Tales of Monkey Island Episode 4 – The Verdict
We’re now at the penultimate episode of Telltale’s adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, and it’s fairly easy to say that The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood is the best one yet. Indeed, it’s the best Telltale game out of everything they’ve produced. But at the same time, it’s also the episode that makes it very clear that these singular episode reviews are becoming more and more redundant. Which is a horrible thing to admit in any review, never mind the first paragraph. Bear with me here.
At the end of the last installment, Guybrush and LeFlay escaped from the belly of a giant manatee, and Guybrush has finally recovered La Esponja Grande in order to remove the Vodoo Pox currently ravaging all of pirate kind. However a betrayal from LeFlay sees the pair returning to Flotsam Island from the first episode to face his de facto nemesis (LeChuck without his vodoo pox working for the forces of Good) Marquis DeSinge. It’s a given to assume things don’t quite go according to plan and Guybrush finds himself in Pirate Court on trial for three completely unrelated misdemeanours – for which you must help Threepwood be found innocent, setting up your first puzzle for this episode. This episode also marks the return of a new classic character from the series is introduced and this time it’s the turn of Stan – the salesman with the funky jacket always trying to make a quick buck – who turns out to be your prosecutor, along with the reintroduction of some of the pirates from earlier episodes.
This episode really shows that Telltale have been learning a lot this series. It’s a welcome relief to acknowledge that the rules of three puzzle system that had pretty much been the cornerstone of previous Telltale games finally put to rest, or at the very least be far less obvious this time around. There’s even a little nod to the annoyance of the rather lacklustre sound based jungle navigation puzzle of the first episode. The characters that were largely deadweight in earlier episodes have been culled, leaving only the really defined ones which is a marked improvement on earlier episodes. They feel as if they’ve had far more attention put into them, the bipolar judge/barkeep and Stan being particular highlights in this respect. There was a slight worry – and I know Steve mentioned this in his review of the previous episode – that Telltale would rely too heavily on the fan service to the detriment of the rest of the game, but this episode proves those doubts to be unfounded.
As has been the case all season, this episode continues the tradition of shining in the script department. Dialogue is genuinely funny and some of the scenes are marvellous. Anyone following the story so far knew Elaine and LeFlay were eventually going to meet and not only does the payoff deliver, it does so with aplomb – it’s one of the finest and funniest scenes in the episode. The puzzles are still for the most part well done, but I do hope Telltale start including less locks in subsequent episodes – it has the negative side effect of making it look like they’re slightly running out of steam with the current catch all solution to them with the same one being used three times. Overall they’re tiny components of the overall puzzles and thus a small niggle, but hopefully the last episode is setting up to solve this problem. There’s also a puzzle towards the end that, although makes logical sense once figured out, seems to ignore previously established game logic and might be a bit of a stumbling block. Again though, these are only minor faults in what is overall, an excellent adventure game.
So, back to the original point about this review being largely useless: as it stands, I’m telling you how good each individual episode is. The main problem with the game is that without playing the other episodes, this one is simply not going to make much sense on it’s own. To truly get the best out of it, you’ve got to play through the series. Yet at the same time, the episodes are not available individually. So as a review I’m faced with a bit of a dilemma – why should I mark this episode down because it doesn’t stand well on it’s own when it’s not even available alone? Well, it’s more of a self inflicted dilemma – this episode is certainly good enough to justify a purchase of the entire season. If you’ve been holding off buying until the complete package is out I dare say this may make you bring your decision forward a month, because it’s already worthy of standing proud in your collection and certainly to stand alongside the other Monkey Island games on it’s own merit.
The best TV series provide plenty of “Did you see?” moments the next day you want to talk about to people who’ve seen it, while simultaneously not give away too much to those that haven’t because you want them to experience it themselves. Sam & Max and Homestar became repetitive, and Wallace and Gromit massively ran out of steam towards the end. With Tales of Monkey Island, Telltale have finally nailed it. If the ending to this episode doesn’t make you look forward and excited for the next episode then it’s simply not for you. For the rest of us, The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood cements it – Tales of Monkey Island is good enough to deserve a renewal for another season.