Tales of Monkey Island First Look
The beloved franchise is resurrected with a new episodic series from Telltale Games.
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Monkey Island fans are in for a treat this year because not only are they going to receive a glossy remake of The Secret of Monkey Island from LucasArts, but they'll also see a new adventure starring the self-proclaimed mighty pirate Guybrush Threepwood, his lady love Elaine Marley, and, of course, ghost pirate LeChuck from Telltale Games. Many of the Telltale developers came from LucasArts with previous Monkey Island experience, so we met with design director Dave Grossman to see what this new adventure would entail.
Following the tradition of Telltale Games, Tales of Monkey Island will be episodic, a five-part series set to be released monthly (more or less.) The story takes places after an imaginary Monkey Island 5 where, in the opening scene, we find Elaine captured by the evil LeChuck and Guybrush is wracking his simple brain to come up with the means to defeat him. Luckily, he has a recipe for a powerful voodoo spell, but if you're familiar with the series, you'll know that Guybrush likes to improvise when things don't go according to plan. This introduction serves as a tutorial to help new players get used to the controls and learn about the three main characters, as well as their relationship with one another.
Because several designers, writers, and artists worked on the previous MI games, the goofy humor is still there from the beginning. Threepwood is also as enthusiastic as ever while he prepares his "glowing sword of hot monkey vengeance." But Guybrush doesn't exact revenge on LeChuck just yet and eventually washes up on Flotsam Island. The island is described as a place where "things and people wash up and do not wash back out." We ran into the same cryptic Voodoo Lady we've seen in every MI game, acting as your guide because it wouldn't be an MI game without her. The PC build we checked out still wasn't completed, so we didn't get to see much outside of the introduction and the Voodoo Lady's hut. Before we ended our demo, we did poke around her room, reading the text that would pop up when you hovered over specific objects. There are some funny references and jokes that will make you chuckle, regardless of whether you're a fan of the series or not.
Tales of MI will have the traditional puzzles that use items you find in the environment, as well as a combination of objects, which can be combined in your inventory. We were told that the opening tutorial will introduce you to an example of each puzzle type. The game has an integrated help system that will monitor your progress and provide clues when you're wandering around hearing the same lines again. The camera may rotate to highlight a particular object or characters might have something new to tell you. It's as though the game is conspiring against you, but the goal is to keep you immersed in the fantasy.
The colorful 3D world can be explored using the Nunchuk and pointer on the Wii or the keyboard and mouse if you're playing on the PC. Originally designed for WiiWare, Tales of MI works exactly the same way, regardless of the platform. Each episode is designed to be about two to four hours of gameplay, depending on how good you are with puzzles. Grossman told us that the reason Telltale works episodically is that it would rather have one epic saga in five parts than a massive blockbuster that's too long for people to play. With the integrated help system, Grossman hopes that players will be able to finish the game and experience the story one digestible section at a time.
From what we've seen, Tales of Monkey Island is coming along very well, capturing the humor and style of the series. Guybrush looks a little older, Elaine is as sassy as always, and LeChuck is still dead, which is really all that he has going for him. The game was still a work in progress, so our demo ended there, but we were told that there will be plenty of places to explore as Guybrush finds a way to rescue Elaine. A release date hasn't been announced at this time, but the game should be available for the PC and WiiWare in the coming months.
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