Telltale Games aims to bring the comedy, adventure and swashbuckling of the classic Monkey Island games to a whole new audience – and to that end, they just drop you right into the action with Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.
For fans of the original PC adventure games, the setting, situation and characters will be immediately familiar. Elaine Marley has apparently been captured by ghostly pirate, LeChuck (again) and Guybrush Threepwood – Elaine's husband of some years – has apparently gone on a quest to find voodoo ingredients to defeat him and is only just now arriving to save the day.
For the uninitiated folks, the game will still seem familiar: tits go up and things get wacky, just like you'd expect them to in a Telltale game.
What Is It? Tales of Monkey Island is a new adventure told in five parts that picks up where the Monkey Island adventure game series left off. A ton of LucasArts alumni who worked on the original games evidently wound up at Telltale and convinced LucasArts to let them develop a fifth game in a five-part episodic format typical of other Telltale games.
What We Saw I played through the beginning of the first episode to the point where Guybrush washes up on Flotsam Island, determines that he needs to defeat a pirate called Deep Gut to obtain the only ship on the island and for some reason, his hand is glowing green and randomly punches him.
How Far Along Is It? The PC version ships July 7, but Telltale's tendency is to work all the way up until the day before they roll an episode out; so this build definitely didn't look done. They're still hammering out a mouse control scheme and graphics were missing or broken.
What Needs Improvement? The mouse control scheme: There's a divide among PC adventure gamers between those that like W, A, S, D plus mouse and space bar and those that only want to use the mouse. Telltale has experience with both in their point-and-click adventures work—and a keyboard-only control scheme in Wallace and Grommet —but for Monkey Island, they're looking for a compromise. Right now, you can use the keyboard to move around, but you still need the mouse to click stuff and manipulate your inventory. The alternative is to click and hold the left mouse button to bring up a red direction arrow over Guybrush. Dragging the mouse in this mode will make Guybrush walk steadily in whatever direction the mouse is moving toward. It's still a bit twitchy, and it would be nice if you didn't have to hold the left button down; but there's still plenty of time for the development team to figure it out.
What Should Stay The Same? It's Monkey Island, Not Sam & Max: People are skeptical of Telltale's take on Monkey Island because it looks cartoony –- like Sam & Max. Based on what I've seen, however, Telltale hasn't forgotten what it is that made Monkey Island a great series. For example, they've worked very hard to keep the wide-roaming adventure feel of the original games intact. Most Telltale games work with a centralized location that the characters keep going back to in every game; this allows the artists to reuse the same assets in every episode. Tales of Monkey Island scraps the hub, however, and sets each adventure in a different location. Even when Guybrush gets a ship, says Telltale, it won't become a permanent fixture – this is a Monkey Island adventure and anything can happen.
Final Thoughts Personally, I'm the type to wait for compilations like Sam & Max Save The World instead of shelling out for monthly installments. However, I'm told that the adventure-ness of Monkey Island –- complete with episode cliffhangers -– will turn the game into one of those things you have to keep up with. Like the TV show Lost, only infinitely funnier.