Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lair of the Leviathan Review

This review was originally written for Associated Content on February 24, 2010. I can finally post this here as the rights have reverted back to me.

Once again, the game continues right where the last one left off, with Guybrush, Van Winslow, and Morgan LeFlay in a strange situation after the events of last episode's cliffhanger. I didn't mention it in my review of the last game, but this applies all the games in the series after the first episode. Telltale does a nice job of filling the player in on the events of the last episode, while also making the recap fit into the spirit of the series. The voodoo lady tells the story of the previous events while reading tarot cards. The tarot cards represent the various characters in the game, and the fates that have or will befall them. The tarot reading fits nicely into the heavy voodoo theme that is in the background of the series. Alison Ewing does such an excellent job portraying the character, taking on the role from Leilani Jones Wilmore so well, that some gamers may not notice the difference in voice actresses.

Once again, since this is an episodic series, the control has remained unchanged in this episode. Once again, I found the combination keyboard for movement and mouse for object selection to be the best option. But the other control options are still here for those who might wish to use them. These options are the direct control by keyboard or joystick and the point and drag method that consists of clicking Guybrush and dragging him to where you want him to go. Note that the click and drag method is not quite as intuitive as point and click, since it requires releasing the mouse button to choose an object, and then clicking on Guybrush again. It's a somewhat complicated scheme, but the option to use just a mouse is there once again in some form for those who don't wish to use a keyboard or joystick while playing.

As usual, Michael Land has risen to the task of providing an excellent synthesized soundtrack for the game. While I still prefer live instruments, the synthesized music fits the mood well. Dominic Armato and Nikki Rapp once again perform wonderfully as Guybrush Threepwood and Morgan LeFlay. I was a bit disappointed that Van Winslow was relegated to his quarters for much of the episode due to his affliction with the pox, as I would have liked to have heard more of Roger Jackson's excellent comic delivery. Thankfully, the new characters are much more interesting in this episode. The insane explorer De Cava was a real treat, as were his crew. A "party dude" named Moose will be a treat for longtime fans of Telltale Games, as he bears a striking resemblence in both personality and appearance to Theodore Dudebrough, a character from Telltale's first game, Telltale Texas Hold'Em. I was also delighted to hear the return of Andrew Chaikin, a voice actor from the beginning who had to quit his role as Max after the first episode of Sam & Max Season One due to health issues. Here he plays a distrusting pirate named Bugeye, who sounds a lot like Phoney Bone from Telltale's Bone games, who was also played by Andrew Chaikin. The remaining character, Noogie, is also a fun character. He is a large, shy, yet jovial person who plays the music in the crew's improvised cantina. The three characters together make up a similar dynamic to a stereotypical fraternity, and like the androgynous merpeople, isn't like anything seen in Monkey Island before, yet somehow fits well in that universe. I was glad to see Morgan finally see the real Guybrush rather than the romanticized version she pictured in her head. It will be interesting to see how she feels about him now that she knows what he's really like. The biggest treat of the episode, however, comes in the form of the return of a popular character from previous Monkey Island games. I'm not going to spoil it, since the appearance is so much fun, but I will say that this appearance has made me appreciate the character much more than I ever have in the past. Whenever this character was in a scene, he completely stole the show.

Thankfully, the reused model issue isn't as much of a problem in this episode. I'm not sure if the new pirates still used the standard pirate models, but if they did, they were designed so well that I didn't even notice. The characters were not bland or generic, and the backgrounds and atmosphere had a surprising amount of variety despite the fact that the episode mostly took place inside the belly of a manatee. One stand out scene that I don't want to spoil too much involves the Voodoo Lady, a voodoo necklace, and a spell that lets someone control the body of another. Telltale did a wonderful job animating this scene. The animations alone made me laugh out loud.

In typical Telltale fashion, the third episode of the series learns from the mistakes of the second. This episode brings much more interesting new characters than the last, and due to that, doesn't seem to bog down in sections as much as the last episode. It was great to see Morgan discover the real non-romanticized Guybrush. The stand out moment of the episode is the return of a popular character in a role bigger and funnier than in any previous game. Lair of the Leviathan further cements Tales of Monkey Island as an excellent addition to the already excellent Monkey Island series.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

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