Rise of the Pirate God is the final chapter of the Tales of Monkey Island series, and as such, we do need to warn you that if you haven't been keeping up to date with the episodes, there may be some spoilers in this review. Skip down to the end to avoid them, and see our final verdict. The final paragraph would do. Tales of Monkey Island has differed from Telltale's other series by having just one single over-arching plot, which has been cut up into five pieces, rather than self-contained episodes like Wallace & Gromit. The quality of the series so far has remained pretty consistent, so does the final episode round things out on a high note? Avast, let's take a look see.
At the end of The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, Guybrush was, well, executed. As you might have gathered from the fact that there is a fifth episode, dying doesn't stop Guybrush - it didn't stop LeChuck after all, several times. In a very clever role reversal, as LeChuck is the only person ever to return from the afterlife, Guybrush must follow in his footsteps if he's to have any hope of returning to life. Which is quite important, seeing as after his departing, LeChuck has engaged in a full-on assault of the seven seas, capturing Elaine and intending on using the voodoo-sucking power of La Esponja Grande to transform himself into... wait for it, a pirate god. It's a great climax to the story, that's full of funny moments that don't necessarily rely on old characters as past episodes have (Stan and Murray, for instance).
However, the one plot line that may leave some fans confused or disappointed is the resolution to the Voodoo Lady, who may or may not be behind every event in Guybrush's and LeChuck's life for better or worse. She's an ambiguous character, which is fine, but they've called attention to this fact by making her quite central in this series, and then just left her on the sidelines to once again give directions to Guybrush. On the other hand, there's no way we've seen the last of her, as she's as much of a mainstay in the series as Guybrush himself.
At first, the puzzles in this episode seem fairly straightforward, but it isn't long before there are several branching puzzles, with multiple sub-puzzles that contribute towards the whole. It's quite a meaty episode, coming in at around the five hour mark, and there's plenty to do. Guybrush has to explore the pirate afterlife, which is divided into pirates' favourite pursuits such as swashbuckling and treasure hunting. However, after a certain event, the worlds of the living and the dead begin to collide, and Guybrush has to explore both through rifts which take him back to many locations from past episodes, albeit with new twists now that he's dead.
The great thing is that a lot of these puzzles are very funny. Guybrush is sent after items such as spirit gum to tether his soul to his physical body, the pursuit of which and trial-and-error in tasting to find it, makes for some hilarious stuff. They do ramp up in difficulty as well, with some puzzles leaving you to wander the realms of the living and the dead until you realise that the solution was staring you in the face the whole time. One interesting item that Guybrush retains for the game is his last remaining 'Shred of Life'. You're not able to use it for most of the game, which makes the instance where you can all the more meaningful, as you'll instantly know when and where is the correct time without being explicitly told.
The afterlife, while not as grand in scale as some may hope, still looks very cool and has some interesting designs based around the ghostly pirating pursuits available to souls. New characters such as Galeb the spirit-zombie-thing are suitably gross, while on Earth the apocalypse that LeChuck has brought upon the world looks great. We also have to tip the hat to the voice actors for Guybrush and LeChuck in this episode, as both do excellent jobs. Guybrush really goes through the ringer this episode, and his emotions come out terrifically thanks to a strong script and a fantastic performance. On the other side, LeChuck is great as he is finally victorious, proving to be as evil as ever, although occasionally hilariously ponderous, but he really shines as he realises that he just wants to kill Guybrush for good. After so many schemes and abstract plans over the series, and so many deaths at the hands of Guybrush, plain and simple revenge just doesn't do what he feels justice, as he clearly despises the poor guy. Top marks all around.
Rise of the Pirate God is a fantastic closer to the Tales of Monkey Island. The puzzles are challenging and hilarious, the script is strong and well-performed and it all looks very nice thanks to some great design work. Tales of Monkey Island is undoubtedly Telltale's best episodic work to date, providing the most consistently great storytelling and puzzles, and while the story is resolved in Rise of the Pirate God, there is room for another sequel by the team. We'd be delighted if there was, as Telltale and Monkey Island are clearly a great fit for each other, and any adventure game fan would be a fool to miss out on the entirety of Tales of Monkey Island.