Telltale Game's formerly download-only Tales of Monkey Island series is to get a full PC retail release in Europe, publisher Lace Mamba Global has announced.
When the credits roll on Chapter 5 of the newly revitalised Monkey Island, fans will probably breathe a sigh of relief. Though the road to get there has had a few ups and downs, Telltale has pulled it off. Fear not - I'm not going to spoil one precious pixel of how the story is wrapped up, but suffice to say that the ending feels earned, the characters feel like they've developed (at least as much as Monkey Island's wacky sensibilities will allow) and you, the player, should feel satisfied and invigorated by the season-long experience.
Much of this snuggly glow can be put down to the way this 21st-century continuation has tapped into the soul of a game with a distinctive personality, because Monkey Island fans have very specific ideas of what does and doesn't belong in the series. Escape from Monkey Island, released in 2000, is an above average-adventure game - albeit one with some extraneous additions, such as Monkey Kombat - yet fans often treat it as an awkward stepchild, tolerated but never embraced, purely because it just isn't Monkey Island. Tales of Monkey Island shares some of Escape's design foibles, most notably in its needlessly fiddly controls, but nails the personality, so the wobbles in pace and construction are easier to forgive.
Rewind back to the launch of the series, and it's easy to see why fans have been hesitant. Telltale's previous foray into the LucasArts back catalogue had brought us two seasons of Sam & Max, episodic adventures that had witty scripts but sparse gameplay spread too thinly. Telltale's other recent offerings were similarly afflicted. The scatty Strong Bad series on WiiWare and the Wallace & Gromit adventures, the latter episodes of which were rather unceremoniously dumped onto Xbox Live Arcade in one lump, were good but never great, hampered by repetitive locations and puzzle design that was never as inspired as you'd hope. Solid credentials for a company striving to make point-and-click a viable concern in 2009, but hardly up to the exacting standards required to take the helm of the Greatest Adventure Series Of All Time.
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.
Croteam and Telltale Games have independently announced a pair of similar competitions to get dialogue written by you into their games - Serious Sam HD and Tales of Monkey Island respectively.