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?
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
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.
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
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
was stable on my computer, running with no glitches.
“Well played, Threepwood!” Morgan
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
In short, if you liked the classic
games or the previous chapters of this one, Lair should leave you
asking for more.
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,
Saves at will and unlimited
Movement by WASD or mouse, but neither
I played on:
OS: Win XP Professional SP3
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad CPU @ 2.40
Ram: 3.25GB Dual Channel DDR2 667 w/ECC
Gx card: nVidia GE Force 8800 GTS
Sound card: Creative Labs Sound Blaster
X-FI Xtreme Music