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The Tone of Monkey Island - My Review and Suggestions for Future Episodes

posted by sladerlmc77 on - last edited - Viewed by 1.4K users

I melted the edge of my credit-card by whipping it out so quickly when tales of Monkey Island was first announced. Never before had I so willingly given a developer my money, and it was with great anticipation that I awaited the release date.

To prepare for the release, I re-read Treasure Island, Return to Treasure Island, Silver, and On Stranger Tides. I also rewatched the POTC movies, listened to the Monkey Island Soundtracks, and replayed Curse of Monkey Island.

Full Disclosure of Reviewer Bias:

I rate the original games, from worst to best, as follows -

Escape from Monkey Island - This bizarre entry in the series dropped the semi-serious nature of the storylines from the original games for full-on satire and social commentary. With a maddening interface, continuity botches (that were supposed to fix other continuity issues), and the most annoying minigame ever, this entry illustrated what NOT to do with the Monkey Island Franchise.

The Secret of Monkey Island - A classic that introduced the endearing characters of the Monkey Island Universe. With clever scripting, humorous dialogue, catchy themes and memorable characters, this game could have stood alone through the ages - thankfully, the developers had more up their sleeve.

The Curse of Monkey Island - A revolution in the Monkey Island Series, this game introduced painterly landscapes and characters, perfect voice casting and music, clever puzzles, and continuity fixes. Succesfully maintained the tricky balance between humor and dark undertones that existed in the previous entry.

LeChuck's Revenge: Monkey Island 2 - The gold standard. This game successfully evolved the series, giving much greater depth to the characters and their conflicts. Each of the existing characters had aged and moved on from their "Secret" origins, and technical enhancements changed the nature of how we listened to our games. The soundtrack was endlesslyl hummable, the puzzles devilishly sadistic, and the spooky/haunting undertones pervaded the entire game. The ending generated endless controversy, fueling speculation and discussions about the meaning of it all for years.

So how does Tales of Monkey Island: The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal hold up?


Story

The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal uses a plot device as old as the hills to start off the action - starting at the end of the previous adventure. We're in familiar territory - Guybrush is about to foil the latest voodoo plot hatched
by the evil Poxed-Pirate LeChuck, and in typical Threepwood-fashion botches it.

The introductory sequence serves as a capable tutorial, introducing us to the new Telltale Interface and walking us through a few simple puzzles, before cutting to the opening credits, Monkey Island theme, and washing up on Flotsam Island, where the remainder of the game takes place.

The player is immediately given a number of tasks, and is rarely left standing around wondering what to do. Stuck? You've usually got something else to try.

In this regard, Narwhal is scripted tightly enough to allow the player to determine what order to tackle their challenges, and the story remains internally consistent.

Dialogue options might occasionally cause you to crack a smile, but few lines are laugh-out-loud funny. (Notable exception - "You've got spunk in you, kid! Pirate Spunk!" "Ew!")

Earlier games in the series seemed to offer more choice, and greater potential for silly or spooky options. Hopefully, more dialogue options will be available in future episodes.

The puzzles can be deviously tricky, but never felt cruel or unfair. (The one exception might be the Marquis De Singe/Messed up Idol puzzle, but it seems I had more trouble with this one than other folks.) While the map puzzles may feel a tad repetitive, this reminded me of old-school adventure gaming and didn't really bother me. All-in-all, solid effort in puzzle work.

Script - 2/2
Dialogue - 1/2
Puzzles - 2/2

Average: 1.6


Art Direction


The art direction REALLY shines in the introduction to the game, with a beautiful spooky storm, rain, and lighting effects. Character models are superb, and the environment gave off the perfect Monkey Island Vibe.

Unfortunately, this took a hit once we arrived at Flotsam Island. The brooding atmosphere is lost and replaced with a sunny locale. This can certainly work on a tropical island, but the 3d environments and characters when brightly lit, look plastic-y. This ends up evoking memories of Escape from Monkey Island.

Main characters are beautifully rendered. Guybrush calls back to his "LeChucks Revenge" wardrobe, LeChuck is the devil incarnate, Elaine and the Voodoo Lady are gorgeous, and the Marquis De Singe (a character I was skeptical about) fairly reeks with personality.

Unfortunately, lesser characters are standard Telltale NPC's - Mr Potato Head models with fairly generic traits. Their names are easily forgotten as soon as their purpose in the story is exhausted.

Characters -
Main - 2/2
Secondary - 1/2

Environments - 1/2

Average: .66



Sound


The music of Narwhal has the familiar Monkey Island themes going on, but felt strangely derivative of the original themes. While the old standbys are good, I couldn't help feeling that the original music didn't feel...erm...original. Hopefully later episodes will have more standout themes that I can whistle in the shower.

The voice work in the game was excellent, thanks for the welcome return of Dominic Armato. Other voice actors also filled their roles well, particularly the actor providing the voice of the Marquis De Singe.

Sample quality could have been improved, but overall this game stands up well.

Music - 1/2
Voices - 2/2

Average: .75


Technical


The game was unfortunately marred by a few technical issues. The new interface (necessary to navigate the 3d interface), while serviceable, was not a joy to work with. The "click-and-drag" mouse option was difficult to use, and the keyboard option is not particularly friendly. A true "click-to-move" option such as the old Monkey Island games or the more recent Sam and Max games would be a welcome addition, "Cinematic-Display" be damned.

