Spooks and Spirits
Bringing everything together and wrapping up the crazy tangle of outrageous loose ends that comically unraveled throughout the Tales of Monkey Island series, Telltale Games really pulled out the big guns to make Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God the grand finale that we’d hoped for. This high seas adventure full of voodoo, pirates, and zombies had us hooked from the get go, and anyone who’s followed along with each episode will find the last chapter offers a stellar ending to what can easily be considered some of Telltale’s best episodic work to date.
If you haven’t caught up with previous episodes and our past reviews, you’ll likely want to do so before reading any further. Players who remained uneasily suspicious of the apparently reformed LeChuck and his super do-gooder attitude in the past chapter were rewarded for their caution when the dread pirate showed his true colors towards the end by running Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Pirate, straight through with his blade. In most cases, it’s not a very good sign when the hero dies in the middle of the adventure with unfinished business lingering. But in this case, it’s the perfect way to kick off Rise of the Pirate God. Revenge is always sweet, particularly when it comes from beyond the grave.
Killing Guybrush, regaining his unholy voodoo power, and making off again with Elaine to turn her into his demonic bride puts LeChuck in a position to score an epic win. And without a body, it doesn’t seem Guybrush can’t do much to stop him. The good news is the dude still has lots of spirit. Crawling out from his grave, our newly spectral hero wakes up in the crossroads – a distinctly grim and dismal netherworld populated by some of the oddest ghouls around. As unusual as it may be, figuring out how to get Guybrush back into his slightly rotting body on a permanent basis is of the utmost importance. Meanwhile, LeChuck has taken to trashing the world above as his zombie voodoo mojo skyrockets his might to god-like power levels.
There are a few wild moments deeper into the adventure that will test your deductive puzzle-solving skills in the middle of action sequences, though you can get by a large chunk of the game by picking up everything you come across and trying to use it somewhere else that seems to make sense. It’s rare that you’ll actually have to bother with combining any items, since most work directly on their intended hotspot or target with a little thought power and some fiddling. Conversation puzzles, and quite a few other varieties for that matter, do still require you to pay careful attention to both the visual cues around you and the stuff that’s coming out of characters’ mouths. That’s not too hard to do when the dialogue is typically pretty funny and the writing is as solid as ever. It’s also fun to see the goofy face battling gag from Chapter 3 make one final amusing return.
Much of the visual design and direction in Rise of the Pirate God sticks with a really well-done doom and gloom motif that’s a stark contrast to the some of the brighter settings found in past chapters but also manages to fit in just right with the overall style of the series. The bulk of the game flows through completely new territory in the spiritual world. Your introduction to these dark, subterranean waterways and islands comes from a skeletal ferryman with a touch of OCD when it comes to the cleanliness of his boat. Other strange sites you’ll visit include a treasure hunting ground that promises a shovel full of booty with every dig, a sword fighting area guarded by a beheaded fellow and an old friend, a thieves den manned by a handless kleptomaniac, and the mysterious center of the crossroads itself.
Later on you’ll make it back to an apocalypse unfolding in the physical realm painted with a dark crimson hue and fiery plumes off in the distance. It’s all a welcome change. Like a few other episodes that featured lots of previously un-trodden ground to explore, Chapter 5 feels fresh and exciting as a result. And though you do eventually revisit a few key locations from previous episodes, your goals there are new enough and the duration of time you’ll spend there is short enough that the familiarity actually complements the entirely fresh areas.
All the gloominess doesn’t dampen the chapter’s vibrant humor at all. A few of the new spectral characters you’ll encounter have some memorable laugh-worthy moments, and old friends also crop up in ways that are bound to spark fits of sporadic chuckles. For example, the Voodoo Lady only appears in the chapter in various animal forms – among them a talking dead seagull that’s as demented as it is silly.
There are also a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle jokes woven into pretty much every aspect of the game. You’ll find a “Shred of Life” among the first few items in Guybrush’s inventory, and it turns out his actual corpse has been put to good use at the local tavern. Never mind the fact he somehow manages to carry a small dog around in his pocket for most of the chapter – at one point you actually make the poor little guy sniff one of LeChuck’s crusty old zombie socks to get a bead on a necessary item.
The chapter’s final thrilling moments ratchet up to a ridiculous crescendo in one massive action-packed confrontation between the reanimated hero, his re-reanimated nemesis, and a whole bunch of other bony folks. When the smoke clears, things end off in a satisfying way that brings some measure of closure to the overarching story in the Tales of Monkey Island series, while leaving room for – and all but promising – more adventure to come. We’ve been steadily impressed with the level of finesse Telltale has applied to the series. It’s definitely one that was worth reviving, and they’ve done a marvelous job all around.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
A ton of wickedly designed fresh settings make this a standout chapter. 3.8 Control
Fifth verse, same as the first… four. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As always, excellent dialogue and voice work keep the adventure buoyant. 4.2 Play Value
Some clever puzzle work and manic action towards the end make for a good time. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.