Tales of Monkey Island: The Trial and Execution ofÂ Guybrush Threepwood is theÂ Mostly Harmless of this series. By saying this, I donâ€™t mean, specifically, that the designers decided to off the main characterâ€™sÂ soulmate in a random aside, then end the game by killing off every single other character weâ€™ve ever met. (Spoiler alert.) I just mean that this game is noticeably darker than the others in the series so farâ€”not only in terms of the story, but also in terms of the puzzles, the inventory items, and also literally,Â considering that the game takes place entirely at night.Â I donâ€™t want to give you the impression that this is a game youâ€™ll be afraid to play with the lights turned offâ€”itâ€™s still playful, still has witty repartee, and still has wacky cameos of characters from the original seriesâ€”but it also adds aÂ Whedonesque element of “donâ€™t get too comfortable, because bad things absolutely can happen.”Â (Hopefully, Telltale wonâ€™t be ruining this in the fifth game by also introducing aÂ Whedonesque element of â€śjust kidding! The bad stuff you thought was permanent totally wasnâ€™t, and everythingâ€™s happy again,â€ť because Â SERIOUSLY JOSS WHEDON, STOP RESURRECTING EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR DEADÂ CHARACTERS. IT IS LAME AND IT RUINS ALL YOUR DEATH SCENES.)
But enough of my…impress-ed…ness…with the turns this game has taken. Whatâ€”you might be asking, if you skipped myÂ last three reviews and have no idea what a Monkey Island isâ€”what, exactly, is this game? Iâ€™ve gone over this a few times now, but the coreÂ gameplay of these point-and-click adventure games involves exploring environments (in this case, an island in the Caribbean), stealing random items (in this case, for example, bacon grease), and using them to solve puzzles (such as winning your own trial and preventing your own execution). You also sometimesÂ have to talk with people in order to progress the game, convincing them to do things, or obtaining items from them. If you mostly playÂ videogames just to shoot people, because youâ€™re a goddamn psychopath, these games wonâ€™t be for you; but, if you think youâ€™d like using your mind to try to deduce how to use a seemingly random collection of items to get from Point A to Point B, youâ€™ll almost definitely enjoy this game.
Of course, if thatâ€™s the boat youâ€™re in, and you haven’tÂ playedÂ any of theÂ TMI games yet,Â you probably shouldnâ€™t be reading this review right now, considering that this is the fourth game in the series; Iâ€™m guessing you wanna start with the first, instead.Â TMI is an episodic series, meaning that its games are short, cheap, and inextricably tied together; if youâ€™re going to play them at all, youâ€™ve gotta start from the beginning, and play them in order.Â This is even more essential forÂ Trial and Execution than it is for any of the previous three,Â as this game takes place in the same setting as the first game, involves characters from all three, and asks you to remember who they are and what youâ€™ve done with them in the past.
Which was kind of a problem for me, actually. Iâ€™ve been following these games as closely as anyone, but nearly all of Telltaleâ€™s new characters have been running together for me. Few of them have distinctive appearances or personalitiesâ€”a flaw common to a lot of Telltale Gamesâ€™s games, actually, as the company seems to have difficulty creating unique and/or interesting characters, generally relying instead on stereotypes and tropes to pass them off as people. (GameCola writer Elizabeth Medina-Gray mentioned in her review of the first Wallace & Gromit game that sheâ€™d be interested in seeing Telltale create an all-new game, instead of using an already-establishedÂ franchise; after playing TMI, Iâ€™m a little wary about this, because Telltale really seems to struggle with finding identities for characters itâ€™s made up on its own.) Youâ€™re pretty much guaranteed to scratch your head a few times, wondering, â€śwas this guy the journalist, or the action figureÂ fanboy? Or was he the guy playing bongosâ€¦.â€ť Â Itâ€™s surprising to me that the company that gave us MorganÂ LeFlay, and the Soda Poppers from their Sam & Max games, also came up with so many cardboard cutouts in this series.
Speaking of things Iâ€™m perhaps unfairly critical about, I noticed something else in this gameâ€”the puzzles are sometimes telegraphed, by which I mean that youâ€™ll figure out the solution to a puzzle before actually figuring out what the puzzle itself is. This seems like something that would come up in adventure games a lot, but Iâ€™ve only really been noticing it in theÂ TMI series, and in this game in particular. For example, youâ€™ll find a pile of metal shavings, and a monkey thatâ€™s magnetic, so you know you need to use them together at some point. Or you find a machine that can have strange effects onÂ Guybrush, but only one of those effects doesnâ€™t reset itself after about a second, so you know thatâ€™s the effect youâ€™re gonna need later to solve a puzzle, whereas the others are just there for fun. Or, when youâ€™re talking with someone, you have like fifteen dialogue options to ask for that personâ€™s jacket, so you know youâ€™re going to need to get his jacket at some pointâ€”even though that point doesnâ€™t come untilÂ much later in the game. Maybe this was Telltaleâ€™s intentional way of trying to make the game easier, or to lessen the gameâ€™s frustration factor, but it takes some of the fun out of solving a puzzle when you can solve it that easily and so much sooner than you need to. This is especially problematic in an episodic game, which, fundamentally, is going to be easier than a full-length game. There are only so many places you can visit and so many items you can pick up in the 6 hours or so that this game takes to complete, and since there isnâ€™t aÂ ton you can do, that means that there arenâ€™t aÂ ton of possible solutions to puzzlesâ€”itâ€™s the difference between a multiple-choice question with 30 possible answers, or one with only three.
Also in this gameâ€™s â€śconsâ€ť column are its controls, which I strongly feel are the worst thing ever to happen to videogames, but Iâ€™ve already gone over that several times now. I also really hate that the antagonist of this series has been an obnoxious French-person stereotype, whose only redeeming quality in four games was one funny line toward the end of this game.
In the â€śprosâ€ť column is, of course, the gameâ€™s plot-twisty story (including a continuation of the love quadrilateral from the past few games, and the now expected cliffhanger), and the gameâ€™s sense of humor. The puzzles are equal parts challenging and entertaining, except for one, which I thought might have been a glitch, to the point where I had to look up aÂ walkthrough to confirm that I hadnâ€™t broken the game. The game is also deceptively long, particularly for an episodic game. I said that itâ€™s only about six hours, but more than once I thought the game was over, and was ready to complain about how ridiculous short it was, but then something crazy happened, and all the sudden I was actually only part of the way through.
The game also has incredibly moody music. Not moody like teenager moodyâ€”moody like something that sets the mood really well. Moody. Mood mood mood. (Iâ€™ve been getting at trouble at work lately for allowing too much word repetition in the reports I edit; this is my way of getting it out of my system.) Itâ€™s not a Chrono Trigger kind of good soundtrack; rather, itâ€™s the kind of soundtrack that adds to the gameâ€™s atmosphere without drawing attention to itself. The songs are kind of indistinguishable and melt into the background; but I think itâ€™s exactly this that makes them excel.
While this game, likeÂ Mostly Harmless of theÂ Hitchikerâ€™s Guide trilogy, is definitely the darkest, itâ€™s not, likeÂ Mostly Harmless, a total downer. Itâ€™s a totalÂ fun-er. Youâ€™re doing yourself a disservice if you donâ€™t at least check theÂ TMI games out, and, if they sound fun to you, youâ€™re doing yourself an even greater disservice if you donâ€™t give Telltale Games lots and lots of money to support them in their comedy adventure game endeavors.
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