[28 August 2009]
From the very beginning, The Siege of Spinner Cay sets itself apart from Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. Whereas the first episode was fairly low key throughout as Guybrush solved the mystery of the island, this episode jumps straight into the action. As is Telltale’s forte, the first puzzle takes place in a very limited area (in this case Guybrush’s ship) in order to ease the player into the proper puzzle solving mindset, but this time you must solve the puzzle as Guybrush fights off his would-be captor in a surprisingly epic swordfight.
Once past the intro, the rest of the game has Guybrush scouring nearby islands for three summoning artifacts. Unlike the first episode, which had you solving the mystery on your own, as you make your way through The Siege of Spinner Cay you’ll meet comrades that you’ll have to help and who will help you. The assistance of these supporting characters makes this episode feel much larger in scope then it really is. While you’re out looking for the artifacts, others are doing their own thing to help prevent the siege of Spinner Cay. You’re part of team, despite the fact that you’ll spend the game exploring on your own.
Adding to the larger sense of scope is the map that you use the travel between islands. You can see landmarks from the first episode on the map (Floatsam Island and the Rock of Gelato), helping turn this fictional Caribbean into a well-realized world instead of just a series of isolated locations. The places that you visit exist in relation to one another. It makes sense that Guybrush would wash up on Floatsam Island after seeing how close it is to the Rock of Gelato.
Yet, for all of the distinguishing characteristics of The Siege of Spinner Cay, it still feels like a natural extension of the first episode. It’s a testament to the writing that these two games can feel so distinct, yet flow so perfectly into each other. All the major plot points from the first episode are advanced in this one, the human LeChuck, the voodoo pox, the crazy French scientist, and all are seamlessly interwoven with this episode’s stand alone adventure. Even the items that you carry over have importance here. What’s especially clever is how certain solutions to puzzles in the first episode serve as clues for puzzles in this episode. By the end, there’s a sense of closure and a sense of overall progress.
The puzzles and humor are still top-notch. However, a couple puzzles feel intentionally unintuitive just to make them harder. One puzzle involving a barbeque is particularly annoying since a nearby item that you’d naturally associate with a barbeque actually has nothing to do with the puzzle. And players should note that there are actually three little islands you can visit on the map. The hint system hasn’t changed, and while it’s still a clever idea to have Guybrush talk to himself, some of the hints are still too vague. But any grievances are minor.
Launch of the Screaming Narwhal felt like an introduction to something bigger. In The Siege of Spinner Cay it feels like we’ve waded into that “something bigger.” The teamwork and exploration add to the perceived scope of the game and turn it into something very different from the first, but the expertly entangled plots make the two games feel like one. This is episodic gaming as it should be.