We’re four of five episodes into the season, and by now should have a good picture of what Telltale is trying to accomplish with Tales. This is the point where a serialized TV show might have a throat-clearing episode; Buffy would tell her sister just how much she means to her before the big fight, the guys in Lost would screw around and not really accomplish anything, Tony Soprano would whack some fools in preparation for whacking more fools. In general, one might expect an episode more setup than execution.
Fortunately, ‘execution’ is right there in the title; the penultimate episodes of both seasons of Sam & Max were the best, and this one continues the trend. It is a meaty episode. If it were a hamburger, you would eat it for lunch and dinner.
The plot picks up, logically, where the last episode ended, with the inimitable Morgan LeFlay rowing Guybrush ashore Flotsam Island, there to deliver him to the villainous and weird Marquis DeSinge for further, probably fatal experimentation. Somewhat fortunately for our hero, Guybrush is saved by a lynch mob and forced to face trial for the wacky hijinks perpetrated back in the first episode.
It’s an interesting inversion of the typical adventure formula, where actions usually have immediate consequences or none at all. It also presents a fun and interesting format for new puzzle types, an example of Telltale’s inventive genius.
This episode was sometimes so preoccupied with plot that it had less time for jokes, resulting in one of the less funny installments in a while. My guts were busted routinely in episodes 1 and 3; here, regrettably, my GI tract remained unruptured by spasmodic laughter. Not to say there weren’t a few chuckle-worthy lines; Morgan LeFlay is always a delight, and the used ship salesman Stan returns as a prosecuting attorney, wearing a frankly amazing jacket cut from the “fabric” of spacetime. He gets in some good jokes, aided by particularly good voice acting and pseudo-Latin pseudo-legal terms: “Sorry I’m late, your honor! I had to in flagrante my delicto!” Means nothing, but made me laugh.
But the plot is interesting, and the game actually takes a few moments for quiet character moments, a rarity in an out-and-out farce like this. It’s okay. I’ve always adored these characters, and didn’t mind a little dramatic heft.
The episode is considerably longer than the last few. I was surprised and pleased to finish the trial and find substantial head-scratchers left to solve. As with all these adventures, there’s little reason to revisit them once you’ve finished. That’s just the nature of this particular beast, though. Digest it and spend a month waiting for the next one.