Review: Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan (PC)

cover-02Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair Of The Leviathan
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games/Lucasarts
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 9/29/09

The third chapter in Telltale Games adventure series continues the tale of Guybrush Threepwood as he attempts to rid the world of the Pox he unleashed by finding La Esponja Grande (the big sponge) and sucking up all the evil voodoo. We’ve already reviewed chapter one and chapter two, so be sure to check those out as well. As this is the third chapter in the ongoing Tales of Monkey Island saga and I’ve reviewed the first chapter earlier this year, anything pertinent from that previous review is going to pop up here in italics.

Morgan LeFlay has tracked our hero down on the Screaming Narwhal with his one lone crew member, Winslow. He is intent on taking Guybrush in, when a giant sea monster (a directionally challenged over-sized Manatee) swallows the whole ship. Even after being swallowed, this violent temptress of a bounty hunter and assassin is still intent on taking Guybrush in, but an unfortunate accident with a rolling barrel puts her out cold. You can then look around from here as Winslow will keep an eye on her and you come across a camp, of all things, on the inside of the mouth of the Manatee.

At this camp is De Cava, who you’ve been looking for, and who’s been seeking La Esponja Grande as a gift for the Voodoo Lady whom he’s in love with. At this point you can hand over the locket she gave you. When he opens it and hits a button, the Voodoo Lady possesses De Cava and tells Guybrush not to tell him that he’s looking for the sponge or to mention her at all as he’s a bit crazed. So what’s the first thing Guybrush does? Yeah, you guessed it. So much for our Mighty Pirate.

mi103_decavahutDe Cava immediately thinks you’re involved in an affair with the Voodoo Lady, so Guybrush concocts a plan to use LeFlay to be his “wife”. After waking her up (I won’t spoil how) and getting a few details in the process about her, she hesitantly agrees to play Threepwood’s wife. De Cava isn’t entirely convinced and cages the both of them, dangling them over the throat of the Manatee. It’s at this point you have to figure out the answers to De Cava’s questions about LeFlay as he’s asked personal things about you both in private and you have to look back to the things you’ve learned about her and make good guesses.

If you get it right, he lets you out and explains that the Manatee is heading to its breeding grounds and that there is where they’ll find the sponge. Unfortunately it’s missing an important part of the inner ear that will help guide it there and you have to help De Cava find the missing bit or make a new one. LeFlay has had enough and corners Threepwood and you both end up tumbling down the Manatee’s throat anyway, where you find De Cava’s original crew who had grown sick of looking for the sponge and have decided that living in the Manatee is paradise and probably have something to do with the missing part of the inner ear. They have no real intention of helping our hero, so he puts a plan into action.

The story here I thought was even better done than the first chapter, and had quite a bit more humor woven into it. There’s quite a bit more going on after this, but I’m not a spoilers kind of guy. Let’s just say LeFlay plays a big part and there’s a pirate face-off, literally.

Story/Modes Rating: Classic

I liked what they had done with the first chapter as far as the 3D look, but thought they could have used a few more polys in the meshes. Not much has changed in that regards, but things seem a little smoother now. I don’t know if that has to do with my laptop getting the backwards compatible DirectX drivers for 9.0c so I can play Knights of the Old Republic in Vista or not, but there is a nice change. The characters don’t seem as blocky as they were. You can see it a bit in the close-ups but it’s not as jarring as before.

The backgrounds and environments still look quite good, but we’re inside the mouth and belly of a Giant Manatee for a big chunk of your play time and I’ve found very few 3D games that can pull off the organic insides look all that well. This one does a decent enough job, but I’m afraid that like the first chapter I’m going to find fault with it. It works for what it needs to do, but where the character models seem to look better now, the environment suffers a bit.

Graphics Rating: Good

The character voices are fantastically done and really bring this game to life and suck you in. The dialogue is really well written and fits each of the characters. There is music to the game but it’s not that memorable.

The problem that the first chapter had with the sound not syncing up with the mouth movements is completely gone now. I didn’t have any instance where that was a problem here and it really adds to the game and I’m glad to see it fixed. The new people joining in with De Cava and his crew are especially good at delivering their lines leading to some very funny bits. It is all in the delivery and they deliver.

