Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista; 2.0 GHz CPU; 512 MB RAM, 64 mb DirectX 8.1-compatible video card; DirectX 8.1-compatible sound card; DirectX 9.0c or higher
Release date: September 29, 2009
The search for a giant sea sponge that can cure a voodoo pox that’s spreading throughout the Caribbean continues in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, developer Telltale’s continuing saga based on the classic Lucasarts adventure games. And although the structure of the episode is pretty much the same as the previous two, this one features a unique setting, a group of bizarre characters and a budding romantic conflict for our hero.
Picking up where Siege of Spinner Cay left off, Lair of the Leviathan places pretty-boy pirate Guybrush Threepwood; Winslow, his first mate; and spunky pirate bounty huntress Morgan LeFlay in the belly of a giant manatee, which has swallowed them and their ship, the Screaming Narwhal. This puts something of a crimp in Threepwood’s plan to locate and obtain La Esponja Grande, the magic sea sponge that is supposed to be able to clean up the curse he unleashed by dispatching the evil ghost pirate LeChuck with an incorrectly prepared magic sword. Curing the curse would also allow Threepwood to search for his wife, Elaine, who is currently traveling with the now-virtuous pirate LeChuck as he repatriates dozens of monkeys that he had captured as part of the nefarious schemes of his formerly evil self.
Threepwood and crew climb out of their ship and meet another adventurer who’s in the same predicament. Coronado Da Cava, a Spanish sea captain to whom Threepwood coincidentally has a locket to deliver (it’s amazing how these things work out), and his crew have been inside the manatee for years. Da Cava is also searching for the sponge, not to cure the pox, but to give to the love of his life, the Voodoo Lady of Flotsam Island. Exploring his surroundings for a way out, Threepwood also meets Da Cava’s crew, who have set up their own four-person (well, three-person and one skeleton) civilization in the manatee’s stomach. Through a series of puzzles and challenges, Threepwood has to gain the trust of these eccentric sailors to gain access to the means of escape for himself and his comrades.
Lair of the Leviathan‘s gameplay is just the same as the others in the series. Once again, moving Threepwood around the environment is best accomplished with the WASD keys (the method using the mouse can be awkward unless you work at it). The big differences in this episode from previous ones are in the graphics and the puzzles. Most of the game takes place in the darkened innards of the manatee, but Da Cava’s crew’s cantina area is filled with deep, rich colors and a useful (but somewhat disturbing) fast-transit system. The puzzles are fairly simple to solve, although there are several that might have you scratching your head for some time before the cartoon light bulb appears above your head, but Telltale has made an effort to make the puzzles in Lair of the Leviathan different than those you’ve seen in the other episodes. The most confounding of these are one in which you collect oddball facial expressions to use in a pirate scowl contest, and another that has Threepwood playing matchmaker to the socially inept manatee that swallowed him.
Storywise, some depth has been added to the standard tale of escape and exploration. Threepwood is so totally focused on his quest to be finally reunited with Elaine that he fails to notice that Morgan LeFlay, the woman trying to claim the bounty on his head, is also falling for him. This is a possible triangle that’s bound to cause some fireworks in the final two episodes in the series, making Telltale’s decision to tie all five episodes together in a continuing story arc unquestionably the right choice. Also, more dialogue choices are disappearing after they’ve been chosen than there were in the other chapters, making the conversation trees that much easier to navigate. And the writing continues to be one of the main selling points of the series, bolstered by the hilarious addition of another character from the original Lucasarts games. The only thing missing is an option to allow you to see the objectives you haven’t yet completed; this would’ve been very helpful in Leviathan, since some of the puzzles take quite awhile to finally finish.
The Tales of Monkey Island series seems to be evolving with every new chapter. Lair of the Leviathan moves the story forward with a more colorful look, a new variety of puzzles and challenges, and a deeper story that contributes a few nice layers to the overall arc. It might take you a bit longer to finish than the others (several vexing puzzles pushed my completion time to six hours or so), but you’ll find that it’s time well spent. The only danger is that the series might be peaking too soon; with two more episodes to go, let’s hope that Telltale can continue to build upon what is quickly becoming their finest episodic series.