Tales of Monkey Island: Lair of the Leviathan

For those who for some reason have not been playing this revival of the Monkey Island series I’ll start the review with a short summary of what’s happened so far. Guybrush is sailing off to try and find “La Esponja Grande”, a big sponge with the ability to soak up the Pox which is infecting everyone in the Caribbean and making them damn evil. The Pox was released after a botched voodoo sword murder attempt by Guybrush on LeChuck which made LeChuck human (and good) and left Guybrush with one Pox ridden hand. After having said hand lopped off in a sword fight with a pirate hunter (and big fan of Guybrush) his ship is swallowed by a giant manatee leaving he and his assassin stranded inside the manatee and leaving Elaine separated stranded with an increasingly pleasant LeChuck. Oh the piratey drama!

As “Tales of Monkey Island: Lair of the Leviathan” is the third episode of a five episode the same conditions have to be applied that gets applied with all episodic content. Namely that the game will be short length, possibly lacking in replay value and will leave you utterly drooling for more. This isn’t a negative though, it’s best to regard it like an episode of a Lost, The Wire or 24 in that each episode is designed to bring you back for the next one. Gameplay is much the same as the previous chapters, you guide Guybrush around the manatee pointing and clicking your way through a variety of puzzles and chatting to a few new and familiar faces.

The puzzles are a good mix of fun and tricky with nothing to abstract to infuriate but nothing too easy to feel like a waste of time. In particular a pirate “face-off” is a brilliantly funny throwback to the duelling of the old titles and something that will put a smile on the face of even the most hardened cynic. Beyond that the game has a great deal less exploration than the previous chapters (well manatee’s aren’t that large) with the game mostly dealing with gaining the trust of several new characters through the medium of character centric puzzles. The lack of exploration makes for a slightly easier experience but the flip side is a nice throwback to the style of classic Monkey Island. The method of changing locale and game style so dramatically is also a nice change of pace mid-season, keeping us from fatiguing.

The big draw though as always is the writing and in it’s third episode the series is really beginning to sparkle. Every character has their moments, Guybrush is as always hilarious and there are some brilliant gags that will have you pausing to snigger away (a particularly dead pirate in particular had me chuckling away). Throw in some slapstick humour and the strength of the character animations and you have not only classic Monkey Island but as close as we’ll get to classic LucasArts as we’ve seen in a long time.

Compared to the other episodes this is possibly the least value for money. 4 hours to complete if you get hideously stuck but everyone else should finish it in 2-3 hours, which is fine for a episode but combined with the lack of exploration and the restrictive nature of the environments and you have a episode that will put people off if they drop into the series now. However in context this is a great slowing down mid-season, giving a different type of experience and complementing the previous titles with a more classic game married to the same slick comedy writing. Yet another episode written to high standards and just heightens to anticipation with the fourth instalment.







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