In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website www.femalegamers.co.uk reviewing the latest console games. Sadly our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games recent and not so recent that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.
Tales of Monkey Island (2009)
Prior to the Playstation and discovering the Final Fantasy games the first two instalments in the Monkey Island series were my favourite games so naturally I was enthusiastic about a fifth instalment Tales of Monkey Island. This latest released promised five chapters worth of Guybrush Threepwood and LeChuck but although the overall package is referred to as “Tales” the chapters all comprise of mini stories that make up one long narrative.
Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal begins with Guybrush trying to defeat LeChuck once and for all with the Cutlass of Kaflu but our bumbling hero only makes a mess of preparing the sword and when he stabs LeChuck the evil pirate is turned human while Guybrush’s hand is infected with pox which is soon spread throughout the Caribbean. Guybrush ends up stranded on Flotsam Island and must find a way off it to begin stopping the disease.
Chapter 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay sees Guybrush reach the Jerkbait Islands in search of information about a voodoo sponge that can absorb the pox – La Esponja Grande. Guybrush is reunited with his wife Elaine and the human LeChuck who is now a polite gentleman wanting to make up for his past sins. The trio have to contend with a struggle between the resident merfolk at Spinner Cay and the violent pirates who have been infected by the pox.
Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan sees Guybrush and pirate hunter Morgan LeFlay swallowed at sea by a giant manatee. They’re not alone in the manatee’s stomach and Guybrush must use all his resources to find a way out of this latest predicament which involves using the surrounding digestive system to great effect.
Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood sees our hero being tried on Flotsam Island for various crimes and opting to defend himself in a court of law. The acting prosecution is Monkey Island regular Stan who takes advantage of the adjournments to sell merchandise linked to the trial of the century. Old habits die hard it seems! Thanks to a nifty loophole and the rather stupid prison guard Guybrush is able to continually leave his cell by insisting he’s the lawyer for Guybrush Threepwood!
Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God sees Guybrush emerging in the afterlife after being killed and having to use some very cunning tactics to return to the world of the living both as a ghost and zombie to rescue Elaine and to defeat LeChuck in what proves to be an epic final tussle.
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Although Tales of Monkey Island is split into five chapters each one is of considerable length and you’ll unlikely be disappointed with any of them. Guybrush is at his humorous best having the ability to carry a whole manner of objects in his jacket and managing to annoy the locals especially on Flotsam Island. Monkey Island regulars LeChuck Elaine the Voodoo Lady Murray the talking skull and the salesman Stan all make welcome returns and we have many new characters that fit in nicely with those we’ve been used to for many years. Morgan LeFlay is the principal new character being a pirate hunter and one of Guybrush’s biggest fans even though her latest assignment is to hunt him down. You first cross paths with Morgan in Chapter 2 and she plays a key part in Guybrush’s adventures from then on.
The inventory system is pretty much unchanged from the other games though there is a nice feature for combining items where you have to move individual items to two empty slots then hit the + symbol between them to combine. It’s a nice addition but other than that there shouldn’t be anything too different that you won’t feel at home with from the start. The humour is still fantastic and allows you to choose some of Guybrush’s responses some sensible others just pure ludicrous (in other words the best ones). Our hapless hero continues to be a very perceptive pirate and gets to try his hand at some insult sword fighting (a trademark of the first game) and even a contest that involves pulling some rather freaky expressions. It’s all in a day’s work for Guybrush Threepwood.
Tales of Monkey Island looks visually impressive with each chapter boasting some fantastic set pieces and a rich array of amusing and eccentric buccaneering seafarers in the Caribbean. LeChuck is at his evil best but when he’s turned into a human and is all nice and polite the game is just fantastic. Guybrush initially wary of a pirate that has tried to kill him many times suddenly finds himself enjoying LeChuck’s company and the two of them even work together in solving the odd puzzle. Elaine Guybrush’s resourceful wife continues to have more backbone than her husband but the love between them continues to blossom despite Guybrush spending a lot of time with Morgan LeFlay whose admiration for her hero doesn’t stop her betraying him before later regretting it and trying to make amends. All five chapters are good but Guybrush’s trial where he acts as lawyer for himself and questions himself in court has to be the best.
Tales of Monkey Island is the perfect evidence that there is plenty of life left in Guybrush Threepwood and fans are still eager to follow him on his adventures throughout the Caribbean. It’s now more than twenty years since he washed up on Melee Island and declared “I want to be a pirate” and with any luck we’ll still be looking back fondly on the Monkey Island series when the first instalment reaches its 30th anniversary.
Overall Verdict: 85%
Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal: 83%
Chapter 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay: 84%
Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan: 82%
Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood: 88%
Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God: 87%