Poor Guybrush just can’t catch a break. All he wants to do is find La Esponja Grande, rid himself of the voodoo curse he inadvertently spread across the Caribbean, and reunite with the woman he loves. In Telltale Games’ latest chapter of the Tales of Monkey Island pentalogy, Lair of the Leviathan, our hero inches his way closer to his ultimate goal, but still has a long journey before him. Manatee ho!
Last month, Guybrush and the merciless pirate hunter Morgan LeFlay were swallowed whole by a giant manatee. This month’s chapter finds these two rapscallions literally in the belly of the beast. While one might have envisioned this unique locale as a wasteland or bottomless pit, it’s quite the contrary. Instead of dark and terrifying, the inside of the manatee is bright and colorful; it’s an indoor tropical paradise complete with a cantina, bongos, and a heaping pile of treasure.
The cast of characters is equally colorful: namely series newcomers Bugeye, Noogie, and Moose – members all of the Democratic Brotherhood of the Manatee Interior. Also appearing in this chapter for the first time is the eccentric explorer Coronado de Cava, a man equally insane and paranoid. Early in the chapter, the player must convince the untrusting de Cava that Guybrush are Morgan are just married tourists on their honeymoon in a sequence similar to The Newlywed Game. Just as with LeChuck’s transformation in an earlier episode, this puzzle introduces a sidekick dynamic, forcing two unlikely allies to work together. Puzzle design is uniformly excellent. Standouts include a pirate “face” off, reverse voodoo possession, and manatee matchmaking ala Cyrano De Bergerac.
In addition to strong puzzle design, there are a host of clever in-jokes for Monkey Island veterans. Winks include references to SCUMM and a series of tasks similar to Guybrush’s original pirate initiation. The best fan service, however, comes in the return of a character unseen since Escape from Monkey Island – everyone’s favorite demonic talking skull, Murray. In classic style, he taunts both Guybrush and the player (stick around during the credits for an extra dose of Murray’s hilarity). Sonically, this game is as strong as ever – with the new cast members supplementing series regular Dominic Armato’s performance with near perfect comedic timing, along with the return of Denny Delk as Murray.
Controls are the same combination of WASD keyboard navigation and mouse control they have been previously. At this point in the series, all but new players have established their preference between the two, the former remaining the more intuitive option.
As was the case in prior Tales of Monkey Island titles, gameplay is relatively short; expect to complete the adventure in 3-4 hours. Thankfully, the treasure hunt micro game still adds enough replay value to tide gamers over until next month’s release. In a departure from previous titles, the climax of Lair of the Leviathan wraps the episode up well. While there is still the obligatory cliff hanger at the end, its conclusion to the three episode ‘La Esponja Grande’ story arc is disappointing. With all of the buildup surrounding it, one would expect an epic crescendo, or at least something with a bit more punch than the events that transpired here.
While shorter than The Siege of Spinner Cay, Lair of the Leviathan’s lush graphics, sharp writing, and unique puzzles make this game a must-play for adventure gamers and fans of the Monkey Island series. Gamers new to the pentalogy should start earlier, however, as the beginning of episode recap is limited to the events of the second chapter.