Tales of Monkey Island: Lair of the Leviathan
It seems even after all the years of experience Guybrush Threepwood still can’t catch a break. Having solved the problems of the Mer-People terrorised by a band of pirates in Spinner Cay, once again setting sail in search of La Esponja Grande. Guybrush and – through no fault of their own other than just ironic circumstance – first (and only) mate, Winslow and Guybrush fanboy, Morgan LeFlay find themselves stomach deep inside a giant manatee with more puzzles than working body parts.
As a result of such a plot development, Lair of the Leviathan is by far the smallest (physically speaking) chapter in the game so far as almost everything is condensed into – well – the inside of a large mammal. But it’s what you do with it that matters and as a result, there’s a sense of real focus and immediacy that was certainly missing from The Siege of Spinner Cay. Solutions, items and characters are usually no more than a few paces away from each other and while this could have descended into a resentful over-familiarity, the actual puzzles themselves work in tandem with the environments effectively and players will be hard pressed to bemoan the lack of surface area this time around considering what is there is used so well.
Lair of the Leviathan is the third chapter in a five part series that makes up Tales of Monkey Island. Be sure to check out our reviews of Launch of the Screaming Narwhal and The Siege of Spinner Cay.
But what makes Lair of the Leviathan a success is its characters and the interactions they have with Guybrush. Morgan LeFlay in particular steps into the spotlight having only made brief appearances prior in an archetypal buddy movie role, proving to be a more than able foil to the self-appointed mighty pirate. Maverick scientist, Coronado De Cava also lives up to his pre-game billing with quirks and mannerisms bordering on being characteristic of an obsessive compulsive – traits more than suited to the Monkey Island universe. And his supposedly long-since-passed-away shipmates while hardly unique are more than the sum of their parts. The absolute highlight of not just this chapter, however, but also the entire game thus far, comes in the form of an old acquaintance who consistently provides some of the biggest laughs of any game in years.
The only proper gameplay change this time around is a thinly veiled homage to the much loved insult sword fighting. Instead of words, though, it’s now facial expressions but works in a similar fashion. Players pick and choose three different looks or glares that make up an entire face; making sure not to repeat any that have been used already as variety in Monkey Island is the spice of life, so hunting them down becomes a puzzle all by itself. Naturally, because of the episodic nature of the content, it lacks the depth of insult sword fighting but thanks to the outstanding visuals and facial animation once again, it simple never, ever gets old watching Guybrush pull the most bizarre façades at other characters.
After the conclusion of The Siege of Spinner Cay, you wouldn’t have been out of line to speculate whether or not Telltale Games had – for want of a more romantic phrase – blown its proverbial load all in one go with their first attempt, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal. But Lair of Leviathan picks up the slack by creating a tighter point and click adventure as well as allowing its characters to sing and dance to much applause. Even a dip in quality towards the end can’t abate the feeling that Tales of Monkey Island has found a second wind in its sail.