Also, a number of users (myself included) ran into technical issues with the display either upon startup or after resuming the game after making settings changes.

Fortunately, Telltale support was able to find a solution to my problem within 20 minutes of submittingthe ticket. Kudos to the Telltale Support staff!

Interface 0/2

Issues 1/2 (with 2 indicating no problems)

Average: .25



Judgement, Overall (NOT an overall Average): 1.4/2 (or 70%)



What worked Best:


The introduction had exactly the right tone.

Please give us more night scenes! Monkey works best when it's dark and spooky.

The puzzles were definitely Monkey Island, and I'd love to see more brain-teasers like the "Ninja Doll" puzzle and the "Cheese Wheel" puzzle.

Despite my skepticism, the Marquis De Singe was a show-stealer - give us more memorable characters like this!

I can't even begin to describe how much I loved the Flotsam Island Map - the zoom-out is a beautiful touch!

Inventory combination also worked great. Thanks for bringing this back!


General Advice to Telltale:

The story is serviceable to start with, but needs to ground itself more in "pirate reality." Monkey Island works when it's a serious pirate story with bizzare anachronisms (like Grog Machines).

It's harder to buy into when the spooky/voodoo atmosphere is lost, or when pirates don't feel especially piratey. (For examples of GOOD Pirates, see Mancomb Seepgood, Esteban, or Largo LaGrande. Bad examples include Ignatius Cheese, Davey Newspaperman, or Crimpdigit.)

The art direction seems solid, but could stand to have more
memorable "Lesser" characters. For an example of how to do this right, look at ANY character from LeChucks Revenge or Curse of Monkey Island. You could look at any of the background characters and know that they had a piratey backstory. Pirate Glassblowers are hard to take seriously.

The interface needs serious work - at no point did I enjoy guiding Guybrush through the TOMI world - with the exception of the map screen, which was point-and-click.

Greater Dialogue Choice/Snappier Lines will make future episodes more memorable.


What was Missed:

Memorable Background Characters. (Men of Low Moral Fiber, REAL Pirates in Bars)

"Meanwhile" scenes...(seeing developments going on elsewhere keep the idea of LeChuck front-and-center, and build anticipation of a future confrontation)

Whistlable Music - paying homage to the past is great, and all of the themes that need to be there were...unfortunately, the music called back a bit *too* much to previous tracks. I'd like to see something new.

Conclusion:

Screaming Narwhal is a fun diversion, but doesn't quite stand up to Sam and Max Season2, where all cylinders were firing.

If anything, the episode suffers most from being the "First Episode."

The greatest thing that could benefit future episodes is an examination of the "Tone" of the first 3 monkey island games.

In this episode, I feel like Telltale was aiming for a combination of "LeChucks Revenge" and "Curse", but instead achieved a combination of "Secret" and "Escape."

Still, a fun ride that leaves me anticipating more!

319 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Howdy Folks!

    Once again, my sincere apologies for taking so long to get to this. I initially intended to post my review of the second episode immediately after finishing it on the release date, but I was too tired to post it up that night, and after that life interfered.

    I just went through another playthrough to refresh my memory on the events of this epsiode.

    Also, I decided against posting additional threads with each new episode - we'll just keep it all in here.

    Anyway...without further ado, here's my take on Tales of Monkey Island: Episode 2 - The Siege of Spinner Cay!

    Ranking

    Alright! To refresh everybody's memory, my take on the original games was that they were ranked as follows, worst to best:

    Escape from Monkey Island
    The Secret of Monkey Island
    The Curse of Monkey Island
    Monkey Island 2: LeChucks' Revenge

    Since playing the first two "Tales" episodes, I would rank them thusly:

    Escape from Monkey Island
    Tales of Monkey Island - Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
    Tales of Monkey Island - The Siege of Spinner Cay
    The Secret of Monkey Island
    The Curse of Monkey Island
    Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

    Story

    Well, now we're getting somewhere - sorta. While "LOTSN" ended the years-long drought of Monkey Island content, there was a vauge uneasiness in my mind about how the series started off.

    While it was great to see old and new characters on the screen again, the first episode left me wondering where all of this was going, and whether or not it could even be relevent in the overall Monkey Island saga.

    While The Siege of Spinner Cay still hasn't revealed Telltales hand, it's certainly alleviated some of my fears regarding humor and dialogue, something that I felt was a weak point in the previous episode.

    On the other hand, new fantastical elements have been introduced, which have generated a lot of controversy in the "Monkey Island" fanbase.

    Frankly, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue, even now. I had heard prior to release that the Vacaylians were going to be merpeople, and the concept of their inclusion bothered me a bit - not because they don't exist in maritime legendary tradition, but because this seemed to be "pushing it" in the Monkey Island Canon - it didn't feel like it would mesh with the voodoo/ghost story vibe that the rest of the series has given off.

    As has been mentioned earlier in this thread, these kinds of tonal shifts are what (I believe) turned people off of Escape from Monkey Island - it's hard to get from Voodoo to Giant Monkey Robots.

    When playing the episode though, I found that I accepted the Vacaylians easily...possibly because I felt the characters were funny and well written.

    I'm not necessarily sure that Monkey Island shoudl've gone here...but a lot of that will probably depend on how the Vacaylians ultimately fit into the overall story. If there's a good explanation for why the Vacaylian culture and their ruins exist, that fits into the overall Guybrush/Elaine/LeChuck arc, I'm sure we'll be fine.

