Well I was a sucker. I pre-ordered Tales of Monkey Island. I mean, how could you not when Steve Purcell himself promised us an awesome DVD cover, and one at this level of coolness! Once again I answered the call of duty from Igor to review another complete masterpiece – The Siege of Spinner Cay. A game that starts epic and ends epic will full promise of an amazing 3rd episode to come! It is highly recommended that you finish playing the first episode before reading ahead! Thar be spoilers on the Horizon!
Chapter Two starts immediately where Launch of the Screaming Narwhal left off, with Guybrush Threepwood being threatened by a new enemy. This launches an impressive first scene, a swordfight/puzzle combo. I think it’s safe to say that this first scene is the best part of the whole series so far, it is a steady paced stalemate and it’s up to you to get Guybrush out of the situation. This puzzle was a great move by the designers, it’s not only a plot opener – it’s also a terrific refresher puzzle. Presumably, there’s been a month between playing this episode and the previous episode and the designers have used this as a way to provide you with a nice little refresher course, a way to prepare you for the episode. The solution is very simple but scattered into several stages, with the correct course of actions initially unclear until you start piecing it together. This is the perfect Adventure Game puzzle, strengthened by its strong contribution to the plot.
Upon the completion of the stage, Guybrush and Winslow sail into the eponymous Spinner Cay – a beautiful fantasy world in the Gulf of Melange, distant and dreamlike like a snow globe. The inhabitants of Spinner Cay are certainly very interesting – gender indistinguishable creatures with a great sense of humour. While these creatures are wonderful characters, I worry about where Tales of Monkey Island is going; the addition of fantasy creatures is disconcerting. It could herald the forthcoming of an entire fantasy bestiary which Monkey Island never intended to have. The focus of Monkey Island is pirates and voodoo, not conventional (albeit satirical) fantasy. This new race is a wonderful but unwelcome addition to the Monkey Island universe, and I hope the designers don’t go overboard on this front.
Also in this chapter is the introduction of two comic relief characters, similar to Pintel and Ragetti in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (the characters serving under Barbossa famous for the “Hello Poppet” line among other things). This pair are funny and simply brilliant and I certainly hope they return in the future (like Pintel and Ragetti they are separated from their captain). Their cute stupidity and great personalities make them into some of the best characters ever introduced in this series, even Guybrush alludes to how much he likes them “I’m gonna miss those guys. Maybe I’ll send them a fruit basket for the Holidays!”. These are truly the second greatest characters ever written for Monkey Island – I just wish their names were revealed!
Winslow, who was first introduced in the first Chapter is expanded much further and much more interestingly in this Chapter. While he’s still very much an enigma, he is perhaps the funniest Monkey Island character ever created simply because of his subtle, unintentional, stupid humour. The comedy is only enhanced by his comical small stature. But Winslow has a history to him he can only (disturbingly) allude to, and he is evidently a very smart man. I’d even go as far to say that he’s much brighter than Guybrush. Interestingly, he’s also the first crew member (correct me if I’m wrong) that has actually worked for Guybrush in his crew. Let’s look back – In The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush had the laziest crew ever. In The Curse of Monkey Island he had a crew of three singing geriatrics and in Escape from Monkey Island… Well. I suppose Mr Cheese did something (he’s another character I wish would return. I liked him) but by the sounds of it, this crew didn’t do much either. Winslow is Guybrush’s hardest working pirate ever, once again showing Guybrush’s evolution – it now seems that he can competantly captain a crew.
Featuring heavily in this episode is Guybrush’s feisty red haired wife, Elaine and the now human LeChuck. Both are very interesting characters. However I felt that Elaine’s interactions with Guybrush were a little blunt, almost like Escape from Monkey Island in which the pair is very distant. LeChuck on the other hand seems to care much more about Guybrush than Elaine does! The Kindly Human Pirate LeChuck actually seems like a nice guy! Maybe all this time he was just a little bitter about being dead? Or maybe he’s deceiving Guybrush; scheming and plotting – gearing up for a terrific finale. Or maybe there’s a new threat? Who knows? We can only speculate about what’s going in the minds of the Telltale Team (do we even want to know?). LeChuck is portrayed as a disproportionate but imposing man, his beard still remains (although he’s finally doused that fire) as long and intimidating as it always was. Hearing LeChuck as a human makes me feel better about it being a different actor, in a lot of ways this works a lot better too. Earl Boen could probably not have pulled off the charming and sophisticated voice of the new LeChuck (although I could be wrong) and the fact that he’s undergone a radical change adds more credibility to the fact that he may also have a new voice. But that’s really something for the hardcore fanboys to complain about (you know who you are!). Overall, LeChuck is still an amazing character – it doesn’t matter if he’s a good guy or not, he’s a great character.
Shortly after the encounter with LeChuck, the rather epic finale begins. A scene involving ships, cannons and very angry pirates (someone needs a time-out!). While the scene isn’t as cinematic as the first scene, it’s certainly as well done. And we are once again…….. I won’t say it. I think I’ve spoiled enough already, but let’s just say that already Chapter 3 looks like it will be fantastic. We’re all in agonising anticipation! O, the suspense! Chapter 2 has promised so much.
One thing that always pops up in the discussion of a 3D adventure game is the control scheme. People have always been sceptical (thanks to the likes of Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island) that the control scheme of a 3D adventure game can work. Tales of Monkey Island proves that exploration can be flexible, cinematic and easy. Unfortunately you cannot move Guybrush using point and click (except on objects), you have the choice of moving him with the arrow keys, WASD or dragging with the mouse with the ability to seamlessly transfer between control schemes. It’s up to you what you use; there aren’t any options required or anything. What I can’t stand is how you’re expected to “combine items” using the special interface – what’s wrong with just using one object with another? This process is slow and annoying, and I found the awkwardly slow mouse (due to my system configuration) would mess around with the process, as I had to delicately place items in the respective slots and I would end up missing and instead close the inventory. For Chapter 3, I hope this is improved.
This particular chapter seemed quick. Events pass very rapidly and even now (after finishing it twice) I find it difficult to write about it, as it just finished in the blink of an eye. I personally believe that this is neither a good nor a bad thing. This is a 5 episode series, why rush into everything? Let’s take our time. While this one chapter progressed quickly, the story itself seems to be established. After a little consideration after completing this chapter you can piece together the action and the intrigue which is to come. And I say again: None of us can wait.
Overall, this addition was wonderful. The newly introduced characters were simply brilliant. My personal favourites being the Pintel and Ragetti imitations and Anemone (you’ll have to find out for yourself!) – These are truly some of the finest characters ever made. The cinematic styles have not withered, the humour has only improved (Oh Winslow, how I love thee)… Just… How can I put it into words? I can only tell you to pick it up now and play it.
Joe’s Score: 4+ of 5 starks