Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood
First posted on 03 November 2009. Last updated on 14 December 2009.
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
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood takes the story back around to the sites, characters, and locales of the first chapter in the series, as Guybrush Threepwood returns to Flotsam Island to serve trial for his crimes committed in escaping from the island and spreading the voodoo pox. Most of the characters are familiar from Guybrush's first trip to the island, but a few new characters have also been added, including a judge who sidelines as a barkeep as well as Stan the salesman from the original Monkey Island series who now serves as Guybrush's prosecutor, complete with his reality defying jacket. Guybrush will have to deal with a quartet of partially trumped up charges, his sick and insane wife Elaine, and the nefarious Marquis de Singe.
The initial courtroom setting and challenge of having to cross-examine and refute individual witnesses is reminiscent of the popular Phoenix Wright series (on the Nintendo DS). As in that series, Guybrush will have to do a little outside the court investigating to find the evidence he needs, although his methods have more to do with slyly subverting the system of pirate law than getting at the truth of a case, since Guybrush is more or less guilty of most of the crimes he is accused of. In addition to his legal complications, Guybrush will have to deal with Morgan LeFlay, who has sold him out for the proverbial 30 thousand pieces of silver, as she comes head to head with Elaine who is already driven mad by the pox. The culmination of the game will have Guybrush exploring the island once more in an attempt to uncover the real source of all his problems over the years.
As the series progresses onward, Guybrush's relations with Morgan, LeChuck, Elaine, and the voodoo lady only get more interesting—Guybrush will come to view each of them in a new light over the course of this chapter, and Morgan and Elaine are finally able to have a catfight over Guybrush. While the game's humor is mostly on an even keel of small gags and bits of cleverness, there are some scenes that really shine, such as Guybrush talking to himself in prison playing the role of both a lawyer and a client as well as the theatrics of Stan and Guybrush in court as they play up the drama of his trial. At a certain point in the game, however, the story takes a break from its whimsical underpinnings to turn deathly serious. The music even drops out as the plot takes a turn for the morbid, and no joke or wisecrack from Guybrush really seems appropriate to the situation. The decision to make the game take on darker themes, in the context of a series that has been fairly carefree, seems like an attempt for the series to "grow up", which I am not entirely sure I approve of. The first 2 Monkey Island games can be interpreted as Guybrush's self-conceived adventures hanging around an amusement park with his brother "Chucky", and even in the later games, while Guybrush and his nemesis may fight to the death on a daily basis, nobody ever gets hurt. Of course, it is highly unlikely that the series will close on a tragic note or that the series will ultimately end in ways other than giving everybody a happily ever after, but some of the emotional chords hit in this chapter seem out of place for a Monkey Island game. While the plot has been the driving force for the series even more than its puzzles or jokes, I feel this game has caused the seriousness of the story to get in the way of the fun, for at least a little bit. The ending of the episode falls on less of a flat note with its chosen bit of drama, and it succeeds in raising the stakes and the interest level for the final episode. Looking back at the rest of the series, it is obvious that all of the plot points and beats of story have been carefully paced to lead up to the final chapter.
There are a couple of medium sized tangles of puzzles that the player will have to work through this chapter. Guybrush is given the usual collection of independent quests twice over, and there are a pair of scenes which require him to figure out a puzzle particular to a specific location. The courtroom scene is by far the most satisfying out of the game's main sequences. While the latest voodoo recipe Guybrush has to work on requires some creativity, the prospect of backtracking through the jungle to accomplish it means that a fair portion of time is spent on navigation rather than pure puzzle solving. Moreover, although most of the settings and characters will be familiar, the game manages to build on them in some interesting ways and develop them further. Out of all the chapters in the series so far, this chapter does the most to advance the story and challenge the player's assumptions about the characters.
For me, the Tales of Monkey Island series has been a little top-heavy so far. The central characters are all well animated, interesting, and provide the impetus for the game's story, while the supporting characters are considerably weaker by comparison. Guybrush is as entertaining in this game as he has ever been, and Elaine possibly more so, but Flotsam Island does not have as much going for it as the islands of Melee, Phatt, or Plunder in the past. The most interesting new character introduced by the series has been the pirate hunter Morgan. Aside from her, the most entertaining side characters in the series have been borrowed from past games, such as Stan the salesman. What Tales of Monkey Island has succeeded in adding to the series is a strong story that is set to culminate in the season finale, where fans may have to reevaluate what they already know about the Monkey Island mythology and experience it from a whole new perspective.