    Also, for those people who strenuously object to their inclusion - I suspect another element that may be working against their acceptance is their androgynous design. While funny, folks may have had an easier time accepting them if they were the traditional merman/mermaid design known throughout myth and legend. (See the conept art for the credit sequence in Curse of Monkey Island - if the Vacaylians looked like traditional mermaids, would there still be an issue?)

    Script

    The script in Episode II is MUCH improved from Episode I, in this reviewers opinion. The writers seem to be finding their footing, growing more confident with Monkey Islands unique brand of humor.

    The one frustration I found in this episode is that we still don't really know where this is all going. Some of this ambiguity is good...such as questioning what's going on with LeChuck and Elaine.

    Still, it would be nice to have a bit more idea about what's going on with the sponge itself...we need to have more idea of what it could possibly be used for. I get the impression it's NOT just a voodoo exfoliator, and I suspect it's also going to play in with these Monkeys that LeChuck is so concered about.

    While we got lots of new, exciting, and funny characters in this episode (A HUGE improvement over Launch of the Screaming Narwhal) I couldn't help but now decry losing track of the Voodoo Lady and the relatively minor cameo with DeSinge.

    I can't help but still feel that "Meanwhile" sequences (besides the brief one with the Marquis) would be a help to keep all of the players in the drama at top-of-mind. With so many interesting characters (LeChuck/Elaine/The Voodoo Lady/The Marquis/McGillicutty/Morgan/potentially DeCava) there's a lot of balls in the air, and they all have to keep moving.

    Also, we'd better get some more solid information on DeCava soon. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of him in the next episode, but it feels clumsy to put us on his trail in the first episode, and LEAVE us on his trail at the end of this one. It would've been nice to have actually come face-to-face with him BEFORE we cut to the "To be Continued" tagline.

    Dialogue

    Where Launch of the Screaming Narwhal left me with a few cracked smiles, The Siege of Spinner Cay had me laughing often. They certainly seem more confident in their writing, and less nervous about offending. This (to me) is a welcome change. While some have decried some innuendo present in the game, I never felt that it was anything more racy than what had come before - kids probably won't even notice.

    Puzzles

    Strangely, the puzzles in Siege of Spinner Cay actually seem *easier* than in Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. There's never really any question about what has to be done...only about how to do it.

    Thankfully, the developers are making greater use of the inventory and item combination, but I still haven't seen anything truly brain-bendy or clever. In fact, the location of most of the objects telegraph the solutions to the puzzles.

    The one truly amazing puzzle sequence I can think of wasn't difficult, but was beautiful...and that was the opening fight with Morgan aboard the Screaming Narwhal. THIS was clever guys, and I'd like to see more clever approaches to puzzle design like this in future episodes.

    I think it's high time that Telltale turn up the difficulty in the series. While the ease of the puzzles didn't detract from my enjoyment of this episode, it did leave me feeling that their underestimating the intelligence of their audience. Half of the fun of the previous games in the Monkey Island series was in the seriously twisted logic that the player had to employ.

    On this count, I implore you, Telltale - try to beat me. Just once. I know you said you wouldn't, but I'll forgive you if you try. We can take it. Trust me.

    Art Direction

    Telltale continues to squeeze out some impressive art from their engine. While the engine itself may be starting to show some of it's age, they've actually succesfully swayed me on their "cinematic" style.

    I initially argued against the new control scheme for Guybrush in LOTSN, but Siege convinced me that Telltale got it right.

    Where the camera sometimes fought me in LOTSN, here Telltale succesfully panned back for wide shots, and made sweeping camera moves that I wouldn't have thought possible prior to this episode.

    This use of cinematic techniques really makes the art and animation shine, so once again - Big Props, Telltale. You've sold me. Just keep up the good work in forthcoming episodes.

    Characters

    The first character I must mention is Morgan LeFlay. Wow, guys. THIS is what makes a great character. While most in the community believed that Morgan would either be Kate Capsize or Carla the Swordmaster (including myself!), I love the character of Morgan most of all in this episode.

    The physical model is beautiful, and fight animations (with leaps, flips, and sword flourishes) telegraph her skill with a blade. Frankly, she's deadly. This contrasts BEAUTIFULLY with her personality - I'd almost call her "spunky", and cute. I foresee her being a perfect foil for Guybrush, and her presence definitely adds an interesting wrinkle in his relationship with Elaine.

    The secondary characters are no less inspired. While you're still obviously reusing old character models, they were much better disguised in this episode. Personalities (particularly McGillicutty) were much more piratey, and I breathed a sigh of relief to see that we're finally seeing some genuine pirates in a Monkey Island game again.

    No less welcome were Pintel and Ragetti....um...I mean Murkel and Killick. Essentially a piratey Abbot and Costello, it's funny how these types of characters always work in a comedic pairing.

    Thanks for paying attention to your characters, guys - it really sells the story.

    Environments

    As for environments, they were beautiful as always...the moving-towards-dusk feeling of this episode leads to some brilliant lighting.

    While I wondered about the design of Spinner Cay from the concept art, I thought it worked very well in the game, particularly with the cinematic pans and tilts.

    One area of concern is the overuse of pink/purple/orange. While this works for the dusky atmosphere, I felt it was overused by the time I got to the jungle.

    (Speaking of the jungle - I think I've seen about enough of it by now. While I LOVED the window dressing that was added - particularly the deceased pirate by the tree - I'd rather not see another jungle throughout the rest of the series)

    Sound

    Music

    The music is also much improved in this episode, and I find myself humming parts from this epsiode when I'm in a piratey move. A lot of the music here reminds me of music from LeChucks Revenge.

