Tales of Monkey Island -- Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan Review
By Chad Montague |
Telltale is getting better and better at this. Or maybe they're just picking smarter projects. The first Sam and Max games helped establish the episodic model right out of the gate, and gradually started to add the right level of challenge and humor that we'd wanted. Wallace and Gromit refined the model by offering up a more focused experience overall, but still seems a bit unsure of how to best use the two main characters. Things are even stronger in the Monkey Island series. With brilliant characters right out of the gate, great gags, a cohesive story and plenty of challenging puzzles, Tales of Monkey Island has the potential to be the best and most satisfying series Telltale has delivered so far.
Telltale's attempts to have each episode fit into a season-long narrative are definitely paying off, but that also means that players won't really enjoy individual episodes as much if they only play a couple or if they play them out of order. The Voodoo Lady offers a brief bit of exposition but, even so, there's a lot going on right at the start with the pox, Elaine and LeChuck, La Esponja Grande, Morgan LeFlay and a number of other plot points. Even so, the mystery of the rubber mast, the ship full of monkeys and Guybrush's severed hand are just part of the overall background here. Fortunately, not knowing the details of some of those elements doesn't detract from enjoying the action.
At least it's nicer than the colon level in Halo 3.In brief, Guybrush finds himself alongside the bounty hunter Morgan LeFlay inside of a giant manatee. As they struggle to escape, they'll discover they're not the only people taking up residence inside the noble sea cow. Better still, if Guybrush can enlist the help of his fellow gutmates, they'll bring him one step closer to discovering La Esponja Grande.
The return of one particular Monkey Island favorite may not mean quite as much to newcomers, but old fans will definitely appreciate his reappearance in the series. We don't want to give it away (it's not even in our screenshots) but this old character is the source of some of the best gags and dialogue in the series so far, not to mention the bewildering headline to this review. The better news is that, even if you don't know a thing about Monkey Island, this character's dialogue and performance are still riotously funny.
The rest of the cast is still as good as ever, particularly Guybrush. The voice acting and animation direction easily make him the funniest and liveliest character in the Telltale roster. His slightly clueless yet oh-so-sincere reactions make the other characters and situations seem more comical by comparison, while his delivery of lines like "Now who's the ombudsman of unoriginality?" make him completely charming. The other characters are voiced and animated just as well, but they simply don't have the tremendous material that Guybrush has been given.
Though it has fewer locations, it makes better use of them.This is a genuinely funny episode. With plot points that range from a life-or-death version of The Newlywed Game, to Guybrush's open admiration of the Voodoo Lady's boobs, to the unpleasant uses of a giant jug of Manatee Lax, this episode really hits a lot of high points with more focus and fun than has been found in some of Telltale's earlier efforts. Even the throwaway gags -- like drinking eustachian runoff, or wondering how many numbskulls it takes to make one of these games -- are laugh out loud funny. The few small bits of real pathos here are surprisingly moving and it's to the writers' credit that the romantic parallels and tender subtext aren't strained too far.
In terms of puzzles, Lair of the Leviathan moves Telltale forward quite a bit. Most of the puzzles here have an internal logic to them so, as long as you're paying attention, the challenge feels a bit different than it has in Telltale's earlier Sam and Max games. This time around, you'll most likely know what you're supposed to do next -- changing the color of a disgusting drink, for instance -- but you'll often be stumped as you try to figure out exactly how you're supposed to do it. In many cases, the game has hidden (and sometimes even highlighted) the items required for the solution in plain sight.