A palpable fondness for the primary two Monkey Island video games emanates all through each three-headed monkey gag and bout of insult swordfighting in Return to Monkey Island. It is the sort of love that trickles down from the highest, as Guybrush Threepwood’s newest journey sees collection creator Ron Gilbert welcomed again into the fold for the primary time since 1991’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. The self-described grumpy gamer helmed improvement on this sudden sequel alongside veteran designer and author Dave Grossman and the gifted crew at developer Horrible Toybox. With this in thoughts, it ought to come as no shock that Return to Monkey Island is tinged with nostalgia and leans into this wistfulness with apparent pleasure. It is also an exciting sequel in its personal proper; one which sees the beloved collection return in swashbuckling vogue by incorporating concepts each outdated and new.
Very similar to the earliest video games within the collection, Return to Monkey Island is a standard 2D point-and-click journey sport constructed on storytelling and puzzle-solving. Hapless protagonist Guybrush Threepwood is back–older and solely barely wiser this time round. The intrepid pirate can also be joined by loads of returning characters, together with his ordinary cohort Elaine Marley and zombie archnemesis, LeChuck. Nonetheless, probably the most intriguing side of Return to Monkey Island is that it picks up proper the place LeChuck’s Revenge left off.
In returning to the collection, Gilbert and Grossman wished to make use of this chance to lastly shed some mild on that sport’s cliffhanger ending, but Return to Monkey Island is not precisely a direct sequel, both. For one, it nonetheless takes into consideration the occasions of every Monkey Island sport launched after 1991, with characters like Murray the demonic speaking cranium making an look. The way it does this and the way in which it buildings its narrative framework is fascinating, however delving into specifics would encroach on main spoiler territory. As an alternative, I will simply say this distinctive strategy provides a mysterious wrinkle to an in any other case easy story, and the ending is not any much less provocative than the conclusion to LeChuck’s Revenge.
The principle thrust of the narrative revolves round lastly uncovering the key of Monkey Island. Guybrush is not ready to take action at the start of the game–being each shipless and crewless–so your first job is to discover a method off the acquainted Mêlée Island. That is simpler stated than executed, and it does not take lengthy for the story to spiral in a number of instructions because the twists and turns and double- and triple-crosses hold piling up. The writing and performances from its returning voice forged are top-notch all through, with many of the jokes touchdown even when they don’t seem to be laugh-out-loud humorous. Monkey Island’s signature model of absurdist humor is absolutely intact, whether or not it is riffing on previous gags, pertaining to fashionable themes with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, or showcasing a self-referential wit. There’s additionally an earnestness to the entire expertise that may’t assist however induce a everlasting grin. For as a lot as nostalgia permeates its setting, characters, and music, it is also keenly felt within the sport’s heartwarming tone because it takes you on one other goofy pirate journey.
Seeing Guybrush stroll out onto Mêlée Island’s lookout level, with the campfire burning and the bearded Lookout purveying the island, transported me again to enjoying The Secret of Monkey Island for the primary time. You possibly can nonetheless go to the SCUMM Bar and listen to a gross sales pitch for the 1990 journey sport Loom, go underneath the large clock within the city sq. that continues to be caught on 10 PM, and chat with The Voodoo Girl in entrance of her effervescent cauldron. There have been a couple of modifications since Guybrush final stepped foot on the island’s cobblestone streets, with a brand new, youthful era of pirates in cost and a few new proprietors taking on residence, however returning gamers will really feel proper at house, significantly because the soundtrack–arranged by returning composers from the collection’ past–invokes acquainted melodies that first burrowed into ears many years in the past.
Newcomers will not have this similar fast connection, however the collection has at all times had a powerful sense of place, and Return to Monkey Island is not any completely different. Whether or not it is the jaunty Caribbean-inspired music or the quantity of element etched into each scene, Monkey Island has at all times had a particular really feel. A lot of this has to do with the sport’s evocative artwork fashion, which has been an unlucky level of competition main as much as the sport’s launch. Every entry within the collection has at all times launched a brand new artwork fashion to maintain issues contemporary and re-introduce the world with a visible reimagining, and Return to Monkey Island does this with aplomb. All the things, from its characters to backdrops to gadgets, appears prefer it was pulled from a colourful storybook, with expressive caricatures and beautiful close-ups bringing the world to life with an eye catching aesthetic.
It is a visible fashion that appears fashionable, and the identical could be stated of its gameplay, as effectively. The outdated SCUMM-based point-and-click interface of choosing completely different verb commands–such as “discuss to” and “choose up”–has been changed with a streamlined system that always offers you one or two context-sensitive choices when interacting with an merchandise or character. Citing your stock allows you to seize gadgets and pull them right into a scene, both to present them to somebody, place them someplace, or mix them with one thing. There’s additionally a helpful to-do listing positioned in your stock so you possibly can hold monitor of your targets. It is all very intuitive and allows you to concentrate on fixing the myriad puzzles that Return to Monkey Island throws your method.
Originally of every playthrough, you are given a alternative of two issue modes: Informal, which makes puzzles easier by eradicating a number of the steps wanted to unravel them, and Arduous, which options extra and tougher puzzles akin to the video games of the ’90s. Whichever choice you select, Return to Monkey Island continues the collection’ custom of difficult you with creatively abstruse conundrums to unravel. They’re hardly ever fully summary, and there’s a playful logic to many of the options. The entire puzzles are intertwined with the sport’s storytelling, too, with many typically triggering a sequence response the place fixing one thing for one character will open up options for others. Determining how varied gadgets mix collectively after which utilizing them to crack a mind teaser is inherently satisfying, though there are a few puzzles that disappointingly reuse the identical answer, and in a while there’s some back-and-forth journey between quite a few areas that would’ve been dealt with extra easily.
In case you are struggling to determine the reply to a particular puzzle, Return to Monkey Island introduces a magical hints ebook which you could flip to when fully stumped. Reasonably than pointing you to the proper reply right away, you possibly can ask this enchanted ebook inquiries to regularly obtain hints that may assist nudge you in the fitting course. It sounds easy, however this technique is quite ingenious. The sport is aware of which puzzles you have already solved and what gadgets are at present in your stock, so every query and trace is tailor-made to your present circumstances. Utilizing the trace system can also be solely elective, letting you ignore it solely or lean on it solely while you’re really caught.
Return to Monkey Island is a sport for the collection’ followers. There is a scrapbook on the principle menu that recounts the occasions of previous video games, however it’s mild on specifics and feels extra like a refresher course than a significant instrument for newcomers to atone for earlier hijinks. Returning gamers will adore the fan service and acquainted sense of heat that permeates the entire expertise, but it nonetheless strives to make itself considerably approachable for inexperienced persons. There is no denying that sure parts shall be misplaced with out that decades-old connection, however having a historical past with the collection is not important to take pleasure in Guybrush Threepwood’s newest escapade. Return to Monkey Island tells a healthful and compelling story of swashbuckling shenanigans that ought to attraction to anybody in search of a hearty journey on the excessive seas.