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 type of love that trickles down from the highest, as Guybrush Threepwood’s newest journey sees sequence 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 growth on this surprising 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its personal proper; one which sees the beloved sequence return in swashbuckling style by incorporating concepts each outdated and new.
Very similar to the earliest video games within the sequence, Return to Monkey Island is a standard 2D point-and-click journey recreation 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. Nevertheless, probably the most intriguing facet of Return to Monkey Island is that it picks up proper the place LeChuck’s Revenge left off.
In returning to the sequence, Gilbert and Grossman needed to make use of this chance to lastly shed some gentle on that recreation’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 recreation 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 method 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 able to take action initially of the game–being each shipless and crewless–so your first process is to discover a manner off the acquainted Mêlée Island. That is simpler stated than finished, and it would not take lengthy for the story to spiral in a number of instructions because the twists and turns and double- and triple-crosses maintain piling up. The writing and performances from its returning voice solid are top-notch all through, with a lot of the jokes touchdown even when they are not laugh-out-loud humorous. Monkey Island’s signature model of absurdist humor is absolutely intact, whether or not it is riffing on previous gags, relating trendy 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 recreation’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 may nonetheless go to the SCUMM Bar and listen to a gross sales pitch for the 1990 journey recreation Loom, move underneath the large clock within the city sq. that continues to be caught on 10 PM, and chat with The Voodoo Woman in entrance of her effervescent cauldron. There have been just a few adjustments 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 over residence, however returning gamers will really feel proper at residence, notably because the soundtrack–arranged by returning composers from the sequence’ past–invokes acquainted melodies that first burrowed into ears many years in the past.
Newcomers will not have this similar fast connection, however the sequence has at all times had a robust 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 model, which has been an unlucky level of rivalry main as much as the sport’s launch. Every entry within the sequence has at all times launched a brand new artwork model 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 objects, seems to be prefer it was pulled from a colourful storybook, with expressive caricatures and lovely close-ups bringing the world to life with an attention grabbing aesthetic.
It is a visible model that appears trendy, and the identical could be stated of its gameplay, as properly. The outdated SCUMM-based point-and-click interface of choosing completely different verb commands–such as “discuss to” and “decide up”–has been changed with a streamlined system that always provides you one or two context-sensitive choices when interacting with an merchandise or character. Citing your stock allows you to seize objects and pull them right into a scene, both to provide them to somebody, place them someplace, or mix them with one thing. There’s additionally a helpful to-do listing situated in your stock so you may maintain observe of your targets. It is all very intuitive and allows you to deal with fixing the myriad puzzles that Return to Monkey Island throws your manner.
In the beginning of every playthrough, you are given a alternative of two issue modes: Informal, which makes puzzles easier by eradicating a few of the steps wanted to resolve them, and Arduous, which options extra and more durable puzzles akin to the video games of the ’90s. Whichever possibility you select, Return to Monkey Island continues the sequence’ custom of difficult you with creatively abstruse conundrums to resolve. They’re not often fully summary, and there’s a playful logic to a lot of the options. All the 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 numerous objects 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 afterward there’s some back-and-forth journey between quite a few areas that might’ve been dealt with extra easily.
If you’re struggling to determine the reply to a selected puzzle, Return to Monkey Island introduces a magical hints e-book that you would be able to flip to when fully stumped. Somewhat than pointing you to the proper reply immediately, you may ask this enchanted e-book inquiries to steadily obtain hints that can assist nudge you in the appropriate path. It sounds easy, however this technique is somewhat ingenious. The sport is aware of which puzzles you have already solved and what objects 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 totally optionally available, letting you ignore it totally or lean on it solely while you’re really caught.
Return to Monkey Island is a recreation for the sequence’ followers. There is a scrapbook on the principle menu that recounts the occasions of previous video games, however it’s gentle on specifics and feels extra like a refresher course than an important device for newcomers to make amends 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 newcomers. There is no denying that sure components will likely be misplaced with out that decades-old connection, however having a historical past with the sequence is not important to get pleasure from Guybrush Threepwood’s newest escapade. Return to Monkey Island tells a healthful and compelling story of swashbuckling shenanigans that ought to enchantment to anybody searching for a hearty journey on the excessive seas.