Tales of Monkey Island -- Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God Review
By Chad Montague |
So here we are the end of the Monkey Island season and the gang at Telltale have really outdone themselves with an engaging story and entertaining jokes that pull from the events of the entire season. Spinner Cay, face contests and a reversal of some powerful Voodoo magic all come into play in this enjoyable finale. If only the puzzles had been a bit more challenging, the whole experience would have been just perfect.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven't played through Chapter 4 yet the next paragraph gives away some of the major plot points, for a spoiler-free experience, skip on down past the next paragraph.
Okay, now that the folks who haven't played the last episode are gone, we can tell you that this episode opens up with Guybrush climbing out of his grave and finding himself stuck in the afterlife. Starting with only a Shred of Life and some grave dirt, Guybrush must work with some of LeChuck's other victims in his search for a way back to the land of the living and rescue his wife.
One of the most striking elements of this episode is the fantastic art direction. The starting area is wonderfully cool and gloomy with plenty of humorous character designs. The levels all benefit from great color choices and fantastic lighting effects that really support the mood. After this the game transitions to a dark and fiery setting that's just as impressive.
The characters are also much more defined this time around and there's more to grab onto, particularly with Guybrush. In fact, this is the best performance, in terms of writing, animations and voice acting that Guybrush has had for the entire series. Though there are fewer tender moments here than there were last episode, there's a real substance to the interactions that helps to pull players deeper into caring about the story.
In terms of the puzzles, it's a tough balance between giving newcomers an easy point of entry to the genre while also increasing the challenges for those of us who have been playing since the original Sam and Max. The whole first half of the game basically solves itself, with only a couple of tricky combinations and one basic conversation puzzle to break up the monotony of simply grabbing everything that isn't nailed down.
Things finally get more challenging once you hit the Spirit Gum sequence and players will have to manage multiple elements to get things setup for the solution. This was the first real difficult and satisfying puzzle in the episode, so it's a shame that it comes so late. Things soon settle back into a series of simple collection tasks.
Fortunately, the designers have an even bigger test in store for the season's final sequence. The ultimate showdown is another multi-part puzzle that plays out in multiple stages and has more than a few moving parts. The leaps of logic required to solve this one might be a little too far for some tastes but there's a satisfying progression to all the elements, even if some of them do get a little abstract.
Having said that, one of the more interesting elements of the puzzles is the strong story connection for some of the items you'll be using. Sure, there are simple tools that are made just for the purpose of solving a problem, but a few of the elements you're using, like the Shred of Life, take on more of a significance and character in the story. I don't want to sound too intellectual here, but it's nice that some of the items you encounter aren't defined solely by their function but instead have a meaning that suggests a function.
In case you're worried, the game doesn't try to get too heavy with any of this. There are even a few jokes about the collection elements. It took me a while to realize just what the joke is with the thief, for instance, and I particularly enjoyed the digs at the genre's conventions. At one point someone asks Guybrush if he's been carrying a dog around in his pockets the whole time.
The rest of the humor is just as funny. I've already mentioned Spirit Gum, and you can imagine what connotations that pun carries in Monkey Island. From Guybrush's grave commentary at the opening to the final pronunciation correction, this episode is the funniest of the season. Lines like "Get ready to be touched...to death!" and "Don't slime up the place while I'm gone" had me laughing out loud, but the funniest moment for me was seeing what's been going on with Guybrush's body.