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Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Review

So to conclude this review...

Woo In case you just can't be bothered with reading the whole review (hey, I can't blame you), I will start with the conclusion: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, the first episode in Tales of Monkey Island, is good. Very good. The next four episode can, of course, go any which way, but what we have here is the beginning of something that potentially is not just better than Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island, but something which could also challenge LeChuck's Revenge as the best game of the series

Approach Narwhal with an open mind, forget everything about the last game -- although I still maintain Escape was underrated, obvious flaws aside -- and you will instantly get into a Monkey Island mood not experienced in more than ten years. And I mean "instantly" literally -- even the start and option screen screams Monkey Island.

As we join Guybrush, we are seeing the end of an adventure which will often be referenced throughout the episode, though never fully explained. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark and you get the gist of it. The end of the previous adventure will serve as the beginning of the next, and the "tutorial level" ends with LeChuck turning into a human form, and Guybrush being knocked into the sea. Cue the intro, and the meaty part of the game starts on Flotsam Island.

I almost cried after the theme tune.

- The Tingler, not afraid to show his soft side

It's business time...

Woo While various screenshots and videos might have given you a general idea what the game will feel like, actually sitting down and playing Narwhal gives you a whole lot more of a positive experience. The game actually looks very similar to Curse, more so than the screenshots ever revealed, while still having its own unique feel. The characters are nicely designed and beautifully animated, and while again it's hard to compare one episode to full games, Narwhal certainly has as good of a pirate-y atmosphere as Curse has, largely thanks to its graphics. I had expected Curse to win out because of its rich details, but really, Narwhal is no worse in that department, and has the advantage of dynamic cameras and a crazy amount of subtle, fun animations.

"Pirate-y" is probably a welcome word for those who weren't crazy about Escape. Narwhal is less of a social commentary and more of a pirate adventure than the fourth game was. In fact, the non-pirate parts here are very similar to Curse's barber shop and Revenge's library: modern-day settings with a swashbuckling twist.

The plot -- which you can read more about in the Mojo preview, and I won't spoil here -- works well, and progresses nicely through the episode. It is the dialogue, though, that really shines, and the humor from the previous games are captured perfectly. There is definitely a tone that is more similar to Revenge, with modifications similar to the last two games that fit the voice actors better. And with the great animations, the humor really excels rather nicely. If you don't laugh as much through Narwhal as you did during any of the previous game, you might just be dead.

Loved it. Puzzles were 'just right', humour hit the mark, and the voice work and animation was excellent.

- jp-30, giving his patented stamp of approval

The hills are alive...

And yes, the voice acting is what some would call "ace." Dominic Armato is better than ever as Guybrush, and delivers a performance that feels even more true to the original character than the past two games. On the flip side, I'm not over the moon to see Alexandera Boyd reprising her role as Elaine from Curse. While she definitely is better here -- and fair is fair, she didn't have many lines last time around -- she always seems a bit overzealous in her performance. Personally I preferred Escape's Charity James' take on the character.

The big question mark in terms of voice acting for many, was how the "new" LeChuck would fare, and really, I think the actor does a great job. He isn't quite up there with Earl Boen, and his laugh reminds me of a smoker's cough, but overall he conveys the character just splendidly.

And if you were worried about the music, you will be pleasantly surprised. The music around Flotsam Island is very similar to that from Revenge (think Phatt Island), while other cues could have been taken straight from Curse. The LeChuck theme from the first part of the game might be my favorite incarnation so far.

To top it off, the music changes based on your movements, iMuse-style.

Ey, I'm stuck. :O

- Zaarin, too manly to use the game's hint system

Well, I'm puzzled

Woo While there, thankfully enough, aren't any monkey-wrench/spanner type puzzles, Narwhal is plenty challenging, with some of the harder ones being an outright joy to go through. Those who enjoyed the Mysts o' Tyme puzzle in Escape will be happy to know that the style of that one will be found here. The puzzles are hard, but not cruel, and if you need help, you can always turn up the hint meter.

There are two types of controls, the one using the keyboard to control Guybrush and the mouse to point-and-click objects being the best. The second is fully mouse controlled, and involves clicking and dragging to move Guybrush. It doesn't work quite as well.

A nice touch is the save games, which have small story descriptions showing the progress of your game. I wish the writing would have been more akin to the earlier games' "Excerpt from Memoirs", but that's a minor gripe.

It must be love

There are some other minor issues with Narwhal, but none that really detracts much from the game. A character model seems to have been used twice, but with the textures I barely noticed. It would be nice to actually enter more of the buildings than just having the proprietors standing outside too, as the indoor locations that you do see in the game are gorgeous.

That is all nitpicking. I mean, really, who cares? Narwhal is a superbly fun episode. The humor is spot on, the locations inspired, and the length is perfect. It took me a good six hours to get through it, although it probably would be faster if you skipped dialogue and exploring. But really, why would you?

Tales of Monkey Island is off to an almost flawless start. That there are four episodes left leaves me a little bit giddy.


  • True to the plots and humor of the original games.
  • Beautiful graphics and sound.
  • Excellent voice acting.
  • Smart puzzle design.
  • Captures the Monkey Island feel perfectly.


  • Some re-use of character models.
  • Being able to enter more buildings would be nice.


Better than I had ever hoped it would be, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal is the perfect start to Tales of Monkey Island.

Agree? Or are you plainly wrong and disagree? Post your comments at Mojo!