Review: Tales of Monkey Island

Back in my day, the point-and-click adventure game was all the rage. There were the LucasArts gems such as Escape from Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, and of course everyone’s favourite psychotic animal duo Sam & Max. Then there was one of my all time favourites, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. For a long while after that though, fans were left floundering. The genre seemingly fell by the wayside during the 2000s. Fortunately there was a saviour at hand, Telltale Games.

[drop]Telltale, founded by former LucasArts employees came up trumps with revivals of both Sam & Max and the Monkey Island series, as well as games based around internet sensation Strong Bad and the ever loveable Wallace & Gromit. Now there’s even an adventure game based on classic 1980s film, Back to the Future and a game of Jurassic Park to follow. Each of these titles has been released in episodic segments, much like a season of a TV show. For those of you, like myself, who prefer to buy the whole box set once it’s finished, Tales of Monkey Island could now be right up your street. The game’s been available via digital download for a while now, originally coming out in mid to late 2009, but the retail version has just been released making it an ideal time to revisit the life and times of Guybrush Threepwood.

Tales of Monkey Island isn’t admittedly strictly a point and click adventure game. There’s no pointing for one thing. Controls are now a matter of arrow or WASD keys, or clicking and dragging the mouse to move. It’s a bit console like in nature but it works. Walking perhaps feels a little slower (a problem that Sam & Max also faced) but it’s forgivable.

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Divided up into five episodes, there’s a fair amount to do here. Each episode might only take a few hours each to complete but that’s excluding head scratching time which you will almost certainly experience. I generally found Tales of Monkey Island more challenging than Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse. Puzzles are a slightly mixed bag with some bordering on being excessively frustrating (such as in the first episode) but others more than redeem themselves, with the likes of Lair of the Leviathan and Rise of the Pirate God providing particularly inspired puzzles. My particular favourite resided in Chapter 3, consisting of having to pull funny faces at your opponent. It’s good natured fare all round really and reminiscent of Insult Sword Fighting of old.

Indeed the writing and general humour of the game is consistently fantastic. Guybrush and his wife Elena have to stop LeChuck once more while discovering a cure to the Pox of LeChuck. It’ll ruin it to delve too much into the storyline but the introduction of a character by the name of the Marquis de Singe is inspired writing indeed. There’s also a great Pinocchio style moment too but one that I daren’t fully explain. Just trust me when I say it’s good. While I’d still stand by my favourite Telltale characters being Sam & Max, Guybrush is certainly up there with the best. I’ve just got a penchant for psychotic rabbits.

[drop2]Not something I’d usually dwell on but there are a couple of options when it comes to how you want to purchase Tales of Monkey Island. Besides the aforementioned digital download option, there are two boxed versions. The Premium Edition comes with a production art gallery as well as desktop wallpapers and avatars; however it’s the Collector’s Edition that’s quite impressive. Packaged in a solid cardboard box that looks like a treasure chest, the Premium Edition is also supplied with a drink coaster from Club 41, a map of the Gulf of Melange, a voodoo card, a souvenir button and a pieces of eight coin. It might appear a little gimmicky but considering the prices you can track this down at, it’s worth a look if you’re a fan. For more frugal players, the Premium Edition is an utter bargain for the content.

Pros:

  • Humorous dialogue throughout
  • Great storyline
  • A charming walk down memory lane

Cons:

  • Some puzzles can be a little frustrating
  • Control system still not as ideal as point and clicking

I’d recommend not rushing through Tales of Monkey Island. As episodic content, it works better as something to gradually dive into. Take your time with each episode, revel in the sharp witted humour and the old school puzzle solving. If you didn’t like this sort of thing the first time round, there’s nothing here for you. Lateral thinking is going to be needed after all. You’re missing out on a great storyline though and a fantastic example of how games really can be funny.

Score: 8/10

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15 Comments

  1. I got this on PC and what annoyed me is that they still use directional keys for movement. I can understand it on a console but on PC I want point and click for movement damnit!
    All Telltale’s adventure games have this control system and it is the only thing that bothers me about them.

    • Here, here for point and click! Fun game though I to bought it a looooong time ago on Steam for about £2.

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLsJyfN0ICU

    sorry, somebody had to. ^_^

    anyway, i got the first ep for free ages ago, it was pretty good, still got a lot of that classic monkey island humour.
    i got the two classic games on psn when they were on sale, maybe one day i’ll actually finish them. ^_^

    • oh yeah, almost forgot.

      ninjas FTW. ^_^

  3. Give me a new Grim Fandango please

    • HD remake of the original. That would almost stop me crying about the release date of The Last Guardian.

    • Grim Fandango was EPIC!

  4. I’m on chapter 2 at the moment, really enjoying it.

    Now if only the new Simon the Sorcerers could find their way on to the ps3.

  5. “Back in my day”

    Oi, I’m older than you, and now feel prehistoric! :oD

  6. They thought fit to improve upon a classic game but then crippled it with a clunky control system. If you’re going to update a game, update it to take advantage of current tech – a 90’s version of an 80’s game would’ve been cool – in the 90’s. imabho.

  7. What’s wrong with point and click with nice HD graphics?

    As TSBonyman says, crippled with clunky control system, seems that way with all the tell tale games I have played anyway (Appreciated Grim Fandango also had a rubbish control system – maybe they could re do that with point and click mechanics!)

    • I also haven’t warmed to any of the Tales games. The challenge of the original games was the puzzles – not the controls.

  8. Kind of late be reviewing this isn’t it?

    • The retail boxed release only came out a week or two ago!

  9. Looks fun this game :-)

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