Monkey Island games aren’t really known for their complex, twisting plots. Essentially, what you expect is a piratical romp around some strangely-named islands, swashing your buckle with all manner of odd characters, and a scattering of anachronisms and pop-culture references to keep you smiling. That’s what we’ve come to expect, and Telltale games would be insane to change a winning combination.
Tales of Monkey Island Episode 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay’s opening scene is gloriously in keeping with this style. Guybrush and a new foe get to know each other through the universal language of swords in a battle that moves acrobatically around the ship. The adventure puzzle-solving begins in the midst of this fight, and is pitched just right so you’ll have it solved before the tension dies down.
Sadly, I found the action cooling off after this kick-ass introduction. There’s no clear reminders of what happened in Episode 1 (I know I said the plots weren’t all that complex, but when you play the second quarter of a game almost two months after completing the first bit, a little exposition would'nt go amiss), and the plot very quickly becomes “You need to gather the three Macguffins of power by solving a series of linear and arbitrary puzzles, and wandering around a jungle map for a while”.
Aw, maaan. Again? Wasn’t that the plot of the first episode?
So I suppose I was expecting a little more in the way of variety really. It feels so similar to the first episode, I’m afraid that the devs are so worried about trying anything new (and therefore, to old timers, non-Monkey-Islandy), that they’re scuppering their own fleet and keelhauling any real imagination, drunk off a barrel of predicta-grog. Ahem.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the characters have the same shine and polish that they did in the first episode. Old characters develop, and the new characters are wonderfully written and look in keeping with the feel of the thing. Getting involved in the snappy dialogues is one of the high points. It’s pretty funny too, surprising you from time to time and making wry comments on the way adventure games are played. Sometimes the humour feels a little like it's aimed at children, but like the Simpsons, I guess they’re writing it to work on several levels.
Graphically, it’s inexcusably weak. The hand-drawn backgrounds of the original games back in the nineties had a charm that’s been all but lost in the move to 3D. Even with all the graphics settings turned up to max it’s far from beautiful, and the system requirements aren’t really in keeping with these limitations.
All in all, it’s a fun way to spend a few hours, just like the first episode. It’s light-hearted and not impossibly challenging, and the story cruises along at an adequate pace. Sometimes it’s easy to miss something said in conversation and get a little lost as to how to progress – an objectives screen wouldn’t have been a bad idea – but the odd clue in the guise of Guybrush’s musings helps poke you in the right direction, and the frequency of these clues can be modified through the options screen.
I must confess, I was intrigued to know what happens next when I reached the end. The overall story is well-written and paced. My advice for those who have not yet bought it but are curious would be to hang on though, until the story arc is complete and all five episodes are available. It’s all one game, and deserves to be played as such.