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Tales of Monkey Island (Chapters 1-5)
Directed by Dave Grossman
Written by Mark Darin, Michael Stemmle and Sean Vanaman

Tales of Monkey Island
Tales of Monkey Island
Tales of Monkey Island
Tales of Monkey Island
Tales of Monkey Island
Tales of Monkey Island
A review by David Maddox

Look behind you! A three-headed monkey! The clever distraction ploy has been used time and time again by stalwart protagonist of the Monkey Island game series, Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate! Now fans can rejoin the adventurer on his latest excursions as TellTale Games, in association with LucasArts, returns the inept swashbuckling hero to gaming consoles in the five-part Tales of Monkey Island.

Personally, I've been a fan of the series since the very beginning back in 1990. An old friend of mine talked me into working at a pumpkin patch to earn money to get this "new game where you get to be a wanna-be pirate! It's like Lucas's Last Crusade game!" he said. See, my family had the most powerful computer of all my friends… an IBM 286 with 30 MEGABYTES of memory! I know! Anyway, I'm glad I listened to him.

The Monkey Island universe has appeared sporadically enough, over the last few decades, that it hasn't inundated the market and each installment has been not only madcap fun, but true to the characters and continuity. Tales of Monkey Island is broken into chapters as TellTale continues their successful trend of releases like the Strong Bad series, Wallace and Gromit and the resurrecting of Sam & Max. This "seasonal" game format allows players to experience the joy of watching an interactive show.

Chronologically, Tales is the fifth excursion into the ruthless, pirate-filled heart of the Caribbean, and long time fans of the game will love the classic game references, some incredibly subtle, others glaringly obvious. Dominic Armato, who has voiced Guybrush ever since voices in computer games became possible, returns to lend his vocal cords to the hero. The amazing Governor Elaine Marley returns and of course the nefarious VooDoo powered Pirate LeChuck is wreaking havoc again. Several other characters from Monkey Island past make and appearance (Welcome back Murray!), as well as some new faces, such as the beguiling Pirate Hunter Morgan LeFlay.

The chapters themselves, "Launch of the Screaming Narwhal," "The Siege of Spinner City," "Lair of the Leviathan," "The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood and Rise of the Pirate God," are not exactly stand-alone stories. Played individually by a moderate gamer, one would probably get about 3 hours of play from each. All together, they make a pretty good lengthy adventure game, all part of the overall story. Much like the original games were broken into Chapters, this format just allows players to take a break between major plot points, also creating some great cliffhangers.

Directed by Dave Grossman, who's had his hands in the Monkey Island franchise every since its birth back at LucasArts, the game has a wonderful flow that won't leave the player frustrated if they get stumped. Designers and writers Mark Darin, Michael Stemmle and Sean Vanaman, who've also had history with the MI Universe, create a rich world of dialogye that really gives the characters depth, bringing real life to them on screen. Composer Michael Land creates some great musical themes, harking back through the series. And longtime fans will be pleased to know that Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert even offered his insight into the game's creation.

Originally offered on the PC and Mac, followed by a WiiWare release for the Nintendo Wii console, all five games can now be purchased in a bundle on the Playstation Network (PSN) for the Playstation 3, and trust me it's a great deal because you'll want all five. A nice addition of trophies has been added as well as a gorgeously updated digital look.

As far as player interface goes, the Wii's point and click with the Wii-mote lends itself very well to the game style, mimicking the mouse movement of the old-style PC versions of the game, while the Playstation controller takes a little getting used to, but the graphics more than make up for it. Wait till you see Stan's coat in 1080p! And as a helpful hint, click on EVERYTHING you can and follow EVERY conversation through to the end. You'll almost always be glad you did.

Tales of Monkey Island is a complete win as a video game. It's refreshing to see a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, but still manages to deliver a solid gaming experience that leaves you laughing and fulfilled. So grab your Cursed Cutlass of Kaflu and you rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle and get piratin'!

Copyright © 2010 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been many things, including Star Trek characters and the Riddler in a Batman stunt show. He holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University, and has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories while acting on stage, screen and television. He can sometimes be seen giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood and occasionally playing Norman Bates. Really.

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