After many months of item-hunting, pox-spreading and monkey-bothering, the brilliant Tales of Monkey Island series finally comes to a close with Episode 5, Rise of the Pirate God (ROTPG). Be warned, if you haven’t played the previous episodes the following will contain spoilers. So do yourself a large favour — go play them and then come back.
Subsequent to the dramatic conclusion of Episode 4, Guybrush Threepwood finds himself betrayed and murdered by the previously-friendly LeChuck. After his death our now-ghostly hero awakens in the Pirate Afterlife. This spooky realm contains all a dead pirate could wish for – endless Sword Mastery, Thievery and Treasure Hunting-ery (all the Xs you can dig!). However, the rezombified monstrous maggot mating ground LeChuck is running amok in the living world, slaughtering and pillaging with abandon. Worse yet, Elaine is LeChuck’s prisoner and doomed to become his demon bride unless Guybrush can find a way back to the land of the not-so-dead and give his nemesis a swift kick in the buoys.
In his efforts to defeat LeChuck once and for all, Threepwood will travel between realms numerous times in both ethereal and zombie forms, with the benefits and limitations of each form determining what he can or cannot do. The new areas in ROTPG are a little empty compared to earlier episodes, but happily, the design and layout more than makes up for this, and is full of the usual Monkey Island charm. The Afterlife is suitably sepulchral, complete with gloomy mood lighting, while the living world is aflame with LeChuck’s destructive activities. Several acquaintances from other episodes make an appearance, as well as some all-new faces (thankfully with new models too, the bony baritone Boatman is brilliant). Characterisation is very good indeed — all the main players are convincing with oodles of personality and greater emotion than earlier episodes.
The laughs aren’t as abundant in this chapter (although there is some great genre-denigration), and overall the story is a little thin. Puzzles are generally simple throughout with the exception of the final confrontation which is tricky bordering on maddening. One of the highlights is a brief return to insult sword fighting from the original game with the added bonus of being a 3-way duel between Guybrush, LeFlay and a headless swordsman. There is a lot of going back-and-forth which can become tiresome (despite cruising around in a creepy heavy metal album cover longboat), and is a departure from the well-structured challenges in previous chapters.
Despite having many good points, ROTPG does not quite provide the epic climax to the series that it should have. The quality is good, but just not up to the standard of the other episodes. It still makes for a great time though, especially when seen as part of an excellent whole. We won’t take “please stop stabbing me!” for an answer — go out and get the series. At $35 for all 5 episodes (around R260 at time of writing), it’s sheer plunder. As a whole, Tales of Monkey Island is a ridiculous amount of fun.