Best Gameplay: Tales of Monkey Island
What do scary-face competitions, locket-powered soul transferrals, gastro-intestinal protuberances, and the Cyrano de Bergerac of manatees have in common? Easy: they’re all elements (though just a few of the many) that combine to make up the wacky obstacles of Tales of Monkey Island. Telltale series has yet to disappoint when it comes to gameplay, and Tales is the latest Aggie Award-winning example. Episode after episode, we were presented with a host of characters to chat with as much for gags as the information required, imaginative new locations to explore (with less recycling than other episodic series to date), and puzzles that demanded logic while still remaining firmly entrenched in the ridiculous world of Monkey Island. All this in a very user-friendly format, with an adjustable hint setting allowing nudges from Guybrush for anyone stuck too long, or none at all for those wanting a tougher challenge.
But what really made this series soar was the sheer creative variety of scenarios players had to resolve: matchmaking for seemingly star-crossed lovers; assembling cryptic components of voodoo spells; navigating jungles by wind and sound; acting as your own attorney in a courtroom opposite the plaid-coated, fast-talking Stan the salesman; escaping a mad scientist’s lab with the aid of a trained monkey; digging for buried treasure and burying slightly-less-valuable treasure of your own; joining an exclusive buccaneer brotherhood; and clashing blades with pirate hunter Morgan LeFlay on board your newly-commandeered ship. And doing it all with one hand tied behind your back (or “cut off” is perhaps the technical term), culminating in a classic Monkey Island final fight with the ultimate villain, LeChuck. It’s a wonderfully diverse, offbeat experience that always felt fresh, making Tales a worthy successor to the classic adventures we all know and love.
Runners-Up: Machinarium, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Readers’ Choice: Machinarium
Sick of taking a back seat to dialogue-heavy titles, the wordless Machinarium stepped up big time in the gameplay department, as the puzzle-centric robot adventure delivered where it counts to the readers. Often head-scratching, occasionally hair-pulling, but always engaging, this isn’t a game for the faint of brain, but who can argue its gameplay credentials when even the hint system is its own minigame.
Runners-Up: Tales of Monkey Island, Time Gentlemen, Please!
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