Tales of Monkey Island for Mac
When I last discussed Tales of Monkey Island I was filled with a sense of optimism. In spite of several flaws with the overall gameplay, the story remained true to its roots and sparkled with the prospect of reclaiming what was once great about the Monkey Island series. I dug into the remaining four chapters, hoping to find an experience built upon a franchise I have always admired. Unfortunately after suffering through mediocre controls, uninspired level design, and antiquated plot twists, it became clear that ToMI rests too much on its namesake rather than expand upon its heritage, leaving me with a nostalgic yet stale experience.
In my review of ToMI Chapter 1, I cited numerous complaints with the controls but chose to hold off on a final judgement until I completed the remaining chapters. After completing the ToMI series, I can confidently say that the controls are subpar, at best. Every movement became a struggle between the main character Guybrush Treepwood and myself as we apparently each had different ideas of what were important locations onscreen. It felt like I was attempting to guide a child with ADD through a store of bouncy balls and tin foil as Guybrush would gravitate towards every wall and sign post placed in his path. I expect the controls in a game consisting of little more than walking to feel fluid, but ToMI‘s stiff controls were a surprising disappointment.
Another flaw I found with ToMI was the chapter system it incorporates, which serialized the game into five complete, albeit lacking, sections. Each chapter had me explore a new location in the Caribbean, including a treasure island and the innards of a giant manatee. However each section is only a few hours in length, preventing the player from performing any extensive exploration. Each level is therefore relatively small in searchable land in order to better accommodate these time constraints, often forcing the puzzles and characters to be crammed together. In one chapter I was tasked with finding a person lost in the gigantic cavern within which I was trapped. Within seconds of receiving this quest, the camera panned over to show the very person I was searching for standing right next to my ship. In another instance, I had to find someone to repair my ship and another to sell me some bait. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the ship repair/bait shop! If the developers had spent their time creating a continuous world, ToMI could have been as rich an environment to investigate as the original Monkey Island games. However as it stands, most levels felt cramped and the overall experience was disjointed due to ToMI‘s use of chapters.
No matter what critiques I can find with the gameplay, they’re ultimately irrelevant for such a title. Gameplay is not why one buys ToMI, as any Monkey Island fan will tell you, because it is the story that gives the series such a timeless quality. ToMI shines in this regard as it successfully reproduces the classic Monkey Island sense of humor, but it unfortunately does little to expand upon its roots. Every pirate-y pun and quip uttered by Guybrush could easily be just another one-liner from the original series, making the dialogue and story feel rather stale. The character development is lacking, and I expect something new from a series that is over two decades old. TellTale Games has designed less of a game and more of a nostalgic experience as ToMI feels like a ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation from the Monkey Island franchise rather than a new iteration in the series.
ToMI provides many interesting elements, like its witty sense of humor, but they are all classic elements. Playing an episode of ToMI was like watching an episode of Cheers. Sure there are still laughs to be had, but the industry has undergone many periods of evolution and revolution that have ultimately turned the series into a looking glass of a previous era. The story, while still retaining that Monkey Island sense of charm, lacks any significant forms of advancement. In fact, the entire series has lacked any form of advancement since The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge which attempted to provide a satisfying, albeit sad, ending to the series, and that was released in 1991.
The lackluster performance of ToMI is not the end of the point-and-click genre, as the recent success of Heavy Rain for PS3 indicates. Granted that comparing a big-budget title like Heavy Rain to ToMI may seem unfair, but both possess all the elements of a good point-and-click like a strong story and an experience that blurs the line between a game and a movie. However Heavy Rain takes things a step further by providing a much-needed revolution in the interactivity department. Simple additions like refined controls for 3D environments, improved dialogue, and plot twists dependent upon the user’s actions better assisted in immersing me into the overall experience. ToMI just feels dated in comparison and cannot keep up with other contemporary titles.
Tales of Monkey Island’s humor and story make it the perfect choice for those nostalgic Monkey Islanders in search of a trip back into the Caribbean with mighty pirate Guybrush Threepwood. If you’re however looking for a modern point-and-click adventure, I advise you to look at titles like Heavy Rain which show where the industry is heading, not where it has already been.