There’s a shock ending to the penultimate episode of ‘Tales of Monkey Island’ that makes talking about the final episode almost impossible without including a galleon-load of spoilers. So there’s your warning – if you’re some kind of adventure game jessie who’s afraid of a few little plot reveals, look away now.
Right then. So Guybrush is dead and this final episode opens with you clambering from the ground like a zombie in a Michael Jackson video. At first you explore the land of the dead in ghost form, later upgrading to zombie form. There are rifts in the fabric of the universe caused by the tomfoolerific shenanigans of the villainous undeadnik, Le Chuck. You can therefore move back and forth between the spirit realm and the land of the living in either ghost or zombie form for a fair bit of the game, and both types of spook can achieve things the other can’t.
Of course, it’s all played for laughs, but there’s a fairly interesting mechanic going on here for an adventure game, and seeing as this is just one chapter of a 5-chapter ‘set’, it just goes to show how much thought and imagination has gone into the whole thing. Another example: the classic insult swordfighting is embiggened and complexicated with a three-way sword duel (tripel?) where you need to reply with a witty putdown to one opponent and a motivating comment to the other – however, you can only give one answer that needs to apply to both opponents. Hats off to the development team here. They’ve taken the original monkeyness of the classic games and retained it whilst building something new into it.
Of course, being a further part in an existing game means that many of the problems with the previous ones persist. The graphics, while cartoony, are poor. Which is a shame, because the actual settings are conceptually really imaginative and interesting. The characters and voice-acting remain of a pretty good standard and the puzzles are varied and challenging yet not too fiendish.
For a game set in a kind of purgatorial in-between-worlds, there’s a suitable amount of trudging. Sometimes you’ll do something in the real world only to return to the spirit world, trudge for a while, then return to the real world (in a different undead form) in the exact same place as you were when you started. Scattering the portals throughout the spirit world is all well and good, but if they’d been clustered together it’d mean far less unnecessary footwork.
The climax of the whole adventure, the final scene, is well imagined and suitably exciting, but why oh why did they insist on bringing back the old Monkey Island 2 approach of timed scenes? If you don’t do whatever it is you were supposed to do in about six seconds, you get moved to the next screen. If you needed to do something on that previous screen you then have to twiddle your thumbs until you time out another couple of times to get back round. And in my book, punishing players by making them sit around and waste time ain’t fun, and it ain’t good game design.
But enough about the flaws. I really enjoyed this episode overall, as I did with all the others. It’s a good way to pass the time, and a pleasing conclusion to the series.