Sound Rating: Very Good

Control and Gameplay
The controls in this game are very simple. You can move around with the keyboard or mouse, point and click on objects with the mouse, drag items in your inventory to interact with other objects with your mouse, and in a few instances you’ll have to use the keyboard to arrange certain objects to escape. Simple, but effective.

mi103_manateeGameplay pretty much follows what you’d expect from an adventure game. Wander around, talk to people, pick up objects and figure out how they fit into certain puzzles, if at all. There are a few instances where they change camera angles which make it a bit difficult to figure out where you’re supposed to be going, but the environments are usually detailed enough where it isn’t that much of a problem. You do have several dialogue options with the differing characters you meet, but other than revealing different parts of the story or backstory for the characters it really doesn’t change the interactions thereafter, so you can be as much of a jerk as you like if that’s how you want to play it.

The one section they added where you have to out-pirate the pirate with different and scary faces was implemented quite well. There are definitely still a few instances where slightly better camera angles would have helped moving around, and the mouse item selection and interaction doesn’t seem as smooth as the first time around, but only when there are a ton of things you can interact with, like on a certain workbench that De Cava is working from.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

While this was a ton of fun, subsequent playthroughs will be faster and easier which might cut down on the fun for some players. That and you can’t really skip some of the more inane dialogue (or at least I couldn’t figure out how when I was playing the first chunk over again). Really the only reason to play this over again is for the amusing dialogue and puzzles as there’s nothing really to collect here. This is fine for people who like these games, but won’t be for the people who have to unlock everything.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

This chapter of the game isn’t as complex to figure out as the first chapter as far as puzzles go. Most of what you’re looking for is in one area at first and fairly easy to find if you’re careful about looking around. You just have to be sure you employ all the items and conversations correctly and really pay attention to a few conversations and points. But then they give you the option to go in and replay certain key points so even then it’s not too hard. I’m referring to the point in the game where De Cava is testing you about being “married” to LeFlay and you’ve been faking it.

I’m still guessing at a total time to beat all five chapters at roughly 10 hours as this chapter didn’t take me quite as long, and the overall price for these is well worth it. And hey, free DVD with all of them mailed to your house when they’re done!

Balance Rating: Great

While this game is a nice addition to the series, and this is really the first time it’s been episodic, there isn’t much that’s original here. You’re still dealing with the overall main villain, the same hero, his wife, and a few other pop-ups from previous games. So while this has a fresh new spin it’s mostly things I’ve seen before. And again, it’s a sequel, so, um, yeah.

One thing that was nice about this chapter is that while LeChuck and Elaine are mentioned, we get to meet and mess around with the new characters we’ve just met a little more. This is definitely pulling from Pinnochio and Jonas and the Whale a bit, but with that Monkey Island twist.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

What I said about the first chapter still applies minus about 40 minutes of playing time. Shortness aside, this game does suck you in even when you’re frustrated because you’re missing something obvious about the current puzzle that’s staring you in the face. When I actually got down to play this game it was a fast two and a half hours, but it was the only thing going on and I didn’t really take a break from it until those end credits rolled. Then I wanted more.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

Appeal Factor
The third chapter of the game really keeps that fun and familiar Monkey Island feel to it. It’s still very much family friendly and with two more monthly installments to go I’m very much looking forward to the next two chapters to see how this ends. I like that I can do a chapter really quickly if I want or take my time and still get all the fun out of it, and being able to go through on a lazy Sunday when I just want to be entertained is a joy in and of itself.

Appeal Factor Rating: Classic

Other than my troubles with selecting with the mouse, I couldn’t find another glitch with this game. It didn’t crash on me, ran beautifully, and preformed great. I can’t find any other misc. problem with it, other than I want more. Granted, this doesn’t require a powerhouse of a machine to run, but it is nice to see a game that doesn’t crash out on you and just does what it’s supposed to do, entertain.

Miscellaneous Rating: Classic

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Classic
Graphics Rating: Good
Sound Rating: Very Good
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
Replayability Rating: Medicore
Balance Rating: Great
Originality Rating: Mediocre
Addictiveness Rating: Classic
Appeal Factor Rating: Classic
Miscellaneous Rating: Classic

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize This chapter continues to deliver the fun and quirkiness of the Monkey Island series. The visuals seem to have been cleaned up a bit and the game runs and plays smooth. I’m still left wanting more after I finished this title. Since we’re three chapters into the five chapter game, that’s a very good sign that they’ve kept up the momentum. It’s still a very reasonable price and the DVD at the end of it all is looking even better and better.



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