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In the mid '90s, LucasArts was a big name in the adventure game genre. Today, that title belongs to Telltale Games. Telltale has worked on other franchises, like Wallace & Gromit, Strongbad and Sam & Max, and now it has teamed up with original Monkey Island series publisher LucasArts to work on an all-new sequel in the franchise, which originally launched in 1990. What makes the sequel unique is something not unusual for Telltale: it will be released episodically. Tales of Monkey Island: The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is the first of five episodes that will constitute the newest adventure in the world of Monkey Island.
Tales of Monkey Island opens up with series hero, Guybrush Threepwood, out on the high seas in search of a fizzy rootbeer that will complete a voodoo recipe. This recipe is vital in that it will not only destroy series villain, the cursed, undead pirate LeChuck, but it will also rescue Guybrush's wife Elaine. After a bit of clumsiness, Guybrush completes the recipe, defeating the evil pirate but also creating such an explosion that Guybrush is launced into the air. After this incident, and a bit more story, Guybrush finds himself stranded on Flotsam Island with an infected and near useless hand. The gamer thus spend the remainder of the episode looking for a way off the island, where the winds constantly blow inward, in order to reunite with Elaine.
Through his quest, Guybrush meets a colorful cast of characters, such as a reporter interested in all kinds of pirate news, a voodoo queen, a frilly French doctor, and a pirate selling glass knick-knacks. All of these characters will have tasks they request of Guybrush before helping him, sending the hero all over Flotsam Island to find pieces to complete the requests' puzzles. Many of these island residents mispronounce Guybrush’s name, most intentionally, and some of these mistakes are hilarious.
Guybrush's walking is controlled by the Nunchuck and he interacts with objects in the environment with points and clicks of the Wii Remote. Gamers will be forced to decipher clues and come up with some clever item combinations in order to complete all the tasks necessary to leave the island. Items are combined by placing them in one of two boxes on the inventory screen and pressing a button. If the items can be combined, they will glow yellow and a new item will be added to the inventory. Thus, gamers will find themselves attempting many random item combinations whenever they're stuck in an area, all in the hopes that an unlikely combination is the solution to a tricky puzzle. The puzzles themselves are not terribly difficult, but you have to think a bit outside of the box in order to solve some of the trickier ones.
One staple of the adventure genre has always been witty dialogue, and there is no lack of that in this game. Pop culture references and laugh-out-loud moments are littered throughout the adventure. The voice cast from the previous Monkey Island games has also returned, and overall the voice work is brilliant. Jokes are delivered quite well, and each character has a very distinct personality. One of the biggest elements of the gameplay-- the treasure map-- also harnesses audio. Directions are given not with traditional map directions, but rather audio clues to help you follow the proper trail.
Adventure games had fallen out of popularity for a while, but Telltale Games is doing everything it can to bring the genre back into the fore. Tales of Monkey Island is a beautiful sequel to a classic adventure, and the face lift the series has been given is a great addition to Telltale's already robust lineup. While there is no clear ending to The Screaming Narwhal, it is a fun tale that shouldn’t be missed by any fans of old point and click style games.
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