    It still sounds synthesized, but the pirate vibe is back, and themes are distinct. While I still think a fully orchestral score (as in Curse) would add depth to the score, I certainly won't complain about this one.

    Voices

    The voice cast in this episode was perfect. The actress who portrays Morgan LeFlay is perfectly married to her character, and LeChuck somehow managed to sound clueless and befuddled, while also somehow managing to inject a subtle layer of menace underneath.

    I think I even recognized the voice of a lady who does voicework on Futurama, though I can't be certain. I do think that Telltale is having an easier time of attracting quality voice talent then they did even a few years ago.

    Technical

    Thankfully, this issue I had no technical problems to report. I felt the control interface was improved, and a lot of this had to do with virtual camera blocking.


    Judgement

    The Siege of Spinner cay left me in a weird place. I really, truly enjoyed this episode, and felt that it felt MUCH more like Monkey Island.

    On the other hand, it also felt like something else...part of this is just Telltale putting their own unique stamp on the series, but I can't help but feel that they'd better start tying some things together, and soon.

    Part of this problem may be due to having too many balls in the air...a large part of it is also probably due to the fact that the episodes are episodic in nature.

    This should probably be taken as a compliment, as it means that Telltale have got me succesfully invested in the characters, caring enough to be impatient to find out what happens to them next.

    I don't think Telltale have hit their "A"-game yet, though...while definitely an improvement over LOTSN, I think we need to start getting an idea of what LeChuck, DeSinge, Decava, and the Voodoo Lady are all up to. It's time to get past the "set-up" phase.

    I can't help but feel that the ultimate fate of the series is still up in the air in my mind. Whether or not all of this can be accepted as "canon" in my mind will depend on how well it all ties together. If the story works, I can accept it all easily. If it doesn't....well....I may consider it an "alternate" Monkey Island World...and that's a weird feeling.

    What Worked Best

    Morgan LeFlay.
    The Fight Mechanic with Morgan LeFlay.
    Pirates who are actually Piratey.
    The whole Guybrush/Elaine/LeChuck triangle.

    LeChuck himself...the new voice actor has totally sold me on his work, and also manages to sound surprisingly like Earl Boen in his human guise.


    What was Missed

    The Voodoo Lady
    Tougher Puzzles
    DeCava (I was really hoping to see him in this episode)
    Tougher Puzzles
    A clearer idea of where we're going with all this
    Some Tougher puzzles might be beneficial
    DeSinge

    Advice to Telltale

    First of all...keep displaying the confidence you displayed in this episode. I have no doubt that you knew that you were going to generate some controvery with the Vacaylians, but you stuck to your guns and you're telling your story the way you want to tell it.

    I'm also pretty sure it must've been difficult to try and hit that "monkey island" humor sweet spot, but I felt you did here. Injecting a little subtle "adult" humor was probably something that made you sweat a little bit, but it was present in the old games, and it was needed here. Keep it up!

    I can't help feeling like we're still searching for that "tone" we've defined earlier in this thread, though.

    It's time to start showing some of your cards...we, as the audience, need to have a better idea of how the pieces come together.

    As we're closing at dusk, I can't help but hope that we're coming to the night-time shift. With that will also come some voodoo, I hope...something that I felt was oddly missing in this episode.

    (Strangely, I didn't consider the Vacaylian artifacts or ritual words "voodoo" for some reason - while the Pox may have a voodoo origin, I think it's high time to see some real voodoo magic...and bring the voodoo lady back, if possible.)

    By the way...the introduction by the voodoo lady at the very opening was brilliant. Hope we see more of that at the start of episode 3.

    Conclusion

    As I said, this episode is sort of frustrating to review, because even now I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know that I liked it a lot better than epsiode one, and that I enjoyed myself while playing it.

    That said, I think we're still trying to nail the "Monkey Island Tone."

    What are your thoughts?



    Lorn

  • As I said, this episode is sort of frustrating to review, because even now I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know that I liked it a lot better than epsiode one, and that I enjoyed myself while playing it.



    This pretty much sums it up.
    It's weird indeed, i can spot a lot of improvement but on the other hand more stuff bothered me than in the first episode. Still, i enjoyed it much more than "Narwhal" on the whole...
    Maybe i just being contradictory :eek:

  • This is my personal take. I agree with everything else you've said, Lorn, so please don't be offended by counter-argument.

    @sladerlmc77 said: Frankly, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue, even now. I had heard prior to release that the Vacaylians were going to be merpeople, and the concept of their inclusion bothered me a bit - not because they don't exist in maritime legendary tradition, but because this seemed to be "pushing it" in the Monkey Island Canon - it didn't feel like it would mesh with the voodoo/ghost story vibe that the rest of the series has given off.

    When playing the episode though, I found that I accepted the Vacaylians easily...possibly because I felt the characters were funny and well written.

    I'm not necessarily sure that Monkey Island should've gone here...but a lot of that will probably depend on how the Vacaylians ultimately fit into the overall story. If there's a good explanation for why the Vacaylian culture and their ruins exist, that fits into the overall Guybrush/Elaine/LeChuck arc, I'm sure we'll be fine.

