With the recent resurgence of the point-and-click adventure genre, one classic series remained conspicuously absent for quite some time. And so, it was to great cheer that TellTale Games announced their revival of the Monkey Island series via chapter-based episodic downloads. Clearly it was a good decision, as with the first chapter, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, the series is now TellTale’s best-performing franchise ever.
Launch of the Screaming Narwhal started the new series off on a high note, keeping the trademark humor, smart writing, and ingenious puzzles well intact. To a degree, that continues with Chapter 2, The Siege of Spinner Cay, though sadly the game isn't quite as engrossing as the first one. The story begins where the first game left off, with Guybrush squaring off with the mysterious assailant that snuck aboard his ship and held him at knifepoint. This is one of the high points of the game, as you must manoeuvre our hero around the ship and set up a wacky and hilarious chain of events that stops the fight and moves the story forward.
Don't worry - he gets into this type of situation all the time
Guybrush soon finds himself on the island of Spinner Cay, home of merpeople, who are very... metrosexual, to say the least. He quickly finds his missing wife, Elaine, and learns that the pox he let loose in the first chapter has begun to infect pirates all over the world. Only wishing to go home, Guybrush is ‘tempted’ by Elaine to find the three sea creature artefacts that he can use to summon creatures that will take him to the cure. He must work with Elaine, the merpeople, and even (begrudgingly) a seemingly-reformed LeChuck, to solve various puzzles and find them. All the while he`ll have to contend with a new villain, the pirate Mcgillicutty, who wants the pieces for himself so he can cure his pox. Conspicuously near-absent from this chapter is the Marquis Desinge, principal foe from `Narwhal`, though his few scenes do hint at something much bigger to come. Once again, the game ends on a cliffhanger that makes you really want to see what happens next.
The puzzles in Spinner Cay are typical series fare, which is to say that you`ll spend 20 minutes thinking of the most off-the-wall solutions only to find that the answer was right in front of you. For what it`s worth, I found that while some where genuinely hard, overall the average obstacle took me less time to get past than in the first game. It`s definitely a positive that the developer decided to nix the grating sound-based puzzles this time around. Unfortunately, there's not a very large variety of items to use in this game, which in turn means that many of them will be used over and over again. The solution to almost every big puzzle in the game hinges on the Pyrite Parrot obtained in the previous chapter. This dampens some of the impact of figuring out the more obtuse problems.
Guy on the right: "Well maybe you should have tied up the raft when we came ashore."
The other side of the Monkey Island coin, the funny dialogue, is also present and accounted for, though I found it wasn't as prevalent this time around. There are plenty of cookie jokes and self-deprecating references, but overall this chapter involves more exposition than anything else, which is fine, but it doesn't have the feel the series is known for. The voice work and other sound is till top-notch, though, and works well towards keeping you entertained in spite of the lack of jokes.
Visually, there's a lot more going on in 'Spinner Cay' than 'Narwhal'. The models for returning characters look pretty much the same, and the merpeople (don't call the mermaids!) make you suitably uncomfortable. The biggest change is the added variety to the environments, courtesy of the large amount of islands you'll visit. From the dank, cold-looking Spinner Cay to the tropical Squillig Island, you won't be staying in one place for too long in this game.
Siege of Spinner Cay seemed a fair bit shorter to me than the first chapter, taking me only three to four hours (about 20% less time). Of course, that length will vary from gamer to gamer according to skill.
All in all, with the solid writing, decent length for the price, and engrossing (if not overly funny) story, Siege of Spinner Cay is a must for any Monkey Island fan, especially if you've already played the first game and want to see what happens next. I wouldn't recommend this entry to series newcomers, as they'll have little idea what's going on, but Siege really wasn't meant for them. It's a very engrossing adventure game, and I can't wait to see what happens next.