Review By: Jared Black
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After escaping from the clutches of an evil Marquis and the ill winds of Flotsam Island in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 starts out with Guybrush in trouble yet again. Guybrush has a sword at his throat, courtesy of Morgan LeFlay, famed (and somewhat surprisingly female) pirate hunter. Morgan is under orders from the Marquis De Singe to retrieve Guybrush’s pox-riddled hand, and after an epic battle on both levels of The Screaming Narwhal she manages to nab it. This leaves Guybrush with a hooked hand as he sails to Spinner Cay, epicenter of the Jerkbait Islands and home to the Mer-folk known as the Vaycaylians, to retrieve his lost love Elaine and find La Esponja Grande with the help of De Cava.
Guybrush finds Elaine almost right away, caught in the middle of a dispute between the Mer-Folk and Captain McGillicuty, a poxed pirate who also aims to get the Vaycaylians’ three summoning artifacts and find La Esponja Grande for himself. Thus Elaine serves as a distraction to McGillicuty while Guybrush sets out to retrieve the three artifacts, which makes up the bulk of the game.
I found the humor in The Siege of Spinner Cay to be improved over Chapter 1 (which was funny in itself), with the funniest bits coming at the expense of LeChuck. Now fully human and weak compared to his former self, he must learn to solve problems in much the same way Guybrush does – with his wits. Unfortunately for LeChuck he’s a bit short in that department, leading to several humorous sequences with Guybrush attempting to guide him along. Of course LeChuck is still much stronger than Guybrush, so he manages to talk down to him all the same. Adam Harrington is cast perfectly as the voice of LeChuck in my opinion, delivering a booming yet self-assured performance that fits his persona perfectly. There’s also some great interaction between Guybrush and Elaine, as well as between Guybrush and several inept pirates. In general there's more "adult" humor as well, with the androgynous Vaycaylians hitting on Guybrush, and Guybrush making several double entendres on his own.
The difficulty level seems to have been ramped up just a bit in The Siege of Spinner Cay, as there were a couple of occasions where I actually used the hint system. In both instances, it turned out that I had simply missed things that I would’ve eventually discovered, and the hint system was of no help as it simply hinted at what I already knew to do (just couldn’t do until I had the right items). None of the puzzles were as ingenious as the jungle map puzzle from Chapter 1 though.
Unfortunately, The Siege of Spinner Cay is marred by some major technical issues. The review code I was given came with a note that Telltale was aware of some technical issues, but promised that they would be fixed by the retail release. Judging by numerous forum posts and Telltale’s own admissions however since the game’s release, that was not the case. In my review build I ran into a number of problems, from graphic glitches to audio problems and typos. For example, if I tried to combine two particular items later after they had been used as intended earlier, the game would jump to the location they were originally used and try to replay the original cutscene. Also, from the top of Spinner Cay at the Bait Shop I was able to “see” and click on the Ocean, which would make Guybrush magically appear on the docks and say his quip. When the scene shifted back to the Bait Shop however, Guybrush had disappeared completely although I could still walk around. Finally, I saw several items simply floating in mid-air, as well as several items re-appear in their original location after I had taken them.
Then there are the typos, which are found throughout the game and (as reported by many) have not been completely fixed for the retail release. Mistakes like spelling “bury” as “burry” and using the wrong instances of “you’re” and “your” simply shouldn’t happen if Telltale is doing due diligence with its Q&A. Finally, the audio seems to be badly compressed in spots, most notably in Elaine’s speech. Telltale has acknowledged this problem is in the final retail release on its support forums, with some customers complaining (perhaps exaggeratedly) that it ruins the game for them. I noticed it and found it slightly annoying, but wouldn’t say it ruined the game by any means.
The audio isn’t the only thing that seems to be badly compressed, as some textures also appear blurry and not nearly as crisp as what I’ve come to expect from Telltale titles. The most notable instances of this are the sky, where the clouds aren’t quite in focus and there are noticeable breaks in the sky, and in a cutscene back at De Singe’s lab where the background is very out of focus and looks horrendous. It seems to me that this chapter may’ve suffered from not only an accelerated release schedule (which could’ve lead to Telltale simply running out of time to fix all of the glitches present in the review build), but also from Telltale trying too hard to keep download sizes to a minimum. I think even dial-up gamers would prefer to wait longer for their game to download, if it means crisp graphics and sound in return. Seriously, the download for the version I played was a mere 173 MB, which is minuscule by today’s standards where demos are often ten times that size.
Content-wise, The Siege of Spinner Cay is a joy from beginning to end and on par with the best Telltale has released to date. Guybrush’s interactions with LeChuck are hilarious, Elaine is featured more prominently, and the puzzles are solid throughout. So in that sense, it feels like the series is starting to really hit its stride, and the last three episodes should be a blast.
Unfortunately, my experience with the game was marred with consistent typos, glitches, and other technical issues that were really distracting, and early reports from other gamers confirm that these problems are still present in the final retail release. I really hope that this isn’t a sign of the type of quality we can expect from future chapters, and that the company will take the time necessary to insure a bug-free experience even if it means delays or longer planned wait times between releases.
Posted: 2009-08-24 14:14:05 PST