Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal (PC)

To paraphrase what Justin Luchinski said in a relatively recent podcast, there's not much more to adventure games than retrieving/using random items and hoping it forwards the plot. Pretty boring. I d

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  • System: PC
  • Also On: Wii-Ware
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Max Players: 1
  • Age Rating: Everyone 10+
  • US Release: July 2009
  • Developer: Telltale Games
  • Publisher: Telltale Games
  • Similar Games: The Other Games In The Series

To paraphrase what Justin Luchinski said in a relatively recent podcast, there’s not much more to adventure games than retrieving/using random items and hoping it forwards the plot. Pretty boring.

I don’t want to come out and say that’s the case with Monkey Island, because I still get hate mail from the time I said there’s not much more to Final Fantasy VI Advance besides wandering around and fighting 10,000 identical random battles, but Justin has a really good point. I just need to find a way to reword what he said and apply it to this game without using descriptive phrases like “pure drek” and “so linear that it’s basically watching a movie instead of playing a videogame, just like Phoenix Wright.”

So let me start over.

wife
Elaine and Guybrush apparently got married when I wasn't looking. That's interesting, because the last thing I heard, there were problems with the wedding ring.


Hi! My name is Michael, and I’ve been told that I absolutely have to start playing Monkey Island games, or else pirates will attack me in my sleep. From what I can tell, there are three main reasons why Monkey Island is the greatest point-and-click adventure series ever:

  1. The puzzles are really well done.
  2. The jokes are super funny!
  3. Monkeys and pirates are involved somehow.

I’ve seen bits and pieces of the other games, so I know the general plot of the series. You star as Guybrush Threepwood, Bumbling Pirate. He’s supposed to save the world (and his wife) from the evil zombie pirate LeChuck, but inevitably, Guybrush messes up somehow and makes the situation 100 times worse. Plus, Voodoo Lady is involved. That’s the plot of all the games, right?

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal begins with Guybrush attempting to stop LeChuck with some magical root beer. The game’s automatic hint/control scheme spoon-feeds you through the game’s system of using/combining items in order to get the root beer. Guybrush then promptly drops the root beer, so now he has to find some more, and the automatic hints go away.

Suggestion to Game Designers: Don’t get rid of automatic hints before the player has solved the first puzzle of the game.

Can You see the hidden objects in this picture? I can't.

So now I’m on a boat with various items I can look at, but can’t interact with (like the door). What does this have to do with root beer?

Hmmm.

Hmmmm…

I have no idea what I’m supposed to do right now. Why did the hints go away?

[Fast forward ten minutes. Absolutely nothing has changed.] Seriously, I have no idea what to do! Stupid game!

[Fast forward another ten minutes.] How is this supposed to be fun again?

[Fast forward another ten minutes.] I give up. This game is stupid.

what
Asking Elaine what to do causes her to give you a hint...just kidding.


It turns out the solution to the puzzle is to use your cutlass on the offscreen item you can’t see, use that on the other offscreen item you can’t see, close your eyes, tap your heels three times, say “There’s no such thing as making sense! There’s no such thing as making sense!”, and presto! Instant root beer! Only Guybrush screws up again, the root beer catches on fire (there’s no such thing as making sense, remember?), the ship explodes, and I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth. This is supposed to be a well-done puzzle? A puzzle whose solution is “use random items on each other for no reason”?

Let me make a brief change to that list of reasons to play this game.

  1. The puzzles are really well done. WRONG
  2. The jokes are super funny!
  3. Monkeys and pirates are involved somehow.

Sadly, most of the puzzles in this game have similar, counter-intuitive solutions. As you can guess, it is extremely frustrating and annoying to waste your time trying to solve illogical puzzles. Eventually, you get reduced to using the strategy of “try out every single item you have until you find the one that that works,” which negates any sense of accomplishment for solving a puzzle.

Note from Editor: Ignore everything Michael just said. The puzzles are perfectly logical and make tons of sense. You just need to be in the right mindset to be able to understand them.

Note from Michael: …Drunk?

Note from Editor: You’re fired.

So much for puzzles. What about the hilarious jokes we were promised in obnoxiously large font?

A dry, dry bone.
Um...ha ha?


Almost every joke in the game has the exact same setup: something happens, and Guybrush makes a wry/sarcastic comment. For example, if you pick up a pink unicorn item, Guybrush might say something like, “Oh boy, a pink unicorn. That’s something no pirate can do without.”

At least, I’m guessing that’s how things are supposed to work. As you can see in the above picture, Guybrush doesn’t tell jokes that are obvious or straightforward. To be honest, I can’t tell if Guybrush is making jokes, or just being weird. Weird can be funny sometimes, but in general, I was more confused than amused by what Guybrush said. Most of his dialogue is as random as those puzzle solutions! Perhaps what this game really needs is a laugh track.

The good news is that I’m only talking about 80% of the jokes in the game. The other 20% of the jokes are, as promised, rather amusing and jolly good fun. You can certainly look forward to them, but don’t expect to see anything so incredibly hilarious that you’ll hurt yourself laughing.

joooke
Is that supposed to be a joke, or is it just weird dialogue? I can't tell.


So let’s make another minor change to the list of reasons to play this game:

  1. The puzzles are really well done. WRONG
  2. The jokes are super funny! WRONG
  3. Monkeys and pirates are involved somehow. CORRECT

Monkeys and pirates do appear in this game. There are fourteen monkeys and five or so pirates. One out of three isn’t bad, I guess.

List of Other Things I Want To Mention Before Concluding This Article:

  • The controls are not as bad as Paul Franzen makes them out to be. Click and hold the mouse on the left-hand side of the screen, and Guybrush goes left. Simple, even if Guybrush does get trapped in corners sometimes.
  • The French guy is the most annoying character I’ve seen in a while.
  • Why is it that the characters feel compelled to snap their fingers so often?
  • I’m annoyed at the fact that whenever you pick a dialogue option, Guybrush says something different. Why bother pretending to give people dialogue options when he’s going to say whatever he wants anyway?
  • Halfway through the game, I decided to stop because it wasn’t fun(ny). Instead of playing the second half of the game, I watched it on YouTube, and surprisingly, the enjoyment factor immediately went up by 50%. That is, once I no longer had to worry about fighting the puzzle system, I was actually entertained by this game. I was surprised, to say the least.

The new character

I want to say something nice about this game in conclusion, but to be honest, I can’t see much about this game that would appeal to someone who isn’t already a Monkey Island fan. The puzzle system is so bad that it completely ruins the game, only about one joke in five makes sense, and I can only presume from the abrupt ending that the Tales of Monkey Island game was split into five games in order to make more money. So much for being the best game ever.

  • GameCola Rates This Game: 3 - Bad
  • Score Breakdown

  • Fun Score: 2.374 - Less fun than a barrel of monkeys.
  • Novelty Score: 2 - It feels exactly like the other games in the series, but that's probably not a bad thing, right?
  • Audio Score: 5 - No real problems.
  • Visuals Score: 3 - Ew.
  • Controls Score: 5 - Average.
  • Replay Value: 1 - I'm not playing this game again.
4 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 104 votes, average: 3.00 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)
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About the Contributor

Michael Gray is a staff writer for GameCola, who focuses on adventure games, videos and writing videogame walkthroughs.

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