So, uhh…hey guys.
Man, this is kind of awkward.
I guess I’d better just get it over with.
If you’ve been following my reviews of Tales of Monkey Island—Telltale Games’s latest series of point-and-click adventure games about a pirate, a pox, and wacky hi-jinx, you know I think that, if TMI isn’t quite The Best Thing Ever, it’s at least pretty high up there, ranking somewhere near “cake,” or, perhaps, “taking naps in the shower.” I’ve been consistently giving the games in this series high scores, and I’ve been saying things like, “THIS GAME IS FREAKING AWESOME,” or—this is an actual quote from one of my reviews—”you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least check the TMI games out.” So I wouldn’t be surprised if you, the loyal GameCola reader, having read my reviews, decided to plunker down some hard-earned Washingtons to pick up the whole episodic series, based on what I had to say about the previous four games.
OK, so, here’s the thing: The other four Tales of Monkey Island games are totally great, totally fun, and totally worth your money and time. This one, though? Rise of the Pirate God? If Tales of Monkey Island is Boy Meets World, then Rise of the Pirate God is the season where everyone graduates high school, Corey and Topenga get married, and Mr. Feeny stalks the cast all the way to college. It’s still, you know…kinda fun, but the best parts are all over by now.
I’m going to blame this mostly on the episodic nature of this series. I talked a little in my review of the previous game about how the series’ once-a-month release schedule was becoming a problem for me, because I was starting to have trouble keeping track of the game’s characters. (It didn’t help much that so many of the characters have boring, one-trait, Disney Channel-style personalities, either.) This problem only became worse for me in Rise; not only did the game keep referencing characters and events that I only kind of vaguely remembered, but it also kept building on weird plot twists from Episode 4 that I didn’t really understand at the time and that weren’t adequately explained or even adequately recapped in this game. The overarching plot (Guybrush has to save the world via magic sponge), and the love quadrilateral I had no trouble at all following, and I still enjoyed, but the individual games of this series have just been released way too far apart for me to be able to keep track of everything, and, as a result, when I finished this episode—and, thus, the whole series—I was mostly just confused about what had happened, rather than exhilarated by the completion of a very well-told story.
Of course, this shouldn’t be as big a problem for you, since, at this point, all five episodes in the series are available, so you won’t be stuck playing Tales of Monkey Island for only a few hours every month; you’ll be able to play each episode right after the other. Having played them all, I’m convinced that this is the only way anyone should play this series, and I’m disappointed that Telltale decided to release the games episodically, instead of as a whole, thus making it difficult for us early adopters to follow what’s going on as well as we’d like.
That said, it’s not all skunk cabbage and Quest 64 with this game. It has a strong opening, with cute references to the original Secret of Monkey Island (and to the MI-related scandal that recently rocked Argentina), and a structure that also pays homage to the first game. Rise also has the latest in a series of My New Favorite Adventure Game Puzzles Ever—seemingly every title released by Telltale has one amazing puzzle that I fall in love with, and this one was no exception. I don’t want to go into it too much because I don’t want to completely spoil it, so I’ll just leave you with this phrase: three-way sword fight.
But the problem is that the series’ story comes to a puttering stop in this game, with convoluted and muddled plot twists that would be hard to unravel even if you had been playing these games one after the other, rather than following the play schedule dictated by the games’ release schedule, and that casts a shadow over everything else. It also didn’t help that I felt totally directionless much of the time while I was playing the game. It’s not just the game’s story that’s confusing—several of the puzzles have that “OK, I’ve done that…but I still don’t know what I’m doing, or how to advance the plot at all” feeling to them. (Though, I’m probably just bitter because it took me over a half hour, and an eventual trip to GameFAQs, to figure out this one puzzle, whose answer turned out to be “just move to the left slightly, you dork; the screen scrolls, and there’s more to this room.”)
There’s also this one thing that seriously does not make sense and kept bothering me, because I’ve played way too many Phoenix Wright games, and now I’m trained to spot inconsistencies and shout at people about them. There’s this ghost character, right? At one point in the game, this ghost wants to go through a door, but he can’t, because, as he’s non-corporeal, his hand just goes right through the doorknob, so he can’t open it. But if his hand just goes right through the doorknob…why doesn’t he just walk right through the goddamn door?! You are the worst ghost ever!
Rise of the Pirate God doesn’t at all feel like the epic finale to an awesome series of games—it mostly feels kind of messy. It even ends on a cliffhanger that, instead of making me think, “holy cow, what is going to happen next?!” made me think only, “…huh?”
But that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that Rise of the Pirate God is a Bad Game, and that you wasted your money by purchasing the whole series, rather than just the Really Really Good Games. The limitations of the story in this episode don’t make the jokes any less funny, which is half the reason people play Monkey Island games, anyway, story be damned, and the humor alone makes this experience more fun than not. Nevertheless, this isn’t really the note I’d hope TMI would go out on. Too bad.