Join Date: Jun 2009
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!
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
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
DeCava (I was really hoping to see him in this episode)
A clearer idea of where we're going with all this
Some Tougher puzzles might be beneficial
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.
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?
Last edited by sladerlmc77; 09/05/2009 at 03:27 pm.