Last month in my review of Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, I mentioned a meeting with Dominic Armato, voice of Guybrush Threepwood (mighty pirate). During the interview, Dominic said that Telltale Games was "just starting to get into the heart of it," and that "very interesting things were coming up." I had assumed, wrongly, that they were refering to Episode 3's budding friendship between Morgan LeFlay and Guybrush. In actuality, if Dominic wasn't just dropping PR lines, he was likely referring to the most recent episode, The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood. In terms of shocking moments, it makes Leviathan feel like the Phantom Menace, and sets up the next chapter with an ending so epic it has to be experienced by anyone who has ever considered themselves a fan of the series.
Again, I need to remind everyone that the series, while episodic, is a continuous story, meaning if you haven't played Chapter's 1-3, 4 won't make any sense. If you have, however, you'll likely remember Episode 3's ending, with Morgan betraying Guybrush to Le Singe. Upon arriving back at Floatsam Island, Guybrush is grabbed by an angry mob of pirates, saving him from Le Singe's evil medical malpractices, but bringing him to a new obstacle: the court of pirate law. Several townsfolk have blamed Guybrush for crimes he both did and did not commit, and before he's able to use La Esponga Grande to cure the Pox he's going to have to prove his innocence. For the prosecution is franchise veteran Stan, whose arm waving and Technicolor coat make a triumphant return to the series. For the defense, Guybrush is representing himself. He has a lot of work to do.
The return to Floatsam is bittersweet. On the one hand, visiting familiar places is always entertaining, and it's great to see a new spin on an old location. On the other, it's only been three episodes, and I was getting used to, and quite enjoying, the monthly change of scenery. Everything is a bit different this time around thanks to the Pox, which has taken over nearly every pirate in the area; though, to be honest, they don't act all that differently. The only one who seems to be getting the brunt end of it is Guybrush's wife, Elaine, who is all but lost to the curse. The only new area that's opened up is Club 41, the pirate bar from the first episode, but it's so cramped that it's hardly a consolation for the repeated locations.
On the subject of puzzles, Chapter 4's are consistently entertaining, providing some of the most clever solutions the series has seen yet. Again, as I did in past chapters, I find myself smiling gleefully at Telltale's mastery of their craft. Needing to find ways to prove Guybrush's innocence (or convince others to drop the charges against him) provides plenty of opportunities for smart puzzle solutions, and Telltale takes every chance they're presented to squeeze in fantastic situations to play through. Some of the puzzles later in the game have solutions that could be considered somewhat convoluted, but the game's hint system assures that too much time isn't spent wandering around Floatsam.
Though, for as entertaining as the puzzles were, it was a very strange episode. While obviously still fairly funny, Telltale pushed plot in this chapter, filling the story with important moments for the series. The ending, which I'll obviously not spoil, is as shocking as anything that has already happened in the series, and I ran through a range of emotions beyond amusement during the chapter. It's not a complaint, and I don't think anyone is going to be upset at the developers for taking the series in this path, it's just surprising.
While not the best of the chapters, The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood's story progression and cliffhanger ending have me more excited for the next episode than I have been for any of the previous ones. Telltale is trying something different with the Tales of Money Island series, that's to be sure, and I'm happy that I've been invited to come along for the ride. Hopefully the next episode, Rise of the Pirate God, is as epic of a conclusion as it has the potential to be, because the series has set it up to be one of the greatest gaming experiences of 2009.