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
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
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
The fifth and final episode in the Tales of Monkey Island
series. It's best to play the previous four episodes before trying this
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
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
Intel Core i5-750
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce