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Tales of Monkey Island: Chapter 1 - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Tales of Monkey Island: Episode One - Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

WiiWare | Telltale Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 1000 Wii Points
Controller Compatability: Wii Remote (Pointer); Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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19th August 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

Point-and-click games sure have been losing their luster in the last little while, especially because these games haven't been explored as much as they used to be. Needless to say, the genre is in need of revisiting. Recognizing this, Telltale has been at the forefont at developing point-and-click adventure games in hopes of reviving this play style. Most recently, Telltale has not only brought Sam and Max to the Wii, but has also been responsible for developing Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People for the WiiWare service. Both of these games have made great strides in creating enjoyable experiences with this style of gameplay but clearly this wasn't enough for the ambitious developers. Telltale has recently partnered up with LucasArts in hopes of reviving the Monkey Island series, which was previously thought to be a long-lost series. Can Tales of Monkey Island bring point-and-click adventure games back up to their knees?

    Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is the first episode in this five-part series that folllows the main protagonist, Guybrush, on a series of highseas adventures. Making himself known as a self-proclaimed "Mighty Pirate", the first episode begins with Mr. Modest cornering an evil pirate named LeChuck who has kidnapped his beloved girlfriend, Elaine. Just when Guybrush thinks he'll finish the evil pirate for good, the game's first plot twist occurs and Guybrush finds himself stranded on a mysterious, uncharted island.

    The entire episode is centered around Guybrush's trek in this new unexplored area, trying to find its secrets. The island itself has been reported to be a place where strong winds prevent you from ever leaving, much to Guybrush's disbelief! Early on, you'll meet a couple of characters along the dock of the island including the island's news reporter who promises to give the main character some valuable information if he helps him either find or "create" news stories for him to report on. Some of the early characters you meet in the game aren't too memorable but the sometimes-witty diaogue makes them that much more enjoyable to interact with. This is especially the case when something unfortunate happens to them as it can create a good laugh or two for the player.

    The game's storyline and level progression work well, creating a good sense of flow throughout. Not all areas in the game are off-limits, so you are able to visit areas even when the game doesn't tell you to and yet the plot is still easy to follow, so it's great that the game allows for some exploration without being too restrictive on where you can and can't go. The jungle area is where you'll find yourself spending much of your time. Here you'll find some interesting yet crucial puzzles that rely on the game's audio, but sadly these may get a tad repetitive for some. These little treasure hunts are pretty straight-forward and it's great that the game gives you little sound effects after crossing a certain area to let you know whether or not you're going the right way.

    The game has some really great puzzle elements with funny solutions and humorous failed attempts. Some are very clever and yet, almost logical in a sense, but they're all rather well executed and it all adds to the experience. About halfway through the game you'll notice that the puzzles do increase in difficulty but so does the game's humor, so all of the elements in the game complement each other nicely as you go along.

    Just playing the game for a bit, you'll find yourself rather hooked, and even after you turn off the game, it's likely you'll be thinking about what to do next. At one or two points, though, you may begin to feel a bit underwhelmed with the whole experience, wondering if the game will get any better. However, just when you begin to think that maybe the game is losing its appeal a bit, it notches up a gear and, somewhat surprisingly, continues to improve! In particular, the plot thickens, stronger character development is shown and the game's side villain is introduced. This psychotic character is great, and adds to the high level of humor found within the game. Some of the best moments here are when the villain isn't actually trying to be funny (for example, when displaying a more hostile attitude) but the player can still easily find something to laugh over.

    The controls for the game work well, but sometimes at certain perspectives, controlling Guybrush with the pointer is a little off and for that reason the Nunchuk is recommended. Even if it doesn't make for a totally "authentic" point-and-click experience, it's still welcomed that Telltale decided to include the ability to use the peripheral. Choosing dialogue options with the Wii Remote's pointer is also a little off and for that reason, the D-Pad or the analog on the Nunchuk is recommended there as well.

    The game's graphics are very impressive for a WiiWare title, from the heaps of highly-detailed environments to the nicely designed main menu. The game's audio is also great and suits the environments well, but there could've been a few more instrumental themes to suit the island theme.

    If you've done a little digging on the game already, chances are you're already aware that many critics have claimed that the game has quite a few technical flaws. Unfortunately, they're not wrong in saying so, but at the same time, these "flaws" aren't as bad as they might have you believe. There are some random occurrences where audio times out during a dialogue segment but you'll still see the subtitle on screen without any audio until the character changes. The animation used for Guybrush's running movements can also be a bit choppy at times and on occasion, even the movement of Guybrush's ponytail can be a bit spastic at times. These are all little nitpicks and thankfully they don't destroy the gameplay or any major aspects of the game.

    On a more serious note, however, the game's framerate leaves much to be desired, but thankfully the issues don't last throughout the entire experience. The worst dips in framerate occur during the game's intro sequence, so if you can withstand those issues at the beginning, you'll be glad to know that the problem doesn't persist during the remainder of the game, and in some areas, you'll notice the framerate does run fairly smoothly. Another flaw are the game's loading times, which can be quite long (ranging from 10 to 20 seconds at a time) when going between areas, but if you're patient then you won't find it too frustrating.

    It can be said, though, that these technical flaws aren't a big surprise when you consider that Telltale Games have brilliantly condensed a 200+ MB game into the 40 MB WiiWare size limit! What's equally as impressive is that absolutely no content has been lost in the translation, making the PC and WiiWare versions identical (aside from the technical idiosyncrasies, of course). It's all rather impressive when you think about it and Telltale definitely deserves kudos for such a big undertaking.

    The game contains very little replay value aside from a side-mode known as Treasure Hunt (mentioned earlier) where you can search for buried treasure using maps. This mode extends gameplay a tad, but not by much, and the amount of enjoyment you may get from it is relative and can be compared to the mini-games in the Strong Bad series in that you may find the hunts are a bit short-lived. If you enjoy the overall experience, though, it's likely that you'll want to come back and play back through the game again not too long after you first complete it.

    Telltale should be applauded with all they've tried to accomplish in this first episode. What most will find enjoyable is the amount of sheer humor you'll find within the game, as well as its strong exploration and puzzle elements. It's undeniable that you'll discover yourself having a good time with the game's clever puzzles, as well as some of its more memorable, comical characters, however, a word of caution should be added, since not everyone will be quite as forgiving with the technical issues in this game. When it comes down to it though, you're paying $10 for a great start to an episodic series that's only bound to get better and better with each release.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10  - Decent controls, improved with Nunchuk support, nice overall flow that stays true to the genre, great humor and puzzle elements
Presentation 8/10 - Pretty impressive for a PC-to-WiiWare conversion, some technical hiccups, some great audio and voice acting
Enjoyment 5/5 - A game worth playing through just for the humor and the dialogue alone, some really clever puzzles will have you scratching your head
Extra Content 2/5 -  Engaging storyline with some memorable characters, Treasure Hunt mode doesn't extend length too much, may be worth replaying for some

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Tales of Monkey Island: Episode One - Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
Review | Screenshot gallery | Trailer | Preview | Feature | Interview
Review by KnucklesSonic8  |  How we rate games

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