Of all kinds of series redesigns, 2D to 3D transitions are the toughest to pull off successfully. The number of games that have failed on that front are a testament to the number of pitfalls a developer encounters when taking up such a venture - pitfalls that developer Telltale games has so artfully dodged.
As the older gamer might remember, Lucas Art's Monkey Island series kicked off its swashbuckling series of 2D adventure games way back in 1990. You assumed the role of a budding, unlikely pirate named Guybrush Threepwood whose goal to become the most badass pirate out there, took him on some of the funniest misadventures. The series was known for its witty writing, how it parodied almost anything under the sun, and for telling a really awesome tale through four games. The fight - Tales of Monkey Island - has been split up into five episodic games, the first of which is Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.
While the storyline of the last 3D translation of the series 'Escape from Monkey Island' did well commercially, it wasn't the most natural transition of the series into 3D and alienated a large part of the Monkey Island fan-following. Initially, the 3D look of Launch of the Screaming Narwhal was unsettling too, since our beloved Threepwood and the love of his life Elaine looked only vaguely like their 2D former selves. Once you play a bit though, the character design and good voice-acting helps you shed those inhibitions and actually accept their new avatars with open arms. Also, the great visuals, the smooth character animation, and the vivid game world that brims with life, help ease you through the transition a great deal. Even after moving into the realm of 3D, the game's managed to capture its beauty from the 2D days by using a bright color palette, a really detailed, interactive, yet linear game environment, and exaggerated character design.
The storyline picks off where the last left off - after 'Escape from Monkey Island' Guybrush travels the seven seas to collect artifacts to create an enchanted sword that's capable of destroying his arch-nemesis - the zombie pirate 'LeChuck'. The game starts off with his lover-turned-wife Elaine in the dastardly grasp of LeChuck, as Guybrush tries to rescue her and kill LeChuck at the same time - two birds with one enchanted sword. Instead, he mucks up and turns LeChuck human, goes overboard and washes ashore on a certain Flotsam Island, where all winds blow inwards, so no one can leave the island. Your objective in this episode is to fix the winds, commandeer a ship and get off the island so that you can find and rescue your wife.
The gameplay works out pretty much like the old Monkey Island games. Tales of Monkey Island is a point-and-click adventure game, where a lot of the environment is interactive. The gameplay pivots around some intelligent, yet pretty simple puzzles, where the environment and objects from the environment can be used with each other to trigger events or get out of sticky situations. The series' hallmark - its humor - is intact, live and kicking. There are abundant parodies and heaps of sarcastic jokes - the tongue in cheek humor the Monkey Island series is famous for is an integral part of the Tales of Monkey Island experience. During the episodic two and a half to three-hour long game, you're sure to crack up at least a couple of times, if not more.
My only gripe with Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is that it lacks any sort of replay value, and for a game that's just three hours long, that's not a good thing. If you get past that and get your hands on this one, rest assured, you're in for one of the best adventure games in a long time! The entire Tales of Monkey Island series(5 episodes) is available for $35 (Rs. 1700) off Steam. There'll be an episode released each month.
Tales of Monkey Island - Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
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