    Also, for those people who strenuously object to their inclusion - I suspect another element that may be working against their acceptance is their androgynous design. While funny, folks may have had an easier time accepting them if they were the traditional merman/mermaid design known throughout myth and legend. (See the conept art for the credit sequence in Curse of Monkey Island - if the Vacaylians looked like traditional mermaids, would there still be an issue?)

    I stand much easier with the merfolk. I thought when references started appearing in LotSN, "they'd better do it MI-like". As a result, they're very different to merpeople found in any other work of fiction and quite funny.

    They rightly took their role in the background. If the episode had lots about the merpeople, I'd have felt it was sidetracking from the quest too much. If you look at the Pirates of Danjer Cove or the Goodsoups in CMI, they worked well on their own without interfering with the story too much. If you want to look further back to Ron Gilbert's MI games, take the MI cannibals or the Woodtick for examples.


    @sladerlmc77 said: The one frustration I found in this episode is that we still don't really know where this is all going. Some of this ambiguity is good...such as questioning what's going on with LeChuck and Elaine.

    They wrote this very well, I feel, and that we'll find out more during the next episode during Meanwhiles.


    @sladerlmc77 said: Still, it would be nice to have a bit more idea about what's going on with the sponge itself...we need to have more idea of what it could possibly be used for. I get the impression it's NOT just a voodoo exfoliator, and I suspect it's also going to play in with these Monkeys that LeChuck is so concerned about.

    Again, next episode! :)


    @sladerlmc77 said: While we got lots of new, exciting, and funny characters in this episode (a HUGE improvement over Launch of the Screaming Narwhal) I couldn't help but now decry losing track of the Voodoo Lady and the relatively minor cameo with DeSinge.

    I can't help but still feel that "Meanwhile" sequences (besides the brief one with the Marquis) would be a help to keep all of the players in the drama at top-of-mind. With so many interesting characters (LeChuck/Elaine/The Voodoo Lady/The Marquis/McGillicutty/Morgan/potentially DeCava) there's a lot of balls in the air, and they all have to keep moving.

    I can't see how they could have put more of De Singe in. They did well to let the player know that De Singe has a more sinister plan than merely studying the posessed hand.

    I don't think we'll see the former in ch3, or the Voodoo Lady (but the latter might do another "Previously on Lo- Tales" thing with her cards).


    @sladerlmc77 said: Also, we'd better get some more solid information on DeCava soon. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of him in the next episode, but it feels clumsy to put us on his trail in the first episode, and LEAVE us on his trail at the end of this one. It would've been nice to have actually come face-to-face with him BEFORE we cut to the "To be Continued" tagline.

    We'll see a lot of him in LoL, trust me :)


    @sladerlmc77 said: (Speaking of the jungle - I think I've seen about enough of it by now. While I LOVED the window dressing that was added - particularly the deceased pirate by the tree - I'd rather not see another jungle throughout the rest of the series)

    I think we've seen the last of those. We will probably visit Flotsam again in ep4 but seeing as we have all the locations in Map View, we don't need to use the jungle paths at all.

    @sladerlmc77 said: Music

    The music is also much improved in this episode, and I find myself humming parts from this epsiode when I'm in a piratey mood. A lot of the music here reminds me of music from LeChucks Revenge.

    It still sounds synthesized, but the pirate vibe is back, and themes are distinct. While I still think a fully orchestral score (as in Curse) would add depth to the score, I certainly won't complain about this one.

    I only had an internal speaker for company while I grew up, so I prefer the LeChuck theme on that (I only heard the MIDIs after the turn of the millennium). Curse, however, had really great atmospheric music.


    @sladerlmc77 said: On the other hand, it also felt like something else...part of this is just Telltale putting their own unique stamp on the series, but I can't help but feel that they'd better start tying some things together, and soon.

    Part of this problem may be due to having too many balls in the air...a large part of it is also probably due to the fact that the episodes are episodic in nature.

    This should probably be taken as a compliment, as it means that Telltale have got me succesfully invested in the characters, caring enough to be impatient to find out what happens to them next.

    I don't think Telltale have hit their "A"-game yet, though...while definitely an improvement over LOTSN, I think we need to start getting an idea of what LeChuck, DeSinge, Decava, and the Voodoo Lady are all up to. It's time to get past the "set-up" phase.

    All will be revealed as and when it needs to :)

  • tbm1986:

    [quote] This is my personal take. I agree with everything else you've said, Lorn, so please don't be offended by counter-argument. [/quote]

    Oh heck...I doubt if you could offend me if you tried. I'm really interested in hearing the opinions of others, because I think all of this really ties into the whole "tone" thing.

    [quote] I stand much easier with the merfolk. I thought when references started appearing in LotSN, "they'd better do it MI-like". As a result, they're very different to merpeople found in any other work of fiction and quite funny.
    [/quote]

    This was part of the reason I had such a hard time writing this leg of the review. It's not that I stand UN-easy with the merfolk. While they were onscreen, I enjoyed them and thought they were very well written, and funny.

    In game, they didn't bother me a bit.

    Oddly, it was after I STOPPED playing that I started thinking more about them. I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say that I have a problem with them, but if I do, it might be that they strayed from being traditional mer-people.

    I tried to emphasize that in the review, but I'm not sure if it got across well. The fact that the merpeoples gender is ambiguous (at best) does lead to some really funny jokes - but it also left me feeling like the mer-people had come out of left field.

