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I sort of missed out on the original Monkey Island games, considering I was minus three when the first game came out, but I knew that they were supposed to be excellent.
I viewed the special edition, which features updated graphics and has been released on Xbox Live and PC, with interest. I wasnít sure if I wanted to buy it, but I knew that it was meant to be good. Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, the first in a series of five games to be released by Telltale games, definitely makes me interested in other Monkey Island games.
The puzzles in Launch of the Screaming Narwhal are excellent. Theyíre all almost perfectly designed, never too hard or too easy. The hint system is also very well designed. Several times I almost caved in and went to look at a walkthrough for the game, only for Guybrush to make an innocuous comment that put me back on the right track. You can adjust how often heíll give these hints, so no matter how hard you find the game youíll never get so frustrated that you want to quit.
I think the game is definitely funnier if you've already had a history with Monkey Island.
The highest point of the game was the excellent puzzle sequence where you have to escape a crazed French doctor whilst he prepares to surgically remove your hand through a mini guillotine. And youíre strapped to a surgical bed the entire time, so your movement is slightly limited. Itís a fantastic puzzle, and it feels very satisfying when you work out how the different parts of the room come together to help you escape from your predicament.
I didnít find the game particularly hilarious. It had its moments, sure. Itís a funny game, but not really laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe Iím missing the jokes, the references and classic humour from the original games. If so, it looks like youíll get a lot more out of the game if youíre already a fan of the series. Alternatively, you could go and play the special edition of the original game thatís just been released. Either way, I think the game is definitely funnier if you've already had a history with Monkey Island.
The game suffers from its episodic nature, even more so than other games by Telltale. Both the Wallace and Gromit and Sam & Max series have contained storylines, whereas Launch of the Screaming Narwhale is clearly the first part in a season of episodes. A lot of your time will be spent setting up future encounters, and when you reach the big ending a whole lot of... nothing happens. Thereís no real conclusion, and youíre left on a cliff-hanger. Whilst this is understandable given that the story will be told over the five episodes, it is slightly anti-climatic. I would have preferred it if they had managed to tell a slightly more contained tale, with a more defined ending, that linked into the main story.
I would have preferred it if they had managed to tell a slightly more contained tale, with a more defined ending, that linked into the main story.
Instead of 2D, point and click controls, the game is totally in 3D and you can use your keyboard or mouse to move around. It feels really clunky, and itíll take you a while to get used to it. By the end of the game I had no problem navigating my way around, but using your mouse in order to get Guybrush to move the way you want is a poor control scheme. It works fine in open spaces, but when thereís even a simple obstruction, such as a railing, youíll end up bashing into it and getting stuck every time you pass it. However, by the end of the game, I was fairly competent in using this strange method of controlling Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate.
I totally recommend getting Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. Okay, itís not a really excellent game. Itís rarely hilarious, and the storyline feels like a series of set-ups for the other games in the series of five. However, it was very fun to play despite these flaws, and I know that as the story comes into its own in the later episodes it will become an excellent series of games. Itís a solid start to the adventure, and it will get better and funnier from here. Itíll also be fantastic for all the fans of the original games. Iím sure that this game means so much more to you than it does to me, both because of the nostalgia and because of the inside jokes and old characters that make the game funnier for any veterans of the Monkey Island games.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: