10 Jul 2009

REVIEW: Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

As Telltale Games unleash their second brave revival of a cult LucasArts franchise it's hard not to imagine them ducking for cover behind their desks in anticipation of the uber-fan backlash. If the reception of the new Sam and Max games was anything to go by though, they should be fine. Take the bull by the horns I say, and so they have.

Saying that Monkey Island has a history is something of an understatement, but the ease at which this first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal slips us back into the familiar world of Threepwood and co. is commendable. The instant insertion into a battle with Le Chuck minutes before the credits roll and the familiar sounds of the MI series kick in are stirring to say the least. It's like being held in the arms of your estranged wife years after she ran away to be with that Wookie-faced lover of hers. It doesn't even matter that she's only returned to you because she bled him dry, she's back you fool!

It's not all sweetness and light though. Consistent with Telltale's past projects, the humour in the game can range from well-timed slapsticked to dialogue that just seems as if the writers were trying that little bit too hard to draw a chuckle. There are some great moments though, led by a new addition to Threepwood's physique, and if it's not all laugh-out-loud hilarity it is at least a well-constructed tribute to those games of old.

The puzzles in adventure games are naturally what keep things ticking along and here they're generally well employed. If I were to nit-pick then I'd say that the game does at times tend to scream 'I'M A PUZZLE!' at you when you were already doing perfectly well coming to your own conclusions regarding the dog, the blowtorch and the chocolate eclair. Despite these mild cases of patronisation though the puzzles are nicely thought out, often leading to that ultimate pay-off of striking a solid gold solution with an exuberant 'Ohhhhh... yeah!'.

The game looks crisp and colourful as well, realising the vivid cartoon tones of the series for the first time in full 3D. Wandering about the locales, conversing with characters and inspecting curious objects is half the fun and seeking out little interactions placed amongst such well laid scenes is always a joy. Telltale still haven't made the leap to truly reinventing the genre, but it does mean that the game is accessible to adventure pros and newcomers alike. The former, however, are more likely to be disgruntled with the lack of progression with the format.

Without a doubt there are some things to be improved on with later episodes in this five parter. If the characters evolve enough to become as memorable as those we already associate with the series then it really could become the game that the fans have been waiting ten years for. Most people who play Launch of the Screaming Narwhal are likely to enjoy it a great deal if only for nostalgic value. Others, of course, will refuse to see anything good in it. Personally, I feel that if anyone's up to the task of rejuvenating the Monkey Island brand, it's Telltale.

VERDICT: A fine start to a resurrected classic.

1 comment:

Nick said...

...spoken very much like a bloke called 'Jeff Adams'.