Tales of Monkey Island: Lair of the Leviathan



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games & LucasArts

Released:  September 2009

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, Pentium 4 Processor, 512MB RAM, 64MB Video card, DirectX 9.0c


Additional Screenshots





by Looney4Labs


I have never played the original Monkey Island games but, of course, I have heard good things about them. So, it was with great anticipation that I launched Tales of Monkey Island: Lair of the Leviathan (Lair), the third of five planned episodes. I’m happy to say, it did not disappoint.

But first, a word of caution. It is almost impossible at this point in the series to review without including spoilers for those who have not yet played the first two offerings. If this describes you and you want to avoid spoilers, skip to the summary and the short list.

“You don’t have some cockamamie plan for this?” Threepwood

So let’s get to it. As the game opens, Guybrush and Elaine are once again separated. She is supervising a reformed and, let’s not forget, now human LeChuck as he attempts to return all the monkeys his former evil ghost self kidnapped to their appropriate islands. Guybrush and Winslow are back aboard the Screaming Narwhal continuing their mission to find the only known cure for the dreaded pox, La Esponja Grande. Morgan LeFlay, intrepid pirate hunter, drops in and has our hero dead to rights—his throat at the pointy end of her sword. But wait, all is not lost. In true Monkey Island fashion, the Narwhal and all aboard her are swallowed by an enormous, and obviously hungry, manatee.

A new adventure begins. The pox strengthens, attacking both Winslow and Guybrush. La Esponja Grande must be found before they are completely transformed. But there are several impediments to this, not the least of which is their current location in the belly of the giant manatee.

“Weird bump, Odd protuberance, Strange growth.” Hotspot description

As this tale begins “indoors,” so to speak, our surroundings feature deeper, more muted colors than the previous ones. Still, there is no drabness to be found. Strolling around in this cartoon style, third person, 3-D environment reveals reds of all shades, lots of yellows as well as purple jewels, piles of gold, a bar with party lights and a shrine—complete with lit torches.

Later in the game, the action moves to the ocean floor where light is again diffused. However, there are some moments aboard ship resplendent with bright colors and puffy curlicue clouds. No matter the location, no scenes were unduly dark and I was never reduced to pixel hunting.

“If she stirs, I’ll give the old scurvy button. “ Winslow

Some of the characters from the earlier installments are back. The Voodoo Lady is still enigmatic, Winslow remains loyal and competent, the Marquis De Singe continues in his mincing evilness, and Morgan LeFlay persists in being both curvaceous and deadly. They may be cartoon-style, but they have marvelously expressive faces. Who knew that eyebrows could reveal so much?

Lair introduces some new individuals, each oozing quirkiness and attitude. For instance, there is a trio of permanently-on-vacation pirates, including one who must be channeling Maynard G. Krebs. There is also the ancient and jealous Coronado De Cava, as well as a giant and angry manatee. My favorite, though, is Murray the demonic skull. While not new to fans of the classic games, he was to me. What a card! His monologue as the credits role is so much fun to watch…..errrrrr, listen to.

“How did Santino make all the manatee sounds?” Threepwood

Lair delivers a lot of amusing one-liners via the classic dialogue tree. However, if you desire, they may be skipped by right clicking. My hat is off to the voice actors for a job well done. They brought flavor and life to all the characters with nary a stinker in the bunch.

Lair also delivers mood setting background music tailored to the moment, and immersive ambient sounds. I loved listening to the sounds of the wind and the waves while watching the manatees frolic.

‘How many numbskulls does it take to make one of them anyway?” Murray

Guybrush faces numerous challenges as he moves toward his ultimate goal. Many require him to find, combine, and use inventory items in unique ways. Others are dialogue based, a concept certainly not new to fans of this series. I found these diverting and entertaining. One puzzle requiring Guybrush to help a poor love-struck male manatee (think Cyrano de Bergerac) navigate the emotional dangers of courting a lonely and aggressive female was quite clever.

I did not find any mazes, color or sound dependent puzzles, sliders, mini-games or anything demanding a fast twitch reaction. There is a sequence near the end that requires Guybrush to perform one action with alacrity, but it is not difficult.

Muwahaha! At last, I alone rule the interface.” Murray

Having discussed all the things that I did like, it’s time to touch on the one thing I feel could and should be improved. Guybrush can be moved using either the mouse to drag him, or the WASD keys. I used a combination of both, and never felt comfortable with either.

I am a fan of WASD, but this scheme is not like any others I have encountered. Normally (at least as far as my experience), W moves the avatar forward in the direction he is facing, and S moves him backwards. But in Lair, W moves Guybrush north, S takes him south, etc. regardless of the direction he is currently looking. This confused me at first, and never became intuitive.

I wasn’t any more comfortable dragging Guybrush around either. He had a tendency to end up where I didn’t want him, and not to go where I did. In a game that has so much right, this awkward control scheme is just plain aggravating.

Other than that, the interface is easy to use. Items combine smoothly in inventory, you can save at will, and as often as you please. In addition, after certain actions, the game auto-saves. It is Alt+Tab friendly, and includes an option for subtitles as well as the ability to separately adjust voice, sound effects, and background music.

Lair was stable on my computer, running with no glitches.

“Well played, Threepwood!” Morgan LeFlay 

Tales of Monkey Island: Lair of the Leviathan has made a fan of me. Cartoon style graphics are among my favorite types, and this game delivers them with panache. The dialogue is funny and the puzzles are both creative and comical. The sound work is excellent, and the story continues to draw me in. Whatever is going to happen to Guybrush and Elaine? And exactly what I am going to do with a Tongue of the Manatee and a golden wrench?

In short, if you liked the classic games or the previous chapters of this one, Lair should leave you asking for more.

Grade: A-

Short List:

Third episode of five planned chapters

Third person, 3-D adventure game

Cartoon style graphics

Inventory, dialogue and logic puzzles

No sound or color dependent challenges, mazes, sliders, or mini-games

No fast twitch required

No pixel hunting

Excellent voice acting, ambient sounds, background music

Saves at will and unlimited

Movement by WASD or mouse, but neither was intuitive

No glitches

I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional SP3

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad CPU @ 2.40 GHz

Ram: 3.25GB Dual Channel DDR2 667 w/ECC 2-DIMMs

Gx card: nVidia GE Force 8800 GTS

Sound card: Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-FI Xtreme Music

October, 2009

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