Telltale is extremely excited to have their hands back in the Monkey Island series. Since the last chapter released, they took up shop at the Penny-Arcade expo to further promote their title, granting interviews with different developers and Dominic Armato, the voice of Guybrush Threepwood. During the interview, Dominic expressed his love for the series, and thanked the fans for having a huge part in the revival. He also talked about the remaining chapters, and how they were "just starting to get into the heart of it," and that there was some "very interesting things coming up." Sure, this could be typical PR nonsense, but Dominic seemed way to friendly to be touting the company line if he didn't believe what he said. With Chapter 3's release, his words earn validation.
Just as was the case with the last two chapters, Lair of the Leviathan is completely story driven. Whereas Telltale went out of their way in the past to make sure that every episode of their other series can be played in nearly any order, Monkey Island is treated differently. This means the storyline that started in the first chapter continues to develop in the third. Because of this, it's hard to really talk about Tales of Monkey Island without mentioning things that are best discovered through play, so anyone who hasn't beaten Chapter 2 best divert their eyes, and go pick up the first two parts, for LeChuck's sake!
Where we last left off, Guybrush was heading out to sea, following creatures spawned by the ritual completed at the Merfolk city. However, as the sea grew deep, bounty hunter Morgan LeFlay, yet again, boarded Guybrush Threepwood's ship in an attempt to bring him back to Marquis de Singe. Before she had a chance to finish her devious act, a shadow was cast over the Screaming Narwhal, and a massive Manatee enveloped the ship. In other words, it was quite the cliffhanger. By all means, Guybrush, Morgan, and the ship should have been crushed inside of the beast. This was not the case, and since fictitious creatures have hollow bodies, the game opens up inside of the Leviathan, trapped. However, Guybrush wasn't the first one swallowed by the beast, and the following two hours are spent solving an assortment of puzzles to find a way out so that he might be able to finally get his hands on La Esponja Grande. A few new characters are introduced inside of the belly of the Manatee, as well as an old character that will likely make Monkey Island fans freak. Voice acting, across the board, is worth commending, which says a lot, since the series has had wonderful voice work up to this point.
Just as Dominic had said in the interview, Episode 3 shows a signifigant move forward in terms of narrative and characterization. The interactions between Morgan LeFlay and Guybrush are becoming more than gentle flirting, and while it doesn't look like the Mighty Pirate will be leaving Elaine anytime soon, it's obvious that Telltale wants us to feel for the Bounty Hunter. She's lonely, vulnerable, and makes up for her inadequacies with violence. She wants nothing more than to earn the love and affection of Threepwood, but that's simply not in the cards, so it's a love that cannot be. Morgan might be the best addition to the series so far, and there are so many ways she could end up that I I'm excited to see how far Telltale is willing to take her. Will she end an ally? Guybrush's greatest adversary? Dead? My only hope is that it ends as catastrophically as it should, and my money is on her ending up with LeChuck.
Despite moving forward with the story, Chapter 3 doesn't have Guybrush doing very much moving at all. The last two chapters had the pirate running from place to place, sailing to different islands and encountering plenty of different areas to explore. This time around, there are only a handful, and the same few are reused over and over again. What it lacks in original locations, however, it more than makes up for in fantastic puzzles. The limited space means for more interesting solutions to the different problems that Guybrush has to face in order to move on, and there is less of an emphasis on puzzles that involve walking around and clicking things on other things. When gaming, there are certain times not to smile thanks to witty game design and an admiration of a well-developed puzzle. Chapter 3 had me grinning ear-to-ear thanks to a constant flow of ingenious mechanics that further emphasize why, exactly, Telltale is considered to be at the top of their game with the Monkey Island series.
After beating Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 3: Lair of the Leviathan, it felt as though it was shorter than the other chapters so far in the series. After a little while I realized why: the puzzles were clear, and it wasn't that there was less content, just that it was more intuitive, and there were less times where a solution was convoluted, and more times where even the harder puzzles could be solved by logic. It's a step in the right direction for the series and the point-and-click adventure, and a method of development that I'd like to see Telltale continue with the two remaining episodes. Best episode yet? I'm not too sure about that, but there's no doubt that each new story is more polished than the last, something that will hopefully continue throughout the year.