Review for Return to Monkey Island
It's been over a decade since we last saw Guybrush Threepwood, the lovable pirate wannabe who stole our hearts in the Monkey Island series. But he's back in Return to Monkey Island and he's as charming as ever. This time around, our hero is finally on a quest to unveil the true Secret of Monkey Island, and the game is just as funny and engaging as the originals. If you're a fan of point-and-click adventures, you need to check this one out.
The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the most popular adventure games of all time. It was released in 1990 by Lucasfilm Games and quickly became a cult classic. The game introduces Guybrush Threepwood, a young man who dreams of becoming a pirate. Monkey Island was revolutionary for its time, with an engaging story, memorable characters, and puzzles that were challenging but not impossible to solve.
The franchise was created by Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer and is currently owned by Lucasfilm Games (Disney). Monkey Island is known for its humor, puzzles, and references to pop culture.
Nearly thirty years after its initial release, Monkey Island is still remarkably popular. A new generation of gamers is discovering it through re-releases and remakes, and old-school fans are happy to return to the island for another round of adventuring.
The franchise has had several sequels since its original titles, The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, which Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer created: after that came The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island by LucasArts and then the Tales of Monkey Island series by Telltale Games.
Now for the first time in thirty years the original developers, Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, are retaking the helm, stepping back in and creating a new entry in the canon. The story of Return to Monkey Island follows Guybrush Threepwood, the original protagonist of the Monkey Island games, as he returns to his home island after many years away. He finds that things have changed on the island and that his old friends and foes are now involved in various plots. Guybrush must use wit and ingenuity to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and finally discover the long-awaited, tantalizing Secret of Monkey Island.
In this new addition, the gameplay is similar to that of the previous games in the series. You control Guybrush Threepwood, the main character, from a third-person perspective as he explores various locations and solves puzzles. Return to Monkey Island is divided into five chapters, each of which feature several challenges that must be solved to progress.
The puzzles are some of the best I've ever seen in a game. They're clever, original, and thought-provoking without being frustrating, and the humor is just as funny as in the first two games. Once again, Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman have outdone themselves. The story is brilliantly thought-out and feels like a natural continuation of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. What's even more impressive is the game's ability to constantly surprise you and keep you guessing as to where the story is heading. It does a great job of explaining how this works in ways that naturally flow with the gameplay.
Along with classic point-and-click adventuring, the interface is intuitive and easy to use, and the game is just the right mix of challenge and fun. There are plenty of things to do and see on the island, and you rarely feel stuck or lost.
There are a few moments where the puzzle solutions are not immediately apparent, but these are few and far between.
If you do get stuck, you can consult the helpful hint book that's in your inventory. These hints are smart and contextual, according to where you are in the game. Accompanied by a clear 'to-do list', you understand the overarching goal you're currently focused on, and progression expands upon what you're trying to achieve. Hints range from small nudges to downright telling you precisely what you need to do.
Overall, the gameplay in Return to Monkey Island is enjoyable with plenty of variety. It should appeal to series' fans, as well as to newcomers.
Inventory and interaction
There's no question that the latest Monkey Island game is a faithful return to form for the franchise. It's got all the elements that made the originals great: clever puzzles, eccentric characters, and plenty of humor.
But one thing that's different in this latest installment is the inventory system and how you interact with items and characters. Instead of the traditional point-and-click interface, you now have to manage your items in a more streamlined, action-oriented way, with contextual information for every interactable element. Through hotspots, you receive contextual guidance, which leads to many extra in-game jokes, along with opportunities to guide the player subtly. The extension feels exceptionally natural, and once you’ve experienced it, you wonder how you could have ever played games without it. It’s a superb evolution of the point-and-click genre that we’ve come to expect from the likes of Gilbert and Grossman.
Another great addition are the trivia cards you'll find throughout the world, which ask questions about the Monkey Island universe. These are cleverly placed and add an extra layer of amusement. Some of the questions you won't know the answers to until you find them later in the game. If you miss one, don't worry, they will respawn.
Characters and sound design
The sound design for Return to Monkey Island features a great mix of classic and new tracks that help set the tone. It’s immediately apparent that, once again, working with Michael Land, Peter McConnell, and Clint Bajakian has done wonders; the atmosphere of the original games is immediately apparent.
Voice acting is also top-notch, with each character bringing their unique personality to the table. They feel like real people, and you care about them. The voice acting is some of the best I've ever heard in a video game.
The characters in Return to Monkey Island are some of the most iconic in video game history, including Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine Marley, Stan, Murray, and the evil pirate LeChuck.
The dialogue is hilarious and incredibly well-written. Each character has a distinct personality and feels like they belong in the world of Monkey Island. The writers clearly understand these characters (duh), and it shows.
The graphics were heavily debated online upon the first announcement, with some fans liking the new art style while others weren’t so happy. I can genuinely say that the unique art style feels very fitting and believable, an extraordinary feat by Art Director Rex Crowle. It’s a fascinating evolution to the series that suits the addition of close-up scenes and the improved contextual hotspot system.
Graphics are colorful and attractive, and the characters are so expressive! The environments are also well-designed, and the game world is imaginative yet convincing. Little details, like how the water moves in the background or how birds fly around, bring the locales to life. It is simply a great-looking game.
The addition of mini-cutscenes at certain key moments is a great way to enhance engagement. You'll get small animations or close-ups when you receive certain items or during longer story cutscenes, and they bring a lot of personality to the experience. I think the close-ups, in particular, give the game an appealing Ren & Stimpy cartoon feel.
Finally, I should note that the scrapbook that's included with the game, although not core to the gameplay, is a beautifully executed rendition that looks gorgeous while providing an excellent overview of all the different key stories that happened in all the Monkey Island adventures so far. Going beyond The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, the scrapbook also features The Curse of Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island, and Tales of Monkey Island. The inclusion of all parts of the canon is fun to see, and the presentation makes it quite enjoyable. It's a perfect way for players new to the series to get some background as to what has happened in prior installments.
It's been over a decade since the last Monkey Island game, and it was well worth the wait. The new one is everything fans could have hoped for and more. The puzzle design is top-notch, the humor is spot-on, and the story is a love letter to the series. If you're a fan of adventure games or want to take a trip down memory lane, you should definitely experience Return to Monkey Island.