The third chapter of the Tales of Monkey Island series takes Guybrush Threepwood to new depths! Or, more precisely, to the depths of the ocean, inside the belly of a giant manatee. Don't worry, it's not as life-threatening as it sounds, and he's got plenty of company down there. You see, Threepwood wasn't the only one looking for the legendary La Esponja Grande before being rudely interrupted. As it turns out, the explorer he's been searching for, Coronado De Cava, and his crew were eaten by the same manatee, before subsequently having a falling-out and situating themselves on opposite sides of the body. De Cava wants to find or rebuild the manatee's cochlea, the missing piece of its inner ear that controls the direction it moves in, so the confused beast will finally be able to swim to the cave housing Le Esponja. The mutineers, however, have formed themselves a nice democracy in the manatee's stomach, and are dedicated to living out the rest of their lives inside the beast. This credo, of course, includes keeping the location of their stolen cochlea a secret. The majority of this chapter revolves around convincing the mutineers to let Guybrush join their ranks, and thus let him in on the cochlea's whereabouts. Due to its simple bizarreness, the story is probably the strongest in the new Monkey Island series as of yet.
What new adventures await inside this grand creature?
In order to join the democracy, Guybrush needs the unanimous vote of every member, meaning he's basically a slave to their will. This setting, of course, leads to some highly amusing Monkey Island puzzles based on manipulating various pieces of the manatee's insides. The puzzles in this chapter are well thought out, funny, take just long enough to figure out, and all in all remind the player of what makes this series great. For instance, the leader of the democracy (who's well aware that his position is an oxymoron) requires that you beat him in a pirate-face-making contest to win his vote. To do this, you must take turns making faces at each other, making sure that you don't use eye, mouth, or nose positions that have already been used. The fun part is how you find all these expressions, ranging from scaring the other pirates to pouring stomach acid on a painting to remove the mold from it. Also, if you've ever wondered why the Voodoo Lady never leaves her chair, well... let's just say you'll find your answers here. Puzzle-wise, this is Monkey Island in top form.
Good to know some things never change...
The jokes hold up just as well, too. Having remarked about how the seahorse skeleton he just picked up would be a nice crunchy snack for the manatee, Guybrush muses, “if someone made little fish-shaped snack crackers for people, they’d be sitting on a gold mine!” The game isn't shy about making light-hearted jabs at its own inspiration, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, either. After all, the old 'tempting the guard dog with a bone' trick is clearly for amateurs. There's hilarious humor from all angles in Lair of the Leviathan.
Graphically, the game is identical to the previous two chapters. Some find the art style a little ugly, but on the plus side it runs well on practically any computer, the animation is very fluid, and the load times are short. The environments on offer in this chapter are necessarily pretty unique as well, offering a decidedly guttural flavor to the Monkey Island franchise. The new characters fit in well, especially De Cava, who looks and sounds like an irritated Robin Williams. The sound effects do their job, too. Ever wanted to know what it would sound like to help a friendly manatee court a terrifying, huge manatee that would like to rip its head off? You'll get a good approximation here.
Spend the next ten years helping this guy rebuild the cochlea, or simply find the old one? Decisions, decisions...
Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, the middle chapter of the five-part series, does everything that a serial should by its midpoint. It has fully hit its stride from a storytelling and gameplay perspective, and mixes things up with the unique setting. Guybrush's relationship with Morgan LeFlay evolves in an emotional-yet-not-too-sappy way, and the new characters are great additions. It's probably redundant to say it by now, but it once again ends on a cliff-hanger that will leave you begging for the next chapter. The only thing that can really be considered a disappointment is the length, as it comes in at around 3.5 hours. That's about as long as the previous chapter, but its brevity is disappointing since it is otherwise superior to the last entry in every way. In the end, this deep-sea-diving episode is Telltale's strongest chapter yet, and a definite must-buy for fans of the franchise.