Reviews

Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God

Rise of the Pirate God provides everything one could want in an ending, but in order to fully appreciate it, you must know what comes before it.


Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Number of players: 1 player
Platforms: PC (reviewed), WiiWare
Release Date: 2009-12-08
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Guybrush Threepwood has been through a lot. He accidentally released a voodoo pox upon the Caribbean and fixing that little mistake has become quite the adventure. He’s also escaped an inescapable island, he’s saved a city from pirates, he’s been eaten by a giant manatee, and had to defend himself in court. But through all of these misadventures he never lost sight of his main goal: stopping the pox.

The Tales of Monkey Island games have always walked a fine line between episodic and serialized storytelling. Each episode tells two parallel stories, one being the overarching narrative that connects the games and the other involving a more immediate conflict. Each one plays off the other, they supplement each other, and so every episode has felt like a complete adventure as well as a part of something larger.

But despite the seeming completeness of each episode, a player can’t just jump into this series midway. The episodic content isn’t actually there to make the games more accessible to a casual audience, to those people that would want to pop in halfway. It’s tied so closely to the main story that the two become almost indistinguishable in retrospect. This tight connection ensures that the plot is always moving forward and that no moment feels like pointless filler. The episodic content is actually there for the dedicated fans, for those that bought the whole season up front. Tales of Monkey Island, despite being split into five chapters, is actually a highly serialized story, one that must be played from the very beginning. The episodic stories are there to give the fans a sense of satisfaction upon completing each chapter. If there was no resolution to each episode, the story would start to feel drawn out after a few iterations, and the month long wait in between would become frustrating. Instead, fans get a sense of closure at the end of each episode even though individually they can’t stand as complete games.

What this means is that if you haven’t played the other Tales of Monkey Island games, don’t play Rise of the Pirate God just yet, or you’ll be doing the entire series a disservice. This final chapter in Guybrush’s adventure provides everything one could want in an ending, and in order to fully appreciate it, you must know what comes before it.

There are plenty of puzzles, though some are outright annoying. One involving a corpse, a dartboard, a mug of root beer, and a trans-dimensional rip in space (only in Monkey Island . . . ) also involves a lot of backtracking that quickly becomes old. Another involving a past character and your own custom facial expression is funny at first, but when you realize that you must make a specific kind of face, the puzzle descends into an excruciating exercise of trial and error. Personally, I still wish there was a dedicated hint button. The current system, which has Guybrush thinking aloud, is clever and to its credit non-intrusive but too often he’ll give a hint to a puzzle I’m about to solve and then when I really need him he’ll be silent.

But the good far outweighs the bad. Early in the game Insult Swordfighting makes a return in a way that highlights the excellent writing of the series. The dialogue is just as sharp as ever and the characters just as appealing, but if you’ve followed the series this far, what you really care about is the story, and it doesn’t disappoint. All the loose ends are tied up, and the final battle is reminiscent of the finale between Guybrush and LeChuck in The Secret of Monkey Island, effectively bringing the entire franchise full circle. It’s a nice homage, but one that also feels unique to this game. And that has been the greatest accomplishment of this series, that is has managed to feel like a classic Monkey Island adventure while introducing so many new characters, new places, and a surprisingly epic story. If you’ve never played an adventure game before, then this series with its satisfying conclusion in Rise of the Pirate God will make you a fan. Now that it’s all over, the only thing we’re left wanting is a sequel.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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