Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of the Pirate God


Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games & LucasArts

Released:  December 2009

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, Pentium 4 Processor, 512MB RAM, 64MB Video card, DirectX 9.0c


Additional Screenshots



by Becky


Rise of the Pirate God is the fifth installment in the Tales of Monkey Island series, and it's a humdinger. By now the story is impossible to describe without spoilers for those who haven't played the first four episodes. (To read the GameBoomers reviews of the earlier episodes, click here.) So unless you've finished the fourth episode -- The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood -- all the way through to the shocking end, skip to the spoiler free sections of this review.

As the game opens, voices from Trial and Execution echo as the camera pans over tarot cards with Monkey Island characters. The tarot cards manage to be sinister while making Guybrush look ridiculous -- a win-win situation.

The camera then pans across a lonely grave at the Gateway to the Underworld. Epitaphs for various pirates appear on surrounding tombstones. Apparently this is the pirate underworld. (They get their own?)

Clicking around elicits a familiar voice and then a hand breaks through the grave -- Guybrush's ghost will resume his quest to defeat all who oppose him. That would mean taking on LeChuck, the pirates who blame Guybrush for the pox, Death and (possibly) the Voodoo Lady. And that is the short list.

Spoiler Free Description

In Pirate God, Guybrush moves literally all over the map, returning to some familiar places, but mostly visiting a series of new environments. The stylized 3D locations are atmospheric despite their cartoon-like portrayal. The series has veered into increasing darkness; from bright daylight in the first episode, to sunset in the second, nighttime in the fourth and now a darkened cavern above a dead lake. This new environment contains rotating blue lanterns, torches emitting a blue flame, plus towers and gothic windows erupting from the rocks.

The nautical/sea theme pervades, with new water craft ranging from a stately pirate ship to an inflatable plastic turtle. Musical backgrounds include pirate ditties, mystical syncopated voodoo themes, and baleful dirges.

Guybrush encounters familiar characters, plus some new ones -- including a mournful leprechaun-like sage and a specter with a gold tooth and curly tail. (Sadly, Guybrush does not remove or use the tooth.) Voiceovers are topnotch. Facial animation is expressive and character movement is fluid.

Dialogs reveal the trademark Monkey Island humor with absurdities, sarcasm and amusing banter. (You can click through the dialogs.) The plot presents some unexpected twists -- quite an achievement, considering the plot gyrations in previous episodes. Even more surprising, almost every thread in the story is tied up by the end, providing a satisfaction seldom felt at the close of an adventure game.

Pirate God, with about eight hours of gameplay, is a good length for a concluding episode. It installed smoothly and ran glitch free, except that it changed my desktop screen resolution every time I exited.

Spoiler Free Critique

Portals provide most travel between locations, minimizing the still awkward click-and-drag technique for moving Guybrush with the mouse. (The click-and-drag method is similar to that in Sanitarium, but is more cumbersome here.) Squinting at a tiny red arrow whenever Guybrush is moving doesn't create the feeling of "flow" so touted by 3D designers.

Keyboard controls provide an alternative, but don’t solve the problem of the constant readjustments needed whenever Guybrush bumps up against stuff (which is often).

For the first time, I tried using an Xbox 360 controller to move Guybrush, and it was a revelation. I was better at moving Guybrush with the controller after ten seconds than with the mouse after more than twenty hours, through four episodes. This game is better suited to console play with a controller, and the mouse and keyboard are hand-me-down, inefficient substitutes. Portal travel in this episode reduces this shortcoming to a quibble, though I hope this problem is better addressed in future Monkey Island games.

The final battle sequence is dramatic, creative and spectacular, and movement isn't an issue, because Guybrush doesn't take a single guided step throughout. But it's quite violent. Now these are cartoon-like graphics with no blood shown. However, I'm uncomfortable watching this level of violence while frantically solving timed challenges to make it all stop.

Mildly Spoilerish Puzzle Talk

All the Tales of Monkey Island episodes exhibit a high level of professionalism in production values. But Pirate God is distinguished by the way the puzzles are interwoven with the plot and Guybrush's journey through the fractured gameworld when, at times, he himself is both material and immaterial.

Guybrush must transform into a leader in this episode -- not just a "player" -- but someone who influences others who are lost, discouraged or afraid. He will encounter dialog challenges, inventory puzzles, uncovering the essential nature of items, timed sequences, and voodoo spell riddles. These riddles are intriguing because they both send our hero on a treasure hunt and tie into the game's larger themes that are not explicitly realized until the end.

The final cut scene after the credit tantalizes with a suggestion of an ongoing story arc whose direction is yet to be revealed.

Spoiler Free List for Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of the Pirate God

The fifth and final episode in the Tales of Monkey Island series. It's best to play the previous four episodes before trying this one.

Pirates, ships, sea creatures, characters from an alternate "dimension." Voodoo, theft, heroism, a couple of ultimate answers. Combines the whimsical with the dark and the absurd.

Excellent voiceovers, an unusual gameworld. Entertaining dialogs. A few expletives in the final scene. You can click through the dialogs. A bang-up, violent, timed endgame spectacular.

Third person perspective, easy transport through portals, click-and-drag or keyboard movement, point-and-click for hotspot interaction. A Hint system that is occasionally helpful. Handy plot synopsis in the save/load game menu. Plenty of save slots. Appropriate for older children.

Inventory and dialog puzzles, treasure hunting, observation, riddling. No mazes, no sliders, no color or sound based puzzles.

The game series can be purchased via download from the Telltale Games website here.

Aimed at fans of the Monkey Island games, gamers who appreciate absurdist humor and situations, and anyone who has ever said "Arrr."

Final grade: A-

What I played it on:


Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

December, 2009

design copyright© 2009 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index