Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal

September 15, 2009

Telltale is something of an anomaly in the games industry. Why? They are making point and click adventure games. Bone episodes, Sam & Max seasons, Wallace & Gromit, and now Tales of Monkey Island. Telltale has found a winning formula with episodic adventure games. Not only does this model allow the player to check out the first entry cheaply, but it also stops the adventure games from becoming too cumbersome. There is no pie to pick up in the first 20 minutes of gameplay that won’t be used until eight hours later precisely because there is no eight hours later. The bite-sized nature of episodic gaming lends itself extremely well to the core concepts of Monkey Island.

Mechanically, Screaming Narwhal deviates from Telltale’s other games. No longer will you point and click to move. Click and hold anywhere on the screen and then move the mouse in the direction you would like to move. The system takes a little getting used to, but once you do it works really well and feels much more natural than clicking at random and watching the main character move around. It also easily facilitates quick movement by holding both mouse buttons instead of just the left to run. Picking up, combining, and using items are all straight-forward. Click on an item to pick it up, click on another item with that item to use it, or put two items in the combiner on the inventory screen to combine them.

Screaming Narwhal manages to keep my favorite part of the old Monkey Island games alive and well – their humor. There is no insult swordfighting, but you will take part in a bar brawl, help an action figure aficionado, and follow a couple truly bizarre maps. As the game opens, Guybrush is set to finish off LeChuck for good, rescue Elaine, and sail off into the sunset on a ship full of pirate booty. Bumbler that he is, Guybrush manages to foul things up and get himself stranded on Flotsam Island. The puzzles you will find on Flotsam are well thought out, and the map puzzles, in particular, are great.

It is difficult to talk about a story and puzzle-centric game without giving things away so I won’t. All I can really say is that both are worth experiencing, and if you are a fan of the genre then you won’t come away from Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 1 – Launch of the Screaming Narwhal disappointed.

Plays Like: Sam & Max seasons, Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures

Pros: Clever puzzles, funny story

: Low replayability (inherent in the genre)

ESRB: E10+ for alcohol reference, comic mischief, mild language, and mild suggestive themes – by the time you can solve the puzzles without opening up a browser and heading to GameFAQs the content is not inappropriate

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.