When it comes to series or episodic games, there’s a slight problem when you turn in a review. Because of the general compulsive obsession towards grading, friends often ask me when seeing a fat grade „So enlighten us, if the next game in the series is better and so on and so forth, what grades will you grant if you gave this episode a 90?”.
Well, if the Tales of Monkey Island series keeps this crescendo up, I really won’t care about snobbish remarks and the frowns on my buddies’ faces, because I’ll be too busy prancing around fake plastic palm trees with a bathrobe and a pirate hate, whistling the theme song. Yeah, you read it well, I assume that if the constant improvement proven by the first two games, the last one will knock me over. You should see Bossman’s face when I tell him I just marked a game with 101 out of 100.
Skimming over this little fantasy, I’ll say what every Monkey Island fan wants to hear: The Siege of Spinner Cay is better than Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. The script seems slightly more dynamic, without breaking the tempo its predecessor had set, the puzzles are difficult enough for you to feel slightly smarter than you really are at the end of it all, and the only complaint I have is that the game recycles the whole tourist-through-the-jungle concept set by the first game.
I’m going to politely ask whoever didn’t finish Launch of the Screaming Narwhal to skip over this section of the article so as to not ruin their experience doe to all the spoilers thrown in about the first episode. Thank you.
The series’ pilot ended with Guybrush’s frail neck at an embarrasing distance from the sharp blade belonging to a misterious lass. In the second episode’s intro we find out that she is on one hand Guybrush’s no. 1 fan and on the other a mercenary working for the demented doctor making his first appearance in the previous episode, determined to get her hands on her idol’s… err… hand.
Blondie’s adventure then moves to Spinner Cay, a port populated by mermaids that completely incompatible with Hans Christian Andersen and Disney’s vision of them. Compared to the gentle nymphs named after detergent and sea star bras, the mermaids in Monkey Island are slightly reptilian creatures, somewhat more androgynous and as fitting as they can be in the MI universe – they fix ships, reward you with various sea stuff in exchange for promotional coupons and flirt with Guybrush just like real-life „mermaids” would.
There are few NPCs in this second episode, but their lines have a more generous concentration of cruel humor. The puzzle format is not completely new (the logic behind them is actually classic) but they’re well implemented and conforming to the mathematical principle „necessary and sufficient”. The annoying pyrite parrot makes a comeback, an object that, according to my friend the Green Stork, has every chance of appearing in every episode. He’s not annoying for nothing, after all.
LeChuck, now in human form after the events that started the previous episode, ganged up with Elaine and Guybrush and helps them out with various activities, from brawls to cannon fire, but has a very docile and light-hearted attitude as opposed to the LeChuck we were used to. After four games of swashbuckling antagony, I didn’t want anything more than to plant one in his muff, but now Guybrush’s arch-nemesis has turned into a messiah for carribean hippies. Yuck.
As the producers suggested shortly after launch, the game enjoys an interesting way of narrating the previous episode. To be more precise, the old voodoo lady roughly explains, like Silviu Brucan plus a pack of tarot cards, what’s happened so far.
The lack of minigames is a bit dissapointing right now, but there’s still time to implement them. The interface wasn’t improved at all, and although I don’t mind that, others have complained about a few bits. What’s certain however is that no pixelhunting is involved, no elusive hot spots and from this standpoint nothing will get in your way of solving puzzles.
The animations, models, textures and sounds are on par with Screaming Narwhal, which means that those of you who had a beef with them in the first episode will not be pleased this time around either. I hope and believe that there are few of you, because despite the relatively precarious textures, the forum feedback suggests that most people got used to them by now (including yours truly) and a hasty make-over could ruin this fragile status quo.
What’s important is that we can’t wait to feast our eyes and brains with the next twists and bangs, in the episode called „Lair of the Leviathan”, bound to be released later this month. And I sincerely hope that LeChuck will return to his former glory.