChuck in the last episode. She’s still depressed about betraying Guybrush, and a fun and over-all-too-quickly game of insult swordfighting cheers her right up. She’s willing to help Guybrush escape once he has a plan, and later makes a huge sacrifice to make it happen.
That plan involves opening a portal back to the plane of the living and trying to regain control over Guybrush’s original body. In the world of Monkey Island, no seems that concerned by the ghost of Threepwood or even his dead body zombifying back to life, which makes it all that much more funny. Guybrush confronts LeChuck, Elaine seemingly betrays her husband to become the demon bride of the real zombie ghost undead pirate, and Guybrush is flung back into purgatory with the now giant La Esponja Grande holding the portal open, allowing LeChuck to harness all the voodoo energy from the underground.
So the spell we cast on the sponge in the last episode to make it huge must now be reversed in an attempt to close the portal and destroy LeChuck, and after lots of running back and forth, quite a bit of trial and error, help from Guybrush’s two leading women in his life (both living and dead), evil is finally vanquished and our married couple is happily reunited.
Which leaves only one loose end: Morgan LeFlay. Let’s just say if you were as attached to her as I was, you’d better sit through all the credits.
The episode as a whole is pretty high quality: great puzzles with lots of callbacks to early challenges, and more characters and locations returning that even surprised me. My main complaint is that there is a TON of walking around from point A to point B to point C and back again over and over in this episode. At one point you literally need to go back and forth just between two locations about four times in a row. This is already a pain but it hurts more when the environments don’t allow Guybrush to dash around with a double-click. Slow walk all over, all the time. The finale is also one of those “on-rails” puzzles like the opening swordfight with Morgan LeFlay in the second episode, so there’s a lot of trial and error and waiting around to try again. But hey, it’s the final big puzzle, it’s sort of expected.
The afterlife area is also just too... dead (sorry!). At least in the excellent third episode they didn’t try to spread everything out for no reason, but you could have easily cut the five locations down to just two or three and cut out a ton of traveling time in Rise of the Pirate God.
But as a single episode, it’s still pretty great.
As for the entire season, I’ve said this in my earlier reviews, but Monkey Island makes a lot of sense as an episodic adventure. Splitting up the islands into their own adventure works perfectly, and also gives the scenario writers a good excuse to drop all those inventory items you’ll never use again.
Speaking of the inventory, even after 10+ hours with it I was still having trouble grabbing items out of it or combining one with another. Clicking a few pixels off will close the inventory, and it’s a pain trying to use an inventory item on multiple field locations at once. The lack of right clicking quickly stopped being an issue though, as Tales of Monkey Island was less about using a specific “verb” on an item and more about putting two together.
Our characters made a bit of an advancement too, Guybrush Threepwood is now an equal in his relationship with Elaine, and seeing LeChuck’s “friendly side” was downright one of the funniest transformations in the entire game. It was also great seeing Murray and Stan again, and while the rest of the new supporting cast wasn’t very memorable, they served their purpose well throughout the episodes.
Of course, the introduction of Morgan LeFlay is Tales’ biggest contribution to the Monkey Island series. She’s witty, vibrant, and can hold her own in a swordfight, not knowing before the final scene whether she was stuck in hell forever was breaking my heart. I honestly want another Monkey Island game just to see her again, which is odd, because I’ve never felt that way about any of the other characters besides Guybrush. I would just like to applaud the writers for integrating a new character so well into a two decade old series. Not an easy feat at all.
While Launch of the Screaming Narwhal and The Siege of Spinner Cay served as a solid start to the season, it wasn’t until Lair of the Leviathan that Tales of Monkey Island really came alive. As the middle episode, it shines as the best chapter in the game and is one of the funniest and best written two hours of point and click adventuring I have ever played. The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood and Rise of the Pirate God managed to ride that momentum to the finish with ease.
Tales of Monkey Island is a great entry into the Monkey Island series, and a must-play for fans of not only Guybrush Threepwood, but comedy point and click adventure enthusiasts everywhere. TellTale Games managed to make me a fan of theirs, and I look forward to playing Back to the Future and The Walking Dead in the near future.