Tales Of Monkey Island Episode 5 Review [PC]

16 Dec 2009  by   Paul Younger
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Five months ago, I penned the review of the first chapter of Tales of Monkey Island, Telltale’s five-part episodic adventure series aimed at bringing back Guybrush, LeChuck, Elaine, and the rest of the gang. Thus far, it’s been remarkably successful – despite some early missteps and the odd lull, there have been plenty of highs, and all in all the series has been on a consistent rise.As this is a review of what is – if you take the episodic series as one game – the last fifth, be warned that spoilers for the previous chapters (particularly chapter four) are contained within. If you don’t want to learn anything about the events leading up to this closing chapter, don’t read on past the warning below. Just know that, if you’ve been holding out on the series in order to see how it stacks up as a whole, it does so very well indeed.From this point on, the review contains spoilers for previous episodes, albeit stuff that was mostly hinted at in the full season trailer. Still, if you don’t want to know anything about the continuing plot arc of Tales of Monkey Island, be warned. All of those who don’t want to know what Tales of Monkey Island is about gone, then? Good.Chapter five picks up very much chapter four left off: Guybrush is dead, LeChuck is all-powerful, and… well, let’s just say that everything seems to be going wrong. Guybrush awakens at the Crossroads, the place in the afterlife where souls decide on their final destination, with nothing but some grave dirt and a shred of life in his pockets. With this, it’s up to him to escape the Crossroads, stop LeChuck, save Elaine, and possibly even return himself to life in the process.This being the final chapter, Telltale really pulls out the stops on a number of ways. There are plenty of interesting challenges and situations, many of which relate not only to earlier chapters of Tales but to earlier Monkey Island games on the whole. Guybrush also gets the opportunity to see what LeChuck felt like as a ghost pirate in the real world – not that it earns him much sympathy – as well as few other ironic reversals.It’s also a surprisingly long chapter full of clever and entertaining puzzles, with a personal favourite finally bringing back insult sword-fighting with a fantastic twist that requires you to respond to two comments with one answer. It’s not a difficult puzzle as long as you think about the way your answer will be construed by both parties, but it’s a wonderful throwback and complements the object-based puzzles well.It’s also an chapter with two prominent problems. The first is that, initially, you have very little guidance as to what you’re meant to do. While you’ll have an idea of your ultimate goal, you’re not initially given any tasks or clues to solve and are working under your own steam. Whether this is a big problem or not depends on your adventuring chops, but it’s still a little jarring following the rest of the Tales series generally giving you something to initially work on before throwing a few quests at you simultaneously.The second is the sheer amount of backtracking involved. One puzzle series, in particular, requires you to go from one end of the game world to the other and then back again three or four times in a row, with each trip taking a minute or two. It’s something that breaks the pacing and starts to hugely grate, particularly if you think you’ve solved something at one end, head back, discover you haven’t, and then need to wander back again.{PAGE TITLE=Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5 Review Page 2}What makes this worse is that there are two or three “puzzle hubs” – completing one, while still giving you access to the same areas, tends to give you a new set of objectives. It also moves things around a bit, meaning that you’re going to have to wander around and explore the old locations again to see where characters have moved to and what’s new. It adds a bit of variety, sure, but not necessarily in a good way.Fortunately, it takes awhile before seeing the areas gets old. This is a Monkey Island game and there’s humour aplenty, but with the focus on death and impending doom, it’s also a lot darker than most of the previous chapters, which is reflected in the design. You’re wandering the land of the dead, after all, which is a perfect opportunity for the art designers to revel in their creativity. Expect a towering structure composed of ruined ships, or a field full of X’s to dig up, with an art style reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It helps that the puzzles themselves are interesting, both thematically and in terms of their solutions.There are plenty of returning characters from earlier in the series that have changed a little since their deaths, but the real stars here are the new characters. There’s a brief appearance by a cleanliness-obsessed grim reaper, as well as the mysterious Galeb, a man who serves much the same purpose as the Voodoo Lady has in past instalments – to give you a rough idea of what you’re doing while quite clearly not telling you the entire truth (and, in fact, lying blatantly. A lot.) He’s an interesting character, and one we’d like to see return should another series follow in the future.And that, really, is the point that needs to be made about the game: this is the end of the series, and you can rest assured that it’s a fitting one. Again, while there’s plenty of humour, the darker themes that arose towards the end of chapter four continue here, and there are a number of genuinely touching moments involving Morgan and Elaine. While I wouldn’t normally draw attention to something like this, the final puzzle in the game is one of the best moments in the series. It’s simultaneously melancholy, touching, clever, and the nature of it – when you work out how to solve it – suddenly adds a lot of meaning to several characters, as well as actions that occurred in earlier chapters. It’s an utterly sublime moment and an absolutely perfect closing puzzle. It’s just a shame that the puzzle before it is both time-sensitive and abstract, although if you’re determined to look favourably upon that, it works as a throwback to earlier Monkey Island games.While this has too many irritations to be named the best Tales chapter, with that either going to chapter three for the superb pacing and puzzles or chapter four for the wonderful shift in tone and numerous plot revelations, Rise of the Pirate God is very, very good. The problems it has annoy, certainly, but in the grand scheme of the episode they’re fairly minor and there’s plenty to enjoy. As such, this is perfect closer to what I believe is the best series Telltale has ever done, and any fans of Monkey Island – or point-and-click adventures in general – shouldn’t hesitate to buy the series in its entirety.

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