    Had they had a "standard" design (as in the concept art for the Curse of Monkey Island credit sequence) I don't think I would've even blinked an eye at their inclusion. Likewise for the "Sea Creatures" that lead you to the mouth...whatever they are, they're nothing like anything we've seen or heard about in legend.

    Because of this, AFTER I got done playing I was left questioning the decision to deviate from more standard Pirate myths and legends.

    In other words, I dont' think it's so much that I have a problem with inclusion of mer-people, or with the writing involving them. It was more like design decisions that were made about them ended up feeling like a distraction to me, after the fact. I think that can be smoothed over as long as their inclusion plays into what I hope is a deeper plot, but I'm growing concerned that the "introduction" part of the game is stretching into the third part, where it should only take up a third of gameplay.

    [quote] They rightly took their role in the background. If the episode had lots about the merpeople, I'd have felt it was sidetracking from the quest too much. [/quote]

    I agree. I dont' want MI to become all about the Vacaylians. What I'm trying to get across is that I felt that the design decisions involving them left me unintentionally focusing on them when I feel that I shouldn't be. For me, they're popping out of the background when I wish I could've accepted them naturally. Had they been more traditional mer-people, I dont' think this would've been the case.

    [quote] If you look at the Pirates of Danjer Cove or the Goodsoups in CMI, they worked well on their own without interfering with the story too much. If you want to look further back to Ron Gilbert's MI games, take the MI cannibals or the Woodtick for examples. [/quote]

    I also agree here. I have no problems with the pirates of Danjer Cove, or the Goodsoups. I'm thinking part of the problem I have here is, outside of the game, I'm left with the troubling idea that Telltale either created non-standard merpeople to either A) Put a unique "Telltale" spin on the legend of merpeople, or B) For cheap and easy laughs. While the laughs were real, either answer would leave me a little bit troubled.

    [quote]
    [quote]
    The one frustration I found in this episode is that we still don't really know where this is all going. Some of this ambiguity is good...such as questioning what's going on with LeChuck and Elaine.[/quote]
    They wrote this very well, I feel, and that we'll find out more during the next episode during Meanwhiles.[/quote]


    [quote]
    Still, it would be nice to have a bit more idea about what's going on with the sponge itself...we need to have more idea of what it could possibly be used for. I get the impression it's NOT just a voodoo exfoliator, and I suspect it's also going to play in with these Monkeys that LeChuck is so concerned about.
    [quote]Again, next episode![/quote] [/quote]

    I brought these points up as a matter of pacing. I have no doubt that we'll probably get more information about these points in Episode 3, but my concern now is that we have a few too any balls up in the air, and we're still trying establish the general direction of the plotline.

    Taken another way, if you consider that most stories contain three acts, with each act containing roughly 33% of the story - and also remember that Tales will contain 5 episodes - that means that at the end of the episode, we're 40% of the way through the story.

    We should be well into the 2nd act, but we're still establishing characters and locations, not to mention shaping the overall conflict. It's not that I don't have faith that Telltale has the story nailed down that they want to tell, it's that I worry that their pacing is off.

    Starting off Episode One as an intro is fine...it has to be done, but it's naturally going to frustrate players to leave them on a cliffhanger with not much accomplished in the first episode.

    A lot of those feelings of frustration could have (and I would argue SHOULD have) been alleviated by the end of Episode 2 - particularly with DeCava. I didn't really expect to find anything out about him in Episode 2 - but I do think the scene at the lead-out of Episode 2 should've at least shown him, perhaps greeting Guybrush and Morgan in the belly of the Manatee - particularly if DeCava *surprise!* ends up being somebody we already know. (Note: I don't particularly think this is the case, but it could've been a great "Holy Crap!" cliffhanger, making us eager for the start of Episode 3).

    As it stands now, I feel like we're still in intro territory...as a player, I feel like I've eaten my vegetables. I need some meat and broth really soon.

    The rest of your points I think we're basically in agreement on, so I won't cover them here.

    As I said, this episode was REALLY frustrating for me to review, because most of what I wrote sounds negative, and it's really not.

    I enjoyed this episode FAR and away more than Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, and most of my quibbles are actually minor.

    The main points I keep getting stuck on all come back to tone (imagine that!) and (especially now) pacing.

    BTW...I'm interested that nobody else has mentioned anything about how harsh I was about puzzle difficulty in this episode.

    How do you guys feel about it? Am I being overly critical now that we're in the second episode, or do you agree that we need to see something of a substantially increased difficulty in future episodes?

    Next week, I'll probably also pop back into this thread to touch a bit more on LeChuck, Elaine, and Voodoo. I'm curious to see what your guys thoughts are as well!


    Lorn

  • They're trying to cater for new adventurers, in providing more story than mindbending monkey-logic puzzles. But it does feel like we're playing MI2 in easy mode.

  • Starting off Episode One as an intro is fine...it has to be done, but it's naturally going to frustrate players to leave them on a cliffhanger with not much accomplished in the first episode.

    A lot of those feelings of frustration could have (and I would argue SHOULD have) been alleviated by the end of Episode 2 - particularly with DeCava. I didn't really expect to find anything out about him in Episode 2 - but I do think the scene at the lead-out of Episode 2 should've at least shown him, perhaps greeting Guybrush and Morgan in the belly of the Manatee - particularly if DeCava *surprise!* ends up being somebody we already know. (Note: I don't particularly think this is the case, but it could've been a great "Holy Crap!" cliffhanger, making us eager for the start of Episode 3).



