The symbol of castaways in the belly of a giant beast is one to be found in various works throughout history: starting out with the Bible (Jonah), going through 19th european literature (Pinocchio) or surreal japanese animations (Mind Game). It’s a symbol of atonement, meditation and, as father Gregorian would say, integration into the absolute. There, in the obscurity of digestive organs belonging to a creature the size of China, you repent and it’s said you can even find God and pals.
To Guybrush Threepwood, this is nothing else than an opportunity to get his mitts on a mystical spunge with which to save the world and maybe talk to a giant sea cow. That’s just the way he was raised. After the ship he’s on, alongside fan/mercenary Morgan LeFlay and his first mate, Winslow, gets swallowed by a manatee the size of the Sears towers, our hero meets, in his typical goofy accidental manner, precisely the character he’d been looking for: the explorer Coronado DeCava. Aside from being extremely jealous and paranoid, the Voodoo Lady’s former boyfriend is the only man who knows exactly where La Esponja Grande is.
It has to be said that the twists in the story and the pace of its unveiling are starting to really appeal to me. They’re getting closer and closer to the expectations of any Monkey Island veteran and the Tales are, in my humble opinion, far superior to the Sam and Max series. While I was complaining about excessively stretched textures, TellTale managed to compensate for the lack of tech perks through a more detailed design and a very harmonic color palette.
New friends and old adversaries
It’s hard to believe that the belly of a sea mammal can spawn political parties, fraternities or non-profit organizations made of pseudo-democratic lunatics. This only applies to reality, of course, because the Monkey Island universe makes even three-headed monkeys possible. Thus, Threepwood meets the Unofficial Democratic Brotherhood of the Manatee Interior, made out of three guys who are just as insane as DeCava and their late comrade, Santino.
As it was practically expected after the tradition set by the first two episodes, a classic Monkey Island character makes his appearance: Murray, the talking skull. When I initially heard rumors of him being the „Classic of the Month” in this episode, I was slightly scared of his radical personality and array of threats being diluted in TellTale’s hands, but I’m happy to let you know that my fears did not come to pass. More „threatening” and „tyrannical” than ever before, even Murray’s voice acting will send you for a trip down Memory Lane, towards the „Curse of Monkey Island” window.
But the real delight is not necessarily triggered by the presentation as it is by the puzzles. I’m under the impression that these guys sold their souls recently, because I hadn’t thought I’d find so many quality puzzles in a single episode. Far from trying to offer them gratuitous and cheap compliments, I must admit that I was combo-struck by a few absolutely mad moments in the two hours that Lair of the Leviathan kept me hooked.
A new form of insult dueling, replaced by weird faces here (where, it seems, originality is key) makes its way, but it’s obviously not the only interesting puzzle. I won’t ruin your game experience with too many details, but let’s just say you learn how to use voodoo through tarot cards, you „fix” the manatee’s inner ear and you offer Murray a new body so he can start his campaign to Terrorize & Annihilate the Human Kind.
I must, however, confess that the puzzle’s difficulty was reduced. Although they’re very well designed and the logical approach, both on the producers’ part and the mentality you will require in order to finish the game, the obstacles are relatively easy to deduce, especially considering you’ll be strolling through the same 3-4 backgrounds for more than half the episode. And this comes from a guy who’s really far from being and analytical genius.
The space you have at your disposal is really tight, but at least you don’t have to play boy scout through some forest maze. The game’s solution, though pretty linear, is sufficiently natural and fluent to give you the impression that you’re watching an exceptional sitcom, with all the salt and pepper of a few mental bumps (well, mental doesn’t even begin to cover them).
The voice acting keeps its quality standard (maybe even slightly surpassing it) and the secondary characters seem better carved out than in previous episodes (although the stereotypes presented by these didn’t bother me at all). The little jokes spread through the episode won’t have anyone laughing out loud, but don’t stripe out a smirk in a couple of scenes.
To be continued, next on Baywatch, we love to entertain you and other endgame slogans.
TellTalle keeps proving for some time now (even more so in the past three months) that the episodic game format works. Tales of Monkey Island came out more or less on deadline, the content disappointed few people (statistically speaking) and, in my opinion, you can see a clear evolution from one episode to the next.
Lair of the Leviathan marks yet another milestone on this ever-improving pathway, so I keep rubbing my palms in anxiousness waiting for „The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood” (Nooooooo!!!). Oh, and it seems that the Emerald Stork was really far off – the pyrite parrot is now gone. Now there’s nobody left to monkey Guybrush around.