The point and click adventure genre has never been a tickler of my immediate fancy. I love all the elements of a great point and click (storytelling, adventure, humorous situations), but have never found a game, or development studio that cooked a delectable enough recipe for me to wholeheartedly experience the joys of such a feat.
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
July 7, 2009
Enter Telltale games, a company founded in 2004 and arguably most famous for their work on the Sam and Max series, who, in a unique fashion release their games through monthly episodic installments, instead of, as is normative, all at once.
Telltale are also the blokes behind Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures, a four part whirlwind of a story that we absolutely. Loved. To. Death.
It was through Telltale that my love for the genre ballooned back up to where all I can do is sing the praises of the genre, as told by the studio. No, I am not a secret agent, stealthily blogging for Blast, on Telltale’s payroll, I simply feel when a studio is on their game, the laudatory remarks should be ubiquitous.
Tales of a Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, the first part of 5 in the epic Monkey Island series launched this month, and I enthusiastically and excitedly took part in the swashbuckling mayhem. Did Telltale yet again strike a resounding chord with the oceanic puzzler, or should you patch up both eyes and skip over this gallivanting endeavor? Time to find out!
There are three major game-play elements that Telltale excelled at in Screaming Narwhal and they are storytelling, visuals, and sound. Sound familiar? They should, as every major game, with some exception, is centered on that trifecta, but, in a simplistic point and click style adventure game their importance is heightened to say the least and Telltale was more than up to this task of delivering on all counts.
Without giving too much away, Screaming Narwhal is all about main character Guybrush and his humorous attempts at solving the mystery of the swirling winds that rule Flotsam Island, a location the pirate is washed up upon after an encounter with a voodoo pirate named LeChuck.
Dialogue in Screaming Narwhal is downright scary awesome. Conversational options, a la Mass Effect, allow for multiple emotional responses, and voice acting is absolutely superb. Main character Guybrush Threepwood is a hilarious fellow, who will constantly amaze you with his wit, charm, and total tomfoolery. Dialogue, arguably the penultimate facet of Screaming Narwhal is what makes this game great. If you can’t stand listening to line after line of conversation, don’t play this game.
Visuals, there’s a word gamers have grown to love, and Telltale has crafted a beau-ty with Screaming Narwhal. As you probably guessed, the drama goes down on the wooden rafters of ships, but also in a beautifully rendered town, jungle, and a French scientist’s laboratory! Characters models are highly stylized, with kind of a Team Fortress 2 look to them, and couple that with some the gorgeously cute town setting and lush green jungle, and you’ve got more than enough to enjoy for your entire stay on Flotsam Island.
Maybe my keen ear and love of music skews my attention towards the melody facet of games, but I firmly believe that the musical composition for Screaming Narwhal adds that extra oomph to the experience that, when coupled with the aforesaid wondrous storytelling, is a dynamic and emotionally attractive aspect to the entire experience. From the game’s opening sequence of escalated drama on the high seas to the many humorous encounters Guybrush enters into, the music never detracts, always adds, and enriches the sense of immersion Telltale was so yearning to achieve.
Storytelling, sound, and visuals are all integral elements to the experience of the gamer, but what about how the game actually plays? In a word: excellent.
The pace at which events unfold in Screaming Narwhal is so well constructed that you’ll never feel rushed, dragged, overburdened with tasks. The game is, at its root, a puzzle-solving experience. Sure, your ultimate goal is to learn the mystery behinds the whirling winds, but along the way you must first tackle a number of varied tasks to meet that end. These tasks never, ever feel trivial. Every move you make is important in the ultimate struggle, and you’ll know this, as the game’s inventory system (kind of like your backpack) shows you what items you’ve collected and a simple conversation with a local NPC will remind you of the task at hand.
The control scheme in Screaming Narwhal is executed wonderfully, as it is so simple, yet to useful. A simple click of the mouse can elicit conversation, place a lit bomb in pink underwear (you’ll do that), or shoot a canon, just to name a few. Hovering your mouse over the right side of the screen or hitting the tab button will open up your inventory to make use of the many wares you’ll collect along the way. Basically, the simple system Telltale has borrowed from Wallace and Gromit, works very, very well, and trust me, you’ll appreciate its simplicity.
Finally, Screaming Narwhal is just part one of five in the Monkey Island series, and, as you’d expect, the game ends on a seriously exciting cliff hanger that raises so, so many questions to be answered in the sequel, due out next month. Ahh, what a business model indeed!
Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is a truly excellent point and click adventure game buffed by superb voice acting, gorgeous visuals, alluring and encompassing storytelling, and warm, welcoming, and appropriate sound resting in the background. The only caveat I can throw your way is that the game features a ton of dialogue, and if you’re impatient and choose to skip the conversational scenes to simply finish the game, you’ll end up spending more time on Flotsam Island, as the dialogue is so, so important, and full of clues, not to mention it’s the best voice acting I’ve heard since Mass Effect. Bottom line, if you’re into point and click games, Monkey Island, or just great games in general, you won’t want to miss this one!
Tales of Monkey Island: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is available today exclusively on PC. $34.95 gets you all 5 episodes releasing on a monthly schedule from now until November.
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