    Yeah, De Cava will be... MURRAY :eek:
    We'll learn that he died while searching for la esponja grande and got resurected by LeChuck, after which he decided to resume his quest because he was sick of rolling around...

    Okay, on a more serious note, i guess your point about pacing depends upon what we felt was the focus of the episode. I don't know, i just didn't feel that searching for De Cava was the goal of both episodes...
    In the first one, you were told you would have to do so, yeah, but guybrush didn't seem to care : he only wanted to get off flotsam island et back to elaine.
    Then in spinner cay, he seems quite ready to just leave the place when he finally finds her, and only stays around because she won't follow.
    Actually, the quest for De Cava truly begins at the end of the episode, not before, so i guess you could say that the first act, or third of the story, was merely getting back to Elaine to "save" her, and the second one is about finding De Cava (finally gettting your butt on what you were supposed to do).

    BTW...I'm interested that nobody else has mentioned anything about how harsh I was about puzzle difficulty in this episode.

    How do you guys feel about it? Am I being overly critical now that we're in the second episode, or do you agree that we need to see something of a substantially increased difficulty in future episodes?

    Next week, I'll probably also pop back into this thread to touch a bit more on LeChuck, Elaine, and Voodoo. I'm curious to see what your guys thoughts are as well!

    I didn't say anything about the puzzle difficulty because it's already being said everywhere : yes, they were easier than the first episode's and overall disapointing, with the exception of this first one or the one involving helping LeChuck, which i think were easy but still pretty clever.

    As far as the voodoo lady is concerned, i don't miss her. She's never been seen so much in the previous game : you basically met her in the begining, she told you in her enigmatic ways what had to be done and then you were on your own (she even disapeared in MI1 for most of the time you were on Mélée Island). She has clearly done her job already, i don't mind if she reapears for some reason (since we'll probably get back to flotsam, chances are we'll meet her again), but overall she's not really needed anymore.

  • Although I do enjoy reading your posts, slader, I do find it strange that you, basically, compare chpaters (acts, parts, name what you like) of Tales of Monkey Island with full games. Considering that ToMI is not just a simple sit-com episodic game, but a normal full Monkey Island game with several, as usual, chapters/acts/parts, just released monthly.

    How about, for the sake of experiment, you take all those different chapters of all monkey games, and rank them, well, separately? It will be only fair to ToMI. And then, after all five episodes are released, you can judge it as a full-length game along others. I, for example, would rank SoMI's Part II: the Journey, higher than any of ToMI-episodes so far. It's short, doesn't have much dialogs, but it's a little masterpiece of it's own, I suppose. The atmosphere of a sea journey, just walking around the ship, and what not... it was great. And yet, let's say, Parts 3, 5 and 6 of Curse of Monkey Island are FAR below ToMI chapters so far. Far-far below. For me, of course.

  • Howdy guys!

    Astro Gnocci:

    [quote] Okay, on a more serious note, i guess your point about pacing depends upon what we felt was the focus of the episode. I don't know, i just didn't feel that searching for De Cava was the goal of both episodes... [/quote]

    A very fair point - finding De Cava is NOT the goal of Guybrush, and I fully understand that. He just wants to get Elaine away from LeChuck and get out of there.

    However, all players in the drama are seeking La Esponje Grande for one reason or another.

    All points on that road seem to point to DeCava...and as the sponge seems to be the lynchpin that holds this whole thing together, I feel that we need to get onto that main plot theread, and thus past the introduction.

    [quote] Actually, the quest for De Cava truly begins at the end of the episode, not before, so i guess you could say that the first act, or third of the story, was merely getting back to Elaine to "save" her, and the second one is about finding De Cava (finally gettting your butt on what you were supposed to do). [/quote]

    That's sort of why I'm sounding the alarm bell now. After this episode, we're a full 40% of the way through the game...and yet I dont' feel like we're in the second act. The logical place for us to have begun that second act was in this episode, and I guess that's why I'm concerned.

    [quote] I didn't say anything about the puzzle difficulty because it's already being said everywhere : yes, they were easier than the first episode's and overall disapointing, with the exception of this first one or the one involving helping LeChuck, which i think were easy but still pretty clever. [/quote]

    I DO think that dealing with Morgan in the opening fight and dealing with LeChucks inability to solve simple puzzles were clever and hilarious, so I definitely want to give kudos to Telltale for that. They found a different perspective within the old adventure-game tropes to make what seems old-hat new and exciting.

    I really want a "Monkey Wrench" puzzle, though.

    [quote] As far as the voodoo lady is concerned, i don't miss her. She's never been seen so much in the previous game : you basically met her in the begining, she told you in her enigmatic ways what had to be done and then you were on your own (she even disapeared in MI1 for most of the time you were on Mélée Island). She has clearly done her job already, i don't mind if she reapears for some reason (since we'll probably get back to flotsam, chances are we'll meet her again), but overall she's not really needed anymore. [/quote]

    Hmm. You're absolutely right. I guess I'm fixating on the voodoo lady, but you're right in that she has fulfilled the same role that she has in all of the other games, so I'm off the mark.

    Thinking about it a little more, I don't think it's the voodoo lady that I'm missing, but voodoo itself.

    I don't feel that the summoning artifacts or the ritual words of the vacaylians were "voodoo" in and of itself. Likewise, while the voodoo pox may have a voodoo origin, I'm not sure that it qualifies either.

    I'm missing the whole "spooky" vibe - we haven't seen ghosts or zombies yet.

