Tales of Monkey Island Episode 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Wii Review

Guybrush Threepwood has to be one of the most unfortunate names for a game character lead. If the Mighty Pirate happened to be a real person, his name would probably result in many taunts and name calling, although as a games character, Threepwood is widely regarded as one of the best there is.

Prior to this new series, the character had starred in four Monkey Island games, dating back as far as 1990 in The Secret of Monkey Island, and last appearing in 2001’s Escape from Monkey Island. The series has many fans who have enjoyed the games for their clever puzzles, as well as their amusing humour.

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is the fifth game in the overall series and the first in a five part series (don‘t look for it on the shelves, at the moment it‘s exclusively downloadable on WiiWare). Telltale Games, the developer that has been keeping the genre alive and well in recent years, have taken over development duties as, much to the dismay of many; LucasArts haven’t made a new game like this in years.

Being founded by a number of ex-LucasArts employees, Telltale games have quite a pedigree, though, and continue to concentrate on point-and-click development, with the likes of Strong Bad, Sam & Max and their Wallace & Gromit games. Fans of the Monkey Island series will be delighted that Telltale have brought the mighty pirate back after nearly nine years away.

The first game in this brand new series sees Threepwood (following an encounter with arch nemesis, LeChuck) become trapped on Flotsam Island. Once on this island, as the wind is always blowing inwards, sailing out to sea once again is an impossibility, add in a misbehaving hand, a captive wife, and the mighty pirate has a few issues that are needing of some serious attention.

Being on the Wii, the controls are great, using the nunchuck to roam around and the pointer of the Wii remote to talk to people and to investigate your surroundings. You’ll be doing a lot of investigation in order to get off the island, therefore, despite being a mighty pirate, puzzle solving makes up the bulk of the game.

Speaking of puzzles, there’s quite a few clever ones to be found in this first episode. The game only has a small number of locations to visit, though the puzzles are well spread out across them, and if you really get stuck, a hint system has been included to help guide you to the solutions.

Graphically, the game is cartoon-y, bright and appealing. There’s a certain Disney-esque appearance to it, and the characters are filled with as much personality as Threepwood’s misbehaving hand. Sadly, the visuals are let down by a chuggy frame-rate, which did impact my enjoyment a little. Moving from eyes to ears, the music is wonderfully pirate-y and fans of earlier games will be pleased to hear (literally) that much of the voice cast have reprised their roles. The voice acting happens to be very, very good too, backed up by an excellent and amusing script.

Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal isn’t a very long game (3-4 hours), although the continuation of the story in the remaining episodes is sure to make it feel more like an ongoing series (and better value for money), when compared to other games from Telltale. I, for one, am looking most forward to episode 2.