Version tested: PC
Even the most optimistic Monkey Island fan couldn't have expected Telltale to nail the feel of the series as well as it managed with last month's comeback release, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. With some excellent writing, generally spot-on delivery and a faithful degree of puzzle nonsense to contend with, it almost felt ungrateful to nitpick at some of the less gratifying elements.
But as well-received as it was, many desperately hoped Telltale would avoid the temptation of recycling locations and assets in the way it did for its episodic Sam & Max games. Having a new episode to play every month or so always sounds like a fantastic idea, but in S&M's case the smaller framework made for formulaic puzzles and less exploration, and effectively removed crucial ingredients from what had previously made a satisfying and fun adventure game.
The good news is that this latest Tale of Monkey is very much Chapter 2, not Episode 2, and feels more like the next part of an epic storyline, in some senses improving upon the elements we saw last time.
Having accidentally infected much of the immediate environment with a debilitating pox, Guybrush Threepwood finds himself on the hunt for La Esponja Grande. Initially stopped in his tracks by a female assailant, Guybrush and his faithful first mate sail on to Jerkbait Island to pick up a trail which, they hope, will reverse the effects and stop the spread of this deadly virus blowing across the area.
While the island's helpful Merfolk inhabitants do everything they can to point the hapless mighty pirate on his way, he finds himself, perhaps unsurprisingly, thwarted at every turn. As is seemingly the law of adventure gaming, you spend most of your four hours of pointing and clicking patiently hunting down three valuable artifacts in order to commence the next leg of the journey - only to find that something else goes wrong in between.
Just like all of Telltale's adventures, the main puzzle structure is pleasantly non-linear, with most of the game's environments available to players relatively early on. This ability to tackle the main problems in any order ultimately goes a long way to reducing the inherent frustration of wandering repeatedly around the same locations. At some point, something clicks, or you notice something that wasn't immediately apparent and off you go.
And if you don't... Well, there's always the hints option. Cuddly old purists might frown at such concessions, but it stops short of making it blindingly obvious what you're supposed to do next, which ought to appease many. At least half the fun of playing these games is figuring out the puzzles via your own lunatic lateral thought processes, and at least three times during The Siege of Spinner Cay, Telltale pulls off that classic trick of making you laugh out loud while hitting upon a crackpot solution.