Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™ returned to our computer screens after a nine year gap last month. After some confusion by customers as to the actual release time, Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal was finally released by Telltale Games. The game received much deserved praise within the Monkey Island Community and everyone was left with a happy warm feeling that Monkey Island had returned to its former glory days.
I’ll spare you the expected paragraph detailing what happened in Chapter One - essentially Guybrush was looking for Elaine and a Giant Sea Sponge (La Esponja Grande) before he was confronted by a mysterious female figure.
The Siege of Spinner Cay opens as expected where Launch of the Screaming Narwhal finishes. We learn straight away that the mysterious figure is Morgan LeFlay, the pirate that Marquis De Singe sent to capture Guybrush. LeFlay wants Guybrush’s cursed hand and the meeting leads to a pretty simple but absolutely brilliant opening puzzle leaving Guybrush with a truly piratey hook hand.
A quick chapter screen and some traditional Monkey Island music sees Guybrush docking in Spinner Cay, a tiny town inhabited by Merfolk (Mermaids and the like). After a little gander around Guybrush finds Elaine, who is trying to dissolve an argument between a cursed pirate and the town leader. She gives out to him for losing his wedding ring, gives him the one from Curse of MI, and lets him on his way. Guybrush soon discovers that to help him find La Esponja Grande he must collect three summoning artefacts that seem to belong to the Merfolk. On his adventure Guybrush can explore the town of Spinner Cay, Spoon Island, Roe Island and three other small Islands on the map.
During the chapter Guybrush runs into a whole bunch of new characters. First off he meets some of the Mermaid type characters who, as you’d expect live in the waters of Spinner Cay. He also manages to chat with Captain McGillicuddy, a pirate infected with the pox and also looking for La Esponja Grande. Over on Spoon Island Guybrush “befriends” two stubborn pirates working in McGillicuddy’s crew. He also runs into human LeChuck only to find out what a nice guy he has become. As Guybrush continues to adventure he also crosses paths with more of McGillicuddy’s crew, his ever present ship navigator Van Winslow, and a few friendly sea monsters amongst others.
Because I got the privilege of playing the game to review it I nearly feel obliged to write an outstandingly positive piece about it. However, I’ll be honest, when I saw that the game involved merfolk and friendly looking sea monsters my first thought was LAME…
For me walking around Spinner Cay made me feel like I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – only in pure adventure mode. I thought back to Mêlée Island in SMI, Scabb Island in LCR, and Plunder Island in CMI and wondered why Guybrush was suddenly talking to the Zora-like people from Link’s world. The friendly sea monsters Guybrush meets later in the episode only heightened my disillusioned view of this new world.
However, my slight dislike for this part of the game (and I liked Zelda) should not be taken as a consensus for my view of the episode as a whole because it would be far from the truth. I genuinely did like this chapter and endured the mermaids when I had to. It’s like dousing a juicy fillet steak with a horrible brussel- sprout puree. The steak is still amazing, there’s just a horrible after-taste of merfolk puree but it’s edible so long as I can still eat the steak.
And I have to say that Telltale cooked that steak to Michelin Star standards. The freedom within the game to move from one island to another was a real treat. The islands are very small which is a little disappointing but it is perfectly understandable as to why that is considering the episode’s size. Nevertheless, the fact that you can do it gets top marks from me.
And the puzzles were no different. While I found a number of the puzzles in Launch of the Screaming Narwhal tedious (map puzzle), boring (idols puzzle), or too short (bar puzzle) the puzzles in Siege of Spinner Cay are in a completely different league. The same urge to pull my hair out at certain points that I remember experiencing in my younger adventure gaming days were very much evident – you know, where you think you have done absolutely everything, tried everything with everything else and that there must be a glitch in the game…. until… wait… what if… yes, the excitement at figuring out the puzzles is certainly worthy of the older Monkey Island games.
I found that a lot of the items needed were well hidden and Guybrush really has to explore everywhere and talk to everyone (even the fish people) to get through the game. Particularly the puzzles towards the end of the chapter are good – I’ll give a shiny piece of eight to anyone who doesn’t have to rack their brains over the barbeque puzzle – a gem of a puzzle, again, worthy of the old classic adventures.
The humour in the game has also jumped up a notch or two from the last chapter. Unlike the first two Monkey Island games this wasn’t a string of laugh out loud jokes but I have to say that it wasn’t a disappointment either. Guybrush’s constant remarks about the human LeChuck are very funny throughout, and in fact, the whole chemistry between Guybrush, Elaine, and the new LeChuck is entertaining, and it becomes obvious that there is more than meets the eye there too.
Many of the other characters unfortunately fall into the same trap as in the previous chapter – a lot of them are just not memorable and a lot of them a very similar of one another. This is particularly notable in the tall skinny pirate model which has now taken the form of at least five characters over the two chapters. However, the Morgan LeFlay and Marquis De Singe characters seem like they will be recurring in each episode, as will LeChuck, Elaine, Van Winslow, and of course Guybrush, so maybe it’s a good thing that we can’t really remember the other characters so that we can focus on the main cast.
All-in-all I have to say that The Siege of Spinner Cay is an extremely entertaining game and like the previous chapter it exceeds its expected length for the price and enjoyment that is received from the game. My only worry for the rest of the series is that Guybrush is trying to find a sea sponge by interacting with giant friendly sea horses and merfolk and it just seems a little… well… different.
However, as a whole, The Siege of Spinner Cay is an improvement from Launch of the Screaming Narwhal – the jokes are better, the puzzles are better and most of the character development is very good and very positive. The game has many more positives than negatives, and for that reason I would rate it 7/10
Looking forward to the next instalment with anticipation Telltale. Don’t keep us waiting too long :)