In the world of point-and-click adventure games, there's one series that gets most old-school gamers misty-eyed with nostalgia. The Monkey Island games were the pinnacle of point-and-click, mixing a great collection of head-scratching puzzles with some of the best, most hilarious dialogue in gaming history, and as a result many gamers list the first game in the series, The Secret Of Monkey Island, among their favourite games of all time.
The problem with a legacy this big is that any attempts to make another game in the swashbuckling series would be a bit of a double-edged cutlass. On the one hand you've got a legion of old-school Monkey Island fans who are desperate to see the return of Guybrush Threepwood, Legendary Pirate, his wife Elaine and the evil pirate LeChuck. On the other hand though, with the game's creators Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert doing their own things now, there's concern from those same fans that a new Monkey Island game done incorrectly will stain the series' good name and ruin a franchise dear to their hearts. Thankfully, as die-hard Monkey Island fans here at ONM Towers, we can confirm that this first WiiWare chapter in the new episodic Tales Of Monkey Island series fully manages to retain the humour and charm of the original games while producing a point-and-click game that feels remarkably contemporary.
Don't worry if you're not familiar with the Monkey Island games. You don't need to have played them to know what's going on here. The story throws you deep into the action right away, with Guybrush arriving at the scene on his boat just as the evil ghost pirate LeChuck (who's kidnapped your missus Elaine) is about to perform some evil voodoo on a monkey to uncover its mystical secrets. After a few simple puzzles showing how the game's logic works, Guybrush turns LeChuck into a human and in the process curses his own hand. Guybrush then ends up shipwrecked on the mysterious Flotsam Island, a land filled with colourful characters who can't leave the island because the winds all strangely blow in its direction. It's up to Guybrush to get off the island, find LeChuck and rescue his beloved, long-suffering wife Elaine.
The most important element of the Monkey Island series is its sense of humour, and thankfully in that respect Tales Of Monkey Island doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Every character in the game is brimming with personality, from the eager newspaper journalist who's desperate to get some stories but can't leave the island to get them, to the chunky and depressed Puerto Rican pirate who's been sold a fake treasure map to find the last rare action figure he needs to complete his collection, to the overly-friendly captain of the titular Screaming Narwhal ship who's more than happy to let Guybrush try and invade the boat because he enjoys a challenge.
Perhaps most entertaining of all is Guybrush himself, who plays the lovable idiot with delusions of grandeur. He really does think he's Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate, but in reality he's a clumsy, slightly hapless chap who means well, but often messes up. His dialogue's hilarious though, and you're guaranteed to be chuckling throughout the duration of the game.
Look! A Three-Headed Monkey!
In typical point-and-click tradition, when you talk to someone you're usually given a choice of three or four sentences to reply with. If you choose something like "you're really ugly, you know that?" Guybrush will instead say something completely different which fits the same mood. It's a neat touch because it keeps the dialogue fresh and unpredictable (instead of you already knowing what he's going to say) and also fits in with Guybrush's rebellious personality. It feels like he knows he's a character in a videogame and is not entirely happy with the way his line has been worded so has decided to reword the line to something he feels is more suitable. What this all builds up to is a fantastic first episode in this five-part series. If the other chapters are half as funny and entertaining as Launch Of The Screaming Narwhal, we'd strongly recommend saving the Points to buy them all. For now though, this is a fantastic start and a must for point-and-click newcomers and longtime fans of Monkey Island alike.