Raise the flags, sound the horn and bring out the marching band: monthly episodic games are a success. Its been meandering around “eeeeeeeehhhhhh” for far too long; but all it took to bring it to the edge of brilliance was 4 hours of Monkey Island. Now, the leap has been taken and it’s a 9.0 double backflip somersault triple twist.
For anyone who’s been asleep since 1990 (you weren’t even born yet – Age Ed), Monkey Island is the now long, long, looooong running tale of Guybrush Threepwood and his adventures in a fictional Caribbean filled with voodoo, pirates and voodoo pirates. Lair of the Leviathan covers his time spent inside a giant manatee after his ship was swallowed while searching for an evil-sucking sponge.
With the exception of, in what I can only assume is a “we’re sticking with this, dammit” situation, the movement system; chapter 3 is an improvement upon the others in almost every way. It is longer than Siege of Spinner Cay by a noticeable margin, not only in actual gametime but also in how long it takes to complete each puzzle. These puzzles are the best they have been in the series thus far – funny, complex and varied to a degree that simply wasn’t present before. Although the initial mini-puzzle (pre title screen) is certainly a lowlight, the quality ramps up significantly as you enter the meat of the game. Even the Three Trials formula is better presented: much longer and more complex than it has been previously, creating a larger feeling of individuality in the puzzles than there was before.
The beginning of the chapter is weak: obvious puzzles in boring locales (although grabbing manatee earwax from a giant inner-ear is just gross enough to be entertaining) with annoying solutions. Once events move into the second area (the stomach of the manatee), there is a brilliant exploitation of the limited locations that are available. With a total of only these two places, it is impressive how much content has been crammed in; particularly the stomach where most of the action takes place.
Characters, both in looks and attitude, seem more unique than before. As opposed to the seemingly thin gene pool of the Caribbean, those trapped inside manatees have developed hats, facial hair and glasses. There’s much more characterisation in the four new characters than there has been in almost anyone else introduced in the series (exceptions being new LeChuck and De Singe) and their voice acting and dialogue are both top notch. A special mention should be made of a certain newly returning character, who absolutely steals the show. In the interests of spoilers, I won’t mention who it is; but needless to say their communions with Guybrush are the best dialogue exchanges thus far. And for goodness sake, watch the credits.
The longevity of the third chapter is arguably its greatest strength. Past the improved three trials method, there is yet another set of puzzles that are some of the best available. Clever, complex and using methods and ideas that had already been presented in earlier scenarios; they really set a high bar for the rest of the series. However, if this can be met, or even exceeded, this could be some of the best adventure gaming this decade.