Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay
First posted on 24 August 2009. Last updated on 14 December 2009.
About the author
Igor Hardy is an adventure game fanatic who is trying his hands on indie game development. His current project is Frantic Franko: A Bergzwerg Gone Berserk, an indie freeware adventure game about a ferocious dwarven warrior and his humorous quest for revenge. A demo of the game is available for download from his website.
For more information on Frantic Franko: A Bergzwerg Gone Berserk, visit a hardy developer's journal.
Tales of Monkey Island
The season is comprised of 5 chapters:
- Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal
- Chapter 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay
- Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan
- Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood
- Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
Another month comes, another chapter of Tales of Monkey Island arrives. Despite being only the second chapter in the series, legions of Monkey Island fans have been eagerly waiting for it to see what will happen after the cliffhanger ending of the first chapter. Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay continues the bumbling "piratey" escapades of Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate™ and delivers an adventure of great energy and splendid imagination.
The second chapter starts off exactly where the first chapter ends—with a blade being pressed against Guybrush's neck. The ambush quickly turns into a full-blown, amazingly choreographed swordfight. The mysterious attacker is revealed to be Morgan LeFlay, a highly skilled female assassin and pirate hunter (sort of Xena of the Carribean) and perhaps Guybrush's greatest (if not the only) fan. Fortunately, Guybrush's fate does not end here. Rather, this is only the beginning of an adventure for Guybrush that will lead to a reunion with his wife Elaine, a tenuous alliance with the now human pirate LeChuck, a confrontation with the voodoo pox stricken crew of Captain McGillicutty, and finally a friendship with several of the more and less mythical creatures of the Caribbean sea—all the while on the lookout for the legendary La Esponja Grande.
Whereas the first chapter sees Mike Stemmle as the director and writer, the second chapter sees Mark Darin (who has previously been the lead designer for Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People) taking on the same responsibilities. This change may explain the somewhat different artistic style that is evident between the games. The storyline is now more swashbuckling, and the characters are more eccentric. Furthermore, the writing and the humor reach the excellence of (dare I say) the original Monkey Island games from LucasArts. Interestingly, many of the jokes are surprisingly filled with sexual innuendos that are a bit uncharacteristic of the franchise. An example of this is the somewhat creepy, sexually ambiguous Anemone, who makes subtle advances towards Guybrush. Even Winslow, Guybrush's first mate on the Screaming Narwhal, engages Guybrush in awkward conversations about his wife's private martial interests.
Still, the new chapter excels in both storyline and character development. It is not hard to imagine Monkey Island, with its iconic cast of characters and mythology, to be irrevocably tied to a tired series of clichés and running jokes that are being perpetually reused. Fortunately, the designers of this game are not afraid to spin the new series with a fresh perspective and deliver a tale that is worthy of the franchise's name. Moreover, they have dived deeper into the characters of Guybrush, Elaine, and LeChuck than ever before. Yet, the secondary characters shine here as well, often stealing the scenes that they are in. All of these are accompanied by the excellent voice acting by the entire cast, particular for the voices of Guybrush and Elaine.
Playing a vital role in this game is the navigational map mounted on the Screaming Narwhal. As the ship is not bounded by the winds of Flotsam Island anymore, Guybrush can now freely traverse the surrounding waters to visit the various smaller and bigger islands nearby. For the most part, the smaller islands are devoid of any special points of interest, except for bits of sand, pieces of rocks, and a few palm trees. Even the city of Spinner Cay, the central attraction of Jerkbait Islands, is visually less impressive than Flotsam Island's windy city of junk, cultured pirates, and mad scientists. Notwithstanding the more unusual residents living there, Spinner Cay is basically just pointy pieces of rocks and corals rising out of the water which does not look particularly attractive or interesting. This means that, despite having great scenes of dramatic swordfights and sea battles, the game is regrettably devoid of memorably or strikingly looking locales. Moreover, some of the new pirate characters reuse models from the previous game.
The gameplay in this chapter is at least a bit flawed. Too many of Guybrush's quests are solved by just having a conversation with a specific character. For the few true puzzles that are in this game, their difficulty level is even lower than that in the previous game. However, this does not mean that the solutions to the puzzles cannot be farfetched. For example, a long sequence of almost implausible clues leads Guybrush to retrieve a long lost precious artifact that any other character in the game can easily discover by chance. There is also an uninspiring fetch quest of haphazardly placed coupons which Guybrush must cover to exchange for items he needs. Traversing the jungle labyrinth can get tedious at times as well. Compared to the first chapter, despite a very fun challenge at the beginning of the game, the puzzles in this chapter are a slight disappointment.
However, my biggest gripe about this game as a whole is the sound quality of the voiceovers. Very often, the excellent voice acting does not fully come through from beneath the unpleasant hisses caused by poor audio compression. At least, this does not affect the beautiful music soundtrack playing in the background, which includes brief references to classic Monkey Island tunes.
Overall, the second chapter of Tales of Monkey Island is not as well-rounded as the first chapter, even if the former surpasses the latter in writing. On the positive side, the story and characters are fascinating, and the humor is brilliantly conceived. On the negative side, the gameplay and production are a bit lacking. The current game is also a bit shorter than the previous game by comparison. Nonetheless, with Tales of Monkey Island, Telltale Games seems to have mastered the art of storytelling in episodic format. In consequence, most Monkey Island fans will be just too engrossed in Guybrush's adventures to concern themselves with the game's few shortcomings.