    I'm totally willing to let this one pass because I think the pox certainly WILL get us where I want to go with vooodoo spookiness...here I'm just being impatient.

    Farlander:

    [quote] Although I do enjoy reading your posts, slader, I do find it strange that you, basically, compare chpaters (acts, parts, name what you like) of Tales of Monkey Island with full games. Considering that ToMI is not just a simple sit-com episodic game, but a normal full Monkey Island game with several, as usual, chapters/acts/parts, just released monthly.

    How about, for the sake of experiment, you take all those different chapters of all monkey games, and rank them, well, separately? It will be only fair to ToMI. And then, after all five episodes are released, you can judge it as a full-length game along others. I, for example, would rank SoMI's Part II: the Journey, higher than any of ToMI-episodes so far. It's short, doesn't have much dialogs, but it's a little masterpiece of it's own, I suppose. The atmosphere of a sea journey, just walking around the ship, and what not... it was great. And yet, let's say, Parts 3, 5 and 6 of Curse of Monkey Island are FAR below ToMI chapters so far. Far-far below. For me, of course. [/quote]

    Here's probably where I'm going to take the most amount of heat, but I'm going to draw a hard line on this...and I hope I can make my reasons understandable.

    I AM judging the individual chapters against the full games. I'm aware that may appear unfair, but the reason has to do with the fact that Telltale is aware that they're working within an episodic format.

    There are limitations inherent in producing short "episodes", but there are also ways of providing "reward" to the player that satisfy the requirements of mini-chapters.

    I think when placed all together, the episodes will most likely flow more naturally than they do apart.

    To my mind, that does NOT excuse Telltale from adjusting pacing within indvidual episodes so that each are just as enjoyable in a self-contained package as they are when placed in their proper context.

    Is that a tall order? Most definitely, and it may make me appear ungrateful...

    Please understand that I'm not, and I applaud Telltale for their efforts.

    I do think there's room for improvement though. Each episode should ensure that you move the ball a little farther down the field within the overarching story of the series, while also giving you minor victories in the self-contained sections of the episode.

    While Episode II was VERY enjoyable for me while I was playing, I do not feel that it significantly advanced the overall story - it's still working as an introduction.

    Of course, this is only my opinion, and I welcome hearing others thoughts with regards to judging episodes against other games of the series.


    Lorn

  • @Megaloman said: Nice review. You've got some valid points there. I just don't see what's wrong with steering with WASD - it was perfect for me once I figured out that it's in the game.

    And since this is sort of a review of your review I'd say that if you want people to read what you have to say, don't use any kind of numerical rating in it. The posts above should make that clear ;)



    1. The steering was the worst part of the game in my opinion. Almost everything else was great. I don't think it has to be night - it wasn't in curse. Just don't let it sink into awful senseless stories like in escape.

    2. I agree, that a /2 rating is stupid. Mostly because it leaves you less room for varying your opinion. However; I disagree very strongly with the notion, that not making numerical ratings would have been better. It would simply have rendered your review uninteresting.

    EDIT: I just read your second review and although there were some ok points, the lack of a numerical rating makes it less clear and much less interesting. You're overall opinions are simply not well summarized without numbers. You call things interesting, impressive, good and improved, but how do I know if I disagree, when I don't know how interesting, impressive etc.? Never leave out numerical ratings in a review. Ever.

  • Meatdaddy:

    [quote] 2. I agree, that a /2 rating is stupid. Mostly because it leaves you less room for varying your opinion. However; I disagree very strongly with the notion, that not making numerical ratings would have been better. It would simply have rendered your review uninteresting. [/quote]

    I've already been over my reasons for choosing to do my initial review on a /2 scale. It caused a lot of controvery, but it was intended to give everybody a concrete understanding of the scoring criteria. On a scale of 1-10, everybody has a different interpretation of what "7" means. I wanted it to be clear that I was scoring on two seperate criterea, and the judgement was an amalgam of those criteria.

    However, by scoring in the initial review, the actual intent of the thread was lost, and that was to foster debate and hopefully find some insights on the unique "tone" of the Monkey Island series. Jettisoning the score system allowed my actual intent to come through.

    [quote] EDIT: I just read your second review and although there were some ok points, the lack of a numerical rating makes it less clear and much less interesting. [/quote]

    Hmmm...maybe if you're skimming what I had to say. If you're the type who prefers an opinion to be summarized in a bullet point, you're probably not the target audience, though. I'm interested in fostering debate...not telling you what I think you should think.



    [quote] You're overall opinions are simply not well summarized without numbers. [/quote]

    Unfortunately, this is patent nonsense. My opinions are well documented throughout the thread - a number doesn't change the opinion that would be used to formulate that number score.

    Numbers, like opinions, are subjective to the authors whims. The danger with using numbers is that they give the appearance of a hard factual basis for the score, when one reviewers number score is equally as valid as anothers.

    [quote]You call things interesting, impressive, good and improved, but how do I know if I disagree, when I don't know how interesting, impressive etc.?[/quote]

    That's easy. Simply read the prior posts to see what I'm referring to. The thread is long, I'll grant you that...but if you're not interested in reading the discussion (which is really the point of the thread), why are you here?

    [quote] Never leave out numerical ratings in a review. Ever. [/quote]

    You are free to write your own opinion thread and quote as many numbers as you feel are necessary to get your point across. As for myself, I'll write my reviews as I see fit.


    Lorn

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