Tales of Monkey Island Episode One: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
Mike "pheriannath" Katsufrakis
Telltale Games - PC/Wiiware
When I first got into PC gaming in a way other than the school-required Oregon Trail and Number Munchers sessions, I was loaned the disks for The Secret of Monkey Island, and I fell in love instantly. Along with the Monkey Island games, I became quite an avid adventure gamer, playing everything from Quest for Glory to Grim Fandango. Unfortunately, my favorite genre suffered a painful drought over the past decade or so, and it wasn't until Telltale Games came along and almost single-handedly resurrected the style that I began to hope for Lucasarts to wise up and make a new Monkey Island game. Well, it just happened, though not exactly as I would have expected.
The story picks up at the climactic showdown of an adventure Guybrush and company were having in the ten years since the previous game, and acts as a quick tutorial for the series. Without spoiling too much, you "defeat" series archnemesis LeChuck, and manage to split the principal cast up. Guybrush ends up stranded on Flotsam island, where the winds all blow inward, thus making escape impossible. Madcap pirate comedy ensues.
As a big fan of the series, Tales hits almost all the right notes for me- the subtle in-jokes got a lot of laughs, and the new story is just as entertaining. While the puzzle design is mostly solid, there is one in particular that is unnecessarily repeated, and though it's not a particularly difficult one, a camera issue can render the solution a little frustrating. The control system eschews the traditional point and click manner of (most) of the previous games for a sort of hybrid system- you can click on Guybrush and "pull" him in a certain direction with the mouse, use WASD/Arrow Keys or even a gamepad to maneuver about while interacting with items/menus with the mouse. It takes some getting used to, but with a static camera, it's a bit of an odd decision to remove such a series staple.
While I, as a fan, was thoroughly entertained throughout the episode, people new to the series will probably feel like it's finding its sea legs. With four more episodes to come, Telltale (as with all of their series thus far) will definitely hit their stride. Personally, I can't wait.