Lair of the Leviathan, or ‘The Manatee Episode’ as I like to call it, is the third chapter of Tales of Monkey Island. You can also find reviews for chapter one and chapter two. It is pretty hard to review an episodic game when they generally remain consistent episode to episode. Maybe I’m just easily surprised but this chapter came quite unexpectedly. I was thinking it would run along the same lines as the previous two but it really sticks out as the highlight of the series so far.
Guybrush is still on the hunt for La Esponja Grande, AKA the proclaimed pox-ridding, giant sea sponge. Some of the main characters begin to start showing signs of their illness including symptoms of red eyes, green skin and a rather nasty attitude. While following the trail of the sponge across the ocean, a giant manatee suddenly swallows Guybrush’s ship in one whole bite. It’s as awesome as it sounds! It really is fantastic having a story that branches over all the episodes. Self-contained episodes aren’t going to cut it anymore I’m afraid.
It just all seems to come together, and it’s funny! The humour has stepped up a notch, while last time it only managed to draw a few chuckles. Even the credits get a dose of the funnies, so stick around for that. Guybrush and mercenary Morgan LeFlay create a closer bond while they’re stuck together. But what would Elaine think you say! Well she’s sailing about elsewhere, hitting it off with humanised LeChuck. It’s a very peculiar love rhombus going on here! Even though it’s more limiting than the last episodes in respect to maps and exploration, it’s just crafted so well I didn’t really notice.
Murray, a crowd favourite, is back and as evil as ever. His lines weren’t as great as they were in The Curse of Monkey Island but it was good to see his skeletal mug once again. It’s as if Telltale read my mind, they actually created some pretty interesting characters this time around. They are all rather unique looking and it really makes a difference compared to the bland pirates from the first two games. Guybrush finally meets the long lost Coronado De Cava who has been stuck inside the manatee for the past several years. Then there’s De Cava’s crew; Moose, the bare-chested barman. Santino, a dead as a doorknob skeleton. Noogie, the nerd-like bongo player. And finally Bugeye, the mean leader. You’ll spend the first half of the game trying to convince them to let you join their Brotherhood. It’s a unanimous vote and you need to sway each of them into saying yes.
Now the big thing that stood out to me this time were the puzzles. The variety and originality just kept on coming, and was a welcome change to the usual ‘use item with this item’ type puzzle. While there were still plenty of those littered throughout, it was all mixed up into a whirlpool of gooey Monkey Island goodness. One early-on, requires you need to remember clues in order to answer a quiz that could mean life or death for Guybrush and Morgan.
Then it was the Pirate face-off! How I loved that little game. In a slightly similar way to the classic insult sword fighting of Monkey Island’s past, you need to have the best pirate face. You change your facial expression and it gets animated in real-time. There are three conditions you can change; the eyes, the eyeballs and the mouth. The crux is you need to make a new face each time without repeating expressions. Exploring the bowels of the manatee is the only way in finding expressions to add to your repertoire and some are a lot harder to get to than others. At first I wasn’t sure how face-off worked but they do make it clear and I realised after several attempts what I had to do.
A few other puzzles are purely conversation based and really rely on your wit. Phew, that manatee one was a doozy! Just so much creative thought has gone into these. In one particular instance you control someone other than Guybrush! I’ll leave it at that. Please keep up this level of genius Telltale.
Putting it simply, Lair of the Leviathan is the best Tales of Monkey Island chapter and maybe even best Telltale episode to date. I was afraid the series might dry out and get stale after this amount of time but it really does keep on getting better! Original puzzles and some incredibly interesting pirate pals make it a journey to remember. Now this is what I call getting into the swing of a series.
Released 30/09/09. Download Season One here.