So I finished chapter 1 of the Tales of Monkey Island and it made me rethink episodic gaming and how it should be implemented. Did I have fun with Tales? Sure, it was an enjoyable couple hours, but I can’t help but feel a little apprehensive about the way the game is being handled. Telltale’s previous forays into episodic gaming are like sitcoms – stand alone situations tangentially related to a grand story. For example, you could download and play any Sam & Max or Strongbad episode and could (for the most part) get though it with little knowledge of the previous chapters. To make the TV comparison, if a non-fan watched an episode from the most recent season of The Office or 30 Rock, they may be oblivious to the high level stories that the series has built, but could understand the comedy in that particular episode. Tales of Monkey Island on the other hand feels like a drama – an in-depth character/story arc building chapter to chapter. Again with a TV comparison, try watching an recent episode of Lost without any previous knowledge of past seasons and you would have no clue what is going on (well, I suppose Lost is a bad example, since I’ve watched it from the start and still have no clue what is going on).
So a couple months down the road, could someone new download episode 3 of Tales and really grasp all that’s going on? Granted this is a lot of extrapolation on my part but I look at King’s Quest 7 as a benchmark for “drama-type” episodic gaming. In KQ7, you could start the game at any of the game’s 6 chapters. While this was great to skip past sections you might have been having trouble with, many important things could be lost by doing so. How did I get this item? What does it do again? Who’s this guy and why do I need to blast him with the scepter? Part of the enjoyment in an adventure game like Monkey Island is the journey, finally using that seemingly useless item you got at the beginning of the game, seeing the jokes build and build to their ultimate conclusion. Being able to skip large chunks of the game would take away from what the game wants to be.
So what do ya’ll think? Would games like Tales be better suited as a full release so you could get the whole story or are you OK with the episodic nature?