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A beloved series comes of age

posted by Swashguy on - last edited - Viewed by 129 users

A bit of belated feedback, but praise and criticism don't really have an expiration date, so here goes.

I dove into this game ready to love it, as I grew up with the series and had waited a decade for a follow-up to the largely disappointing EMI. However, what I got out of it was more than the scratching of a ten-year itch. Much, much more.

When I finally got around to playing it (my waiting for the DVD version coincided with a long hiatus from gaming), I initially felt that I was going to get 'more of the same', and that was fine and dandy, as more Monkey Island goodness was pretty much what I had expected. The characters I knew and loved were there, the voice cast was largely intact, Land's tunes were as catchy as ever, and there were still more gags than you could shake a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle at.

That alone would have made me content with my purchase, but after finishing the final chapter in an unexpectedly emotional rush, I came to realize that the series had... well, grown. While still essentially a humurous, swashbuckling adventure, there was now drama, an edge, and, shiver me timbers, honest-to-goodness pathos added to the mix. All with due moderation and hitting the right notes at the right times, without overstaying their welcome, but they were there. And, jarring as the first "holy snap!" moment was for me (Guybrush losing his hand) and as shocking as the series' first two non-comical and on-screen deaths were (Morgan and Guybrush), the game became all the better for it, especially with the cast's phenomenal performance - with Dominic Armato's in particular hitting it out of the park. The addition of a couple of new memorable characters was just the icing on top of the cake, and the twist on the series' mythology paved the road for a bold new direction, which at least this particular fan will be waiting for with great anticipation.

The point & click genre has seen far better days and could be considered on life support nowadays, but it's still a perfectly valid method of interactive storytelling, as Tales proves with the often fun and occasionally really innovative puzzles it peppers its narrative with. It's not a hard game by any means, but the days of gamers willing to spend hours upon hours of lateral thinking and pixel hunting just to make the story move forward are imo largely gone, and most of the game's puzzles are balanced just right to keep the story flowing. Come to think of it, the most 'puzzling' aspect of the game is its control scheme, which tried to be the best of both worlds but succeeds at neither. Telltale Games may not have the deep pockets of an AAA studio, and the episodic format had some limitations which show in the overall graphic presentation, reused assets, the rather bland UI and a somewhat rushed final scene, the final cliffhanger nonwithstanding. But through graft and creativity they managed to make the most with what they had. And what they did make was an excellent adventure game that qualifies for the status of a modern day classic.

Not only that, but Tales of Monkey Island is also that rarest of beasts among the electronic entertainment industry: The one that genuinely has the ability to make you smile. And for that alone, Telltale Games deserves my praise, as well as a word of thanks for picking up this franchise, with the hope that in the future they get permission to make another chapter. Monkey Island fans are nothing if not patient, after all, and if TOMI is any proof, good things do indeed come for those who wait...

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    Syd

    Good review. Your thoughts more or less mirror my own in regards to ToMI. ToMI was more plot-focused and a bit more serious (especially in later episodes) than the previous installments, but it was a change that I personally welcomed. I thought Telltale did a fine job, especially considering the tight budget and schedule they had to work with.

  • Thanks for chiming in. I can understand how purists might have been put off by the new dimension this chapter added to the series, but it's good to know I wasn't the only one to appreciate it.

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