PC Review: Tales of Monkey Island Episode One: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

Guybrush Threepwood: Mighty Pirate ™ is back…

I must confess. I never had a PC during the era of the Monkey Island series, so alas I’m unfamiliar with the likes of LeChuck, Elaine and of course, Guybrush. So can an n00b like me find some comfort in Telltale’s latest joint venture with LucasArts?
While I didn’t know the characters directly, the story was fairly easy to get to grips with as was the first time I played a Sam and Max episodic game. Essentially the beginning sees you on a boat trying to rescue your missus from the clutches of LeChuck, but it all goes wrong and he turns him human, the ship gets blown up and you are separated from your wife and your treasure, while picking up a lovely disease for your hand that has a mind of its own…

Guybrush arrives on Flotsam Island, a place where the winds blow madly to the point where anyone who enters is trapped on the island forever, or at least until you can figure out what is causing the freak weather conditions. And so the game begins with some fairly simple puzzles to get the attention of a news reporter who will set you up with an insider who knows a way off the island. There’s also a jungle area which is quite elusive and tricky to get to grips with at first, but it all makes sense towards the end.

As a first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal has it all. A great story, some tricky puzzles, hilarious dialogue and the classic feel of point and click adventure games. It isn’t without its share of problems like a few audio/gameplay glitches which I’ve been assured have been fixed for the final version which is now available to download. The puzzles are pretty clever, even if they do follow the typical Telltale pattern of testing an item out on everything till you get it right. But this game does allow you to combine items to solve them, which is new to the formula that Telltale has worked so hard in creating.
Tales of Monkey Island would probably be a disaster if it didn’t have good voice-acting. Luckily that’s not the case, and the acting is top notch quality. Even being a newcomer to the series, I found myself chuckling at parts of the game I didn’t expect to. The team has a great sense of humour and once again it has worked wonders with another series. It seems that Telltale can do nothing wrong with each series it takes a hand to.

If there’s one thing I must complain about, it’s the controls. You move Guybrush around with either the WASD layout or the arrow keys. It works well for the most part, but sometimes he’ll walk into objects because of the lack of precision in the control. It’s not a huge problem and it’s workable, but also at the time my wireless keyboard was dying, so maybe the problem was 50/50. The visual style for Tales of Monkey Island is superb; it’s simplistic but charming at the same time. It doesn’t push the hardware of a PC far, but runs smoothly and looks great overall.

The first episode will take you a few hours to do and as with most episodic games, it lacks replay value. It does however leave you wanting more and offers a lovely cliff-hanger to keep in your mind for another month till the second episode arrives. I personally can’t wait and while I do, I think I’ll get the XBLA remake of Secret of Monkey Island which comes out next week.

The Verdict

Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is the perfect re-launch for the Monkey Island series. As a newcomer, I was impressed by the story, puzzles and all the classic things that Telltale always manage to pull off. It looks like they are onto another winner here and I for one cannot wait for the next episode!