Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God

Posted by Mark Newheiser.
First posted on 20 December 2009. Last updated on 20 December 2009.
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Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
Guybrush cannot catch a break, even after dying.
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
Guybrush sees his worst fears realized as LeChuck claims Elaine.
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
LeChuck sails as the sight of the undead crossroads looms above him.
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
Even in the pirate afterlife, Guybrush's fate comes down to finding enough loot to ride the ferry in the land of the dead.
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God
Facing down an undead army, the future has seldom looked worse for Guybrush.

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

For Tales of Monkey Island fans, the previous chapter closed with a number of shocking plot twists and an implication of big changes being on the horizon for the series finale. Will Guybrush truly pass the torch of pirate heroism on to Elaine so she can avenge him? Has Guybrush's luck finally run out for good? The final chapter, Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: The Rise of the Pirate God, picks up with Guybrush in the pirate afterlife, where he has to bridge the gap to rejoin the living, save Elaine, and settle his score with LeChuck once and for all.

Elaine's brief heroic moment where she attempts to avenge Guybrush at the end of the previous chapter ultimately goes nowhere, and Guybrush has to once again rescue her from LeChuck's clutches. Predictably enough, the pirate afterlife breaks down into a triad of locations inspired by the trio of quests from The Secret of Monkey Island: Swordfighting, Thievery, and Treasure Hunting. Guybrush scours the afterlife for ambiguously specified ingredients to complete a voodoo spell, and eventually his scavenger hunt takes through the world of the living and the dead to complete the voodoo he needs to stop LeChuck.

The main theme of the new series has been interpreting the old series' familiar characters in a new light, from LeChuck's changing personalities, to the infestation of the pox, and finally to Guybrush's and Elaine's transformations in this climatic chapter: Elaine becomes the demonic bride whom LeChuck has always wanted, and Guybrush takes a page from LeChuck's playbook and returns to the physical world as both a ghost and a zombie. The voodoo lady makes a few appearances, although her efforts seem much more manipulative than before, as the other characters gradually learn that she is responsible for the never-ending battles between Guybrush and LeChuck.

The final chapter offers some innovations in gameplay compared to the typical inventory mix-and-match in prior chapters. The swordfighting challenge is a very clever take on the concept of insult swordfighting, where Guybrush now has to match his comebacks to 2 different statements in a way that makes sense with both rather than just one of them. Aside from the return of the conflicted Morgan, the main character that stands out this time around is a thief whom Guybrush has to pit his wits against and who turns out to be one of the most entertaining supporting characters that the series has yet seen. The finale is reminiscent of previous Monkey Island games, where Guybrush is thrown around by a vengeful LeChuck as he tries to find a way to turn the tables.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from some conspicuous backtracking in how its locations are laid out: there are a few times where the game explicitly tells you where you need to go next, and you realize you have to wait a bit longer before being given a genuine puzzle to solve. Near the end of the game when Guybrush faces his final scavenger hunt, the relevant locations he needs to visit are spread out between irrelevant scenery which he has already visited. Like the previous chapter, the game follows through with a Monkey Island tradition by going through a giant voodoo recipe with a liberally interpreted ingredients list, but the new series deals with the puzzle convention differently: in the old series, the voodoo recipe is typically after the culmination of a sequence of puzzle solving and most of the required ingredients are already at your disposal, which require you to take an item that you have already used and figure out a new way to look at it; in the new series, because of their smaller scope and smaller inventories, the voodoo recipes typically represent a claim on your future actions by telling you the items you need to go looking for, rather than causing you to reinterpret what you already have, so that the voodoo recipes most often make use of items that have no other purpose than to fulfill the recipe's requirements.

Stylistically, the pirate afterlife is not as dramatic or as mythology ridden as, for example, the Realm of the Dead in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. The post living world is mostly empty and somber, and there is not a very clear picture of how the undead pirate world operates. Guybrush's reason for not exploring the afterlife more fully is due to the desperate urge to follow in the footsteps of LeChuck and cross over to the other side. The final chapter tackles some of the big questions that underlie the new series: why LeChuck keeps returning to trouble Guybrush and Elaine, why Guybrush and LeChuck are doomed to fight each other, and how Guybrush and Elaine will ultimately stand with each other.

The strength of the Tales of Monkey Island series has always been its fresh takes on the characters and strongly driven story. This final chapter succeeds in both respects. At its heart, the new series is a story spaced out by the usage of puzzles, rather than a long series of puzzles in search of a story. Its weakness is due to the smaller scope of the episodic format, the disadvantages of reusing the same locales and characters, and an occasional imbalance between the strength of the central story arc and its characters with the side quests and supporting characters encountered along the way. The Tales of Monkey Island series has taken some bold steps in reinterpreting the Monkey Island mythos, and while the series succeeds in wrapping up a number of the big questions it presents, it seems set to explore them further in the future.

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