Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Review
Guybrush Threepwood is back! Your enjoyment of Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal will probably depend a lot on your emotional response to that statement. If your heart skipped a beat or you are currently pumping your fists in the air, then you'll probably enjoy Tales of Monkey Island based primarily on your adoration of the classic Monkey Island games that hit PCs almost twenty years ago. If you're unsure of who or what exactly is a Guybrush Threepwood, then read on to see if this is the kind of game for you.
Well, Guybrush Threepwood is a who, a wannabe pirate whose wit is sharper than his rapier. The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal takes place after the events of the classic series, but still has Guybrush at odds with his old nemesis, the undead pirate LeChuck. The game opens on the high seas, with LeChuck in possession of Guybrush's wife, the lovely Elaine Marley. After a botched attempt to defeat LeChuck with the power of voodoo, Guybrush accidentally turns LeChuck human, absorbs LeChuck's evil in his left hand, and manages to lose LeChuck, his wife, and his ride. He washes up on Flotsam Island, anomalous locale in which all the winds simultaneously blow inland. In the Age of Sail, this effectively traps anyone landing on its shores on the island forever. And here's where Guybrush's adventures begin anew - he has got to fix his hand and get his wife back, but first he's got to find a way off of that islandů
Gameplay is in the classic adventure game mold, and I'm sure that Monkey Island fans wouldn't want it any other way. The game is point-and-click driven, with the mouse used to strike up conversations, collect and use objects, and get around. This last action has, for some unfathomable reason, been mucked up by the game. It's quite difficult to come up with something more intuitive and easy to use than a click-there-go-there mechanism, a point nicely proven by the developers of this game. The mouse now controls a directional ring around Guybrush that is used to indicate his movement direction when you click to move him. It's not at all intuitive and will often get you turned around and a little bit annoyed, but luckily there's a keyboard movement option that works a bit better.
The gameplay in Monkey Island is puzzle-driven, and those puzzles are driven by combining items in your inventory, either with other inventory items or things in the environment. Most of the puzzles are clever and a bit tricky, but overall not enough so to get the average gamer to quit the game in frustration. There are some frustrating parts - a maze puzzle in which the solution is obvious but its execution overly difficult comes to mind - but on the whole the experience is enjoyable enough.
As this is a classic adventure game, the story is a big part of the experience. As such, the pace will probably feel somewhat slow to those who've never played this type of game before. I wouldn't put the story on par with that of the original Monkey Island, but it's certainly better than average. Guybrush has his share of funny lines, but at times it seemed that the writers were trying just a little too hard to make every one of his quips quotable. It should be kept in mind that this is the opening episode in the series and so has the burden of doing the setup work for the overarching story arc, but there are enough encouraging signs here to indicate that there's some additional potential to the series as a whole.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 74%. Add another 15% if you have a soft spot for Guybrush Threepwood.