Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Review

Back in June, the news that not one but two development teams were working on Monkey Island related games almost gave me a heart attack. I’m a big fan of the oldschool point ‘n’ click adventure game genre and to see that there was enough interest to resume the series (i.e. "Tales of Monkey Island" by Telltale Games) and remaster the original (i.e. "Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition" by Lucasarts) meant that another adventure game renaissance was now a possibility! It’s been a long time since the last Monkey Island game, Escape from Monkey Island (almost 9 years in fact), so the fans have been waiting for quite awhile to get their Monkey Island fix! However the wait is now over and fans can now look forward to five new episodes that combined make up the next game in the venerable Monkey Island series. The first of these is "Launch of the Screaming Narwhal"...

Sound (5/5)
Sound effects are excellent and so is the voice acting. They’ve managed to get Dominic Armato aboard once again to reprise his voice acting role as Guybrush and Alexandra Boyd to do the voice acting of Elaine Marley, although she doesn’t do much talking in this episode (Alexandra Boyd was the voice actor for Elaine Marley in Curse of Monkey Island – I think her voice suits Elaine’s character better IMHO).

Music (5/5)
Michael Land is back in the composer seat and he's back doing what he does best making an awesome soundtrack influenced by sea shanties, reggae and calypso. Listening to the tracks in the game you'll notice several passages of music that sound quite familiar as the music from all previous games gets infused into this soundtrack. It's quite an aural feast and it's just too bad there's no easy way to get a hold of the music (although it seems likely Telltale Games will release the soundtrack for sale on their website, considering there is a Sam & Max one already available...)

Michael also does a good job of creating the theme for the nefarious French scientist, Marquis de Singe, which shows he’s not just a one-trick pony :).

Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Gameplay Video

Graphics (4/5)
Personally, I think the graphics are great and fit the game. Sure they're kind of cartoony which some people might not like but it is a comedy adventure game after all and I think the graphics are appropriately bright and colourful. The only criticisms I have is that some of the denizens of the island you first visit seem to be based off recycled models (i.e. two pirates almost look the same except maybe for a different skin tone or clothes). Also one of the characters looked like he'd be at home in a Wallace and Gromit cartoon (or game) – methinks there was some laziness here but fortunately it doesn't have much of a negative impact on the gameplay.

Plot (4/5)
I'm glad to say that the plot in "Launch of the Screaming Narwhal" sets up the mini-series off to a good start. It welcomes the old Monkey Island fans back into familiar territory with the return of some old characters and several in-jokes that only a fan would be able to understand. Of course, the only problem with this approach is that it may be targeted too much towards the fans with newcomers to series scratching their heads for most of the game . However I think the zany humour, Guybrush’s nerdy (but mischievous) nature and memorable puzzles will win a whole legion of new fans (at least I hope so)!

The adventure game genre is nothing new, having been around for decades and Telltale Games are no stranger when it comes to developing them, having already developed the new Sam and Max games. In fact one could argue that they're partially responsible for the most recent renaissance in the adventure game genre.

For those of you too young to remember point 'n' click adventure games, there's not much too them. You're basically playing a graphical form of interactive fiction which is mouse-driven. Storylines tend to be pretty linear and the objective of the game is to get to the end of the story. This will usually involve talking to other characters, acquiring items and solving puzzles. Most adventure games have these elements and the only real way to differentiate from one between the other is the artistic style (combination of music, sound and graphics), the entertainment value of the puzzles and, the storyline. "Launch of the Screaming Narwhal" succeeds in these critical areas although it does fail somewhat in the interface department, which is a bit cumbersome to use. To get Guybrush to walk you have to hold the mouse button down and pan the mouse in order to rotate Guybrush into the desired direction. I didn’t find it intuitive at all and ended up using a combo of the keyboard and mouse which is a shame as some players can become a bit uncoordinated trying to use both at the same time (not me though, I play computer FPSs :P)

Puzzles in the game are generally quite easy (provided you're observant) but fun nonetheless. There were a couple of points I was stumped as what to do but it only took a few minutes before I figured it out. One particular puzzle was satisfying on completion since it actually required you to outsmart your adversary and I believe that these sort of puzzles are the main draw cards for the Monkey Island series.

There is quite a bit of conversation in the game although this is to be expected in a Monkey Island game and thankfully, there are some pretty humourous lines, so it’s not as if you won’t be entertained by them!

Replayability (4/5)
Adventure games don't tend to be very replayable when compared to other genres of games (i.e. once you've finished it they don’t tend to be any different the second time you play through) however, this is a special breed of adventure game: It's Monkey Island! Yes there's not going to be much difference the next time you play, but the plot and dialogue plus the hilarious situations that you encounter, makes the game worth replaying.

The only real criticism I could make is that the game is pretty short (only worth a few hours of gameplay) – but it is only one episode and meant to be part of an entire mini-series, so it's not bad in that regard.

The game has very little bugs – in fact I only encountered one and that was when the text disappeared off the screen (which made it hard to know if you were hovering over something you could interact with). Fortunately, a quick save then reload of the game seemed to fix the problem so I wasn't permanently afflicted by the issue.

The game was very easy to acquire too. I just setup an account with Telltale Games and then downloaded it. Best of all, Telltale was running an offer at the time where for under AUD$50 you could get all five episodes, a free episode from another Telltale game and a DVD cover with artwork done by Steve Purcell! Not a bad deal (wish it came with the soundtrack instead though :P).

Overall - 88%
The Monkey Island series sets sail once again and it's in good hands.

If you want to get the game, you can purchase it online off Telltale Games.