Lair of the Leviathan is the third episode of the Tales of Monkey Island series, and it takes Guybrush where he's never been before. Really. We're pretty sure he's never been inside the bowels of a giant manatee before, but feel free to correct us if we've got that one wrong. We're at the mid-point of Tales of Monkey Island, which is where, historically, Telltale have delivered the weakest episodes of their games. But is that the case with Lair of the Leviathan, or does the inclusion of a certain character introduce enough pure evil to elevate the game's profile?
As mentioned Lair of the Leviathan starts inside the belly of a giant manatee, which is meant to transport Guybrush to the resting place of La Esponja Grande, a cure for the Pox of Le Chuck which is sweeping the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the manatee is missing one of its cochlea, which are its internal guidance system, which means right now all it's doing is swimming in circles. The manatee is also home to another crew which was previously swallowed. However, most of the crew has mutinied against their captain, Coronado De Cava, and are living quite comfortably in the creature's stomach, living off bile, playing bongos and hiding the manatee's missing cochlea so that it will stay put. Guybrush forms a temporary alliance with bounty hunter Morgan Le Flay, who was also swallowed, as they try to find a way to set the manatee back on track and escape it. While it's quite easy to see the episode's twists and turns in advance, the story continues the fine Monkey Island tradition of being bizarre, hilarious and pretty interesting.
If all of this sounds a bit like Pinocchio, there are definitely echoes of it here. Telltale do some clever things with the digestive setting of this episode, but not a lot, seeing as most of the game takes place in only two locations inside the manatee. There are a fair few puzzles to solve in these two locations, but it just feels like more could have been done with the idea, for comedy and to give the player some new and different things to look at. Nevertheless, the game does eventually move on from the manatee, and when it does the pace picks up a bit with some interesting situations and puzzles as Guybrush attempts to retrieve La Esponja Grande. Probably the funniest recurring puzzle is a new form of pirate-duelling, dubbed 'Pirate Face-Off', where the combatants try to pull the scariest pirate face they can. Like Insult Sword-Fighting in past games, you have to find original faces from as many sources as possible to put up a decent fight, and some of the faces that you do end up pulling are pretty hilarious. As a whole, it doesn't feel as difficult as the last two episodes, and is around three to four hours long.
By now it's no secret that Murray, the talking demonic skull who's been in the series since The Curse of Monkey Island, is back for this episode. And he's definitely the best thing about it. He's still remarkably stedfast in his devotion to ruling the world and destroying all lesser mortals, as well as bringing as much misery to Guybrush as possible. He's loveable in that kind of way. He's got the best lines of the game, torments you while he's in your inventory, and he even insults all of the credits as they pass by him at the end. What a guy.
Due to the game spending most of its time in only a handful of locations, there isn't a whole lot new here to see. The inside of the manatee is suitably disgusting, while the new characters feel a little bit less like re-used pirate character models, and have a bit more personality. Murray is awesome, and his evil expressions reflect his Curse of Monkey Island design rather than the handful of polygons used for his Escape from Monkey Island appearance. Voice-acting is again very well done, and Danny Delk returns to voice Murray.
Lair of the Leviathan would be just another so-so middle episode of a Telltale episodic series if it weren't for the inclusion of everyone's favourite concentration of pure evil, Murray. While the game has some cool puzzles, like the aforementioned Pirate Face-Off and communicating with manatees through a tourist's phrasebook, there just doesn't feel like there's as much to do this time around as previous episodes. The plot is quite good, with some nice twists and turns, and the presentation is as good as its ever been, but as Guybrush closes in on La Esponja Grande, it just doesn't feel as climactic as it should. In any case, if you've subscribed to the series then you'll no doubt be pleased with the story in this episode, and if you're a Monkey Island fan just looking for some Murray action, there's plenty here for everyone.