Review: Tales of Monkey Island: Chapter 1 (WiiWare)

Guybrush Threepwood’s first new adventure in almost 9 years. Is he still the wannabe pirate king of adventure games?

The 'point and click' adventure has been clinically dead for quite a while now, largely because it seemed impossible to make a good example of the genre in 3D. Many developers tried, but almost all of them failed, mostly due to clunky controls or annoying moving cameras. To be honest, there’s only one company that knows how to do 3D point and click adventure games the right way, and that's Telltale Games, as has been proven with their Sam & Max and Strong Bad games.

In the late 80’s and 90’s though, the adventure game king was without a doubt LucasArts. They created a ton of fantastic games which are still revered to this today, such as Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Grim Fandango and, of course, the Monkey Island series. However, if you’re a console-only gamer you probably have never played any of these before, as they only very rarely got home console ports.

The Wii’s really the first console which is perfect for point and click games – The Wii remote’s pointer functions almost the same as a mouse, after all. That’s why we’ve already seen multiple adventure games on the system – Sam & Max and the Strong Bad series are both available as retail and WiiWare games, respectively, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is an unlockable bonus game in Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings.

For their latest project, Telltale Games has partnered with LucasArts to revive what is without a doubt one of their most popular series: Monkey Island. For those who’ve never played a Monkey Island game before, the plot isn’t very difficult to understand – you play as Guybrush Threepwood, a very unimpressive pirate, who, throughout the whole series, manages to constantly run into the evil zombie pirate LeChuck. Aside from conquering the world and achieving immortality, LeChuck only wants one other thing: Guybrush’s girlfriend, Elaine!

Guybrush has already thwarted LeChuck’s plans four times before, but this time around things seem more serious than ever – at the beginning of this first episode of Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush accidentally turns LeChuck into a human being, making him more powerful than before and making him slightly more attractive to Elaine.

This also releases a bunch of the concentrated evil and voodoo power which was inside LeChuck in the form of a giant green gas cloud, which sweeps over the nearby islands, slowly turning people green and making them have random outbursts of anger. Even Guybrush is affected - one of his hands is actually infected with the disease, making it completely uncontrollable.

After also accidentally setting off a stack of gunpower barrels and blowing up LeChuck’s ship, Guybrush passes out and eventually wakes up on the beach of Flotsam Island, one of many islands dotted throughout the Monkey Island universe. He quickly learns that LeChuck is not there, but the island has problems of its own – for some reason, the winds around it never blow away from it, meaning that once you get there, you can’t leave!

Naturally, Guybrush sets out to solve this mystery right away. The game controls a bit like a simplified version of previous games in the series – clicking on an object will automatically make Guybrush do the correct thing to it, whether it’s simply looking at it, talking to it or picking it up. This is a whole lot less fiddly than the 'SCUMM' interface used in the first two Monkey Island games, where you had 9 different options (Such as “look at,” “close,” “open” and “pick up”) and you just had to try various things on various objects.

This also means you cannot do all these things with the items you’ve picked up – after bringing up your inventory (It is not visible while walking around) all you can do is look at the items or use them with other items or objects.

Don’t let that fool you into thinking the game is any easier than the previous instalments in the series though – it’s definitely not as long, but you’ll likely be stumped a good number of times in the 3 or 4 hours it’ll take you to finish, unless you’re some kind of mastermind.

Naturally, the game wouldn’t be complete without a good number of witty characters. You’ll meet a total of 7 people you can interact with on Flotsam Island, and although four of them aren’t too memorable, three of them deserve a mention. You’ll meet Joaquin D’Oro, a Spanish explorer in search of the last action figure he needs to complete his collection. You'll also meet the Voodoo Lady, who has appeared in all previous Monkey Island games to inform Guybrush about what exactly is wrong. Of course, she performs the same role this time, too.

Flotsam Island might not have LeChuck, but it has an antagonist of its own in the form of Marquis de Singe, who dresses just like Louis XIV of France and even speaks with a French accent. Guybrush will have to outsmart him to make it off the island as well, but you can bet that it won’t be the last we’ll see of him.

In terms of graphics and music, the game's not really that outstanding, but it gets the job done. Every single Monkey Island game has a different graphical look, so you should be used to change by now! The music consists of simple tropical themes - the background music volume is usually quite low, so you probably won't even pay too much attention it. In the process of porting the game from PC to WiiWare, Telltale seems to have heavily compressed a lot of stuff though - The game will lag every now and then, and some of the dialogue sounds really fuzzy. It's not game-breaking in the slightest, but it can get annoying.

Tales of Monkey Island also has some things not seen in previous Telltale games. In addition to being able to move Guybrush to places by clicking on them, you can also use the d-pad or nunchuk to move him around manually. Although you’d think this would be pointless, it actually works quite well – you can move around while still scanning the environment for objects to interact with using the pointer, for example.

Tales is also the first Telltale series which does not consist of mostly unrelated stories – the first episode ends in a cliffhanger, meaning the second episode will continue exactly where the first left off, eventually reaching the actual ending in the fifth episode.

Conclusion

Telltale has shown once again they're the best when it comes to 3D adventure games. The game controls flawlessly, especially with the addition of manual movement, and is another worthy entry in the Monkey Island series. It doesn't quite match up to what most consider to be the previous best Monkey Island game (The Curse of Monkey Island), at least, not yet, but it's only the first episode - If the other four suitably ramp up the story and puzzling then it could very well become fantastic. Whether you're a veteran of the series or a newbie, if you like adventure games, this one should definitely be a part of your collection.