Thank goodness, the first one wasn’t a fluke. Telltale’s episodic Monkey Island revamp kicked off on a splendid high, and this second episode is easily up to the first’s satisfying standard. Strong puzzles, funny writing and a fantastic new villain in the form of Morgan Le Flay, a sexy pirate hunter who’s simultaneously Guybrush Threepwood’s biggest fan and greatest threat in ages. Phew. Put down your spears; the franchise still seems to be in good hands.
As a Monkey Island game, there’s really only one problem, and your mileage may vary on how much it matters. This episode, The Siege of Spinner Cay, casually introduces and largely focuses on an underwater civilisation of merfolk, which really doesn’t mesh with the previously all-human Caribbean setting of previous games. A supernatural layer of ghosts and zombies just fits the vibe better than one of sea monsters and outright fantasy elements.
Ironically, the formerly undead LeChuck suffers from almost the exact opposite problem, thanks to his transformation into a squishy human in Episode 1. His new ‘good’ persona doesn’t yet square with the fact that he was a complete monster back when he was alive, too, and he wasn’t even undead for all that long. He’s gone from being powerful but gullible to being almost too dumb to breathe without instructions, which feels almost... sad.
On the plus side, his lobotomy does lead to some great scenes of Guybrush finally having the upper hand. The puzzle where he tries to teach LeChuck to solve problems the Threepwood way (“Use breath mints... on yourself!”) is absolute gold, and the episode’s highlight.
Individual plot quibbles aside, it is good to see Telltale actively putting their own stamp on the franchise, especially when it comes to the character relationships. Guybrush in particular is increasingly more reminiscent of the arrogant, comically overconfident jerk of Monkey Island 2 than the blander version seen in the other games, and that’s a good change – he’s far more interesting that way. With the hints that he’s only going to get darker, and with Le Flay as the standout character sorely missed from last month, this voyage is shaping up very well indeed.
Sep 14, 2009