Return to Monkey Island Review

Return to Monkey Island is the adventure game equivalent of Spider-Man: No Way Home. No, wait, don’t go! Hear me out: most would agree that No Way Home is an excellent movie and a lot of fun, even for a kid who has never seen the Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies. But if he has created those movie memories with the Peter Parkers of the past, then No Way Home taps into something else: nostalgia, even eliciting genuine emotion at various points.

Return to Monkey Island, which very remarkably puts series creator Ron Gilbert back in the franchise’s director’s chair for the first time in 30 years, is a similar journey. It’s a fun, beautiful, polished, well-paced story packed with plenty of puzzles that are fun and challenging for anyone who appreciates a good adventure game. And Return wisely offers “Guybrush’s Scrapbook” on the main menu, as a fun and visual way to recap previous Guybrush-narrated Monkey Island games. But for those like me, for whom the early Monkey Island games were a formative part of our gaming youth, this meeting with wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood is like coming home. To this end, I loved the not-so-hidden Trivia Cards scattered throughout many scenes, testing your knowledge of the franchise.

The most obvious way that Return to Monkey Island differs from its predecessors is in its art style. Gilbert could have gone the pixel art route to pluck some extra low end nostalgia fruit, but instead he’s gone with a much bolder modern look. I admit it: I didn’t love it when I first saw it. It’s a jarring departure from the games I love, but then again, so was the first post-Gilbert Monkey Island game, Curse of Monkey Island, which used a Disney cartoon style that I adored. Return’s art direction is more abstract, but somewhere in the 11 hours it took me to complete the story, I grew to love it. It uses a huge swath of the color palette, and its over-the-top character design meshes nicely with Monkey Island’s sense of humor.

The delicious music could easily trick you into thinking you’re still in 1991.

But while you’d never mistake Return to Monkey Island for any other game in the series at a glance, the luscious music could easily fool you into thinking you’re still in 1991. Composers Michael Land and Peter McConnell return with another pleasantly Caribbean score. , and it goes a long way towards making it feel like a proper return to Monkey Island. Ditto for the voice cast, led by Dominic Armato as Guybrush Threepwood, who brings a restrained, serious sensibility to a game full of often absurd scenarios, though he’s not afraid to throw in a bit of sarcasm when the situation arises. he asks for it. Everyone in this world knows that Guybrush is a well-intentioned mess, but they can’t help but root for this desperate underdog and be friends with him anyway. Armato’s performance is a big reason why I felt the same way; There is an innocence in Guybrush that shines.

And the plot? Return is set right after Monkey Island 2, but it’s framed in a clever way I wasn’t expecting. That showed me a new side of Monkey Island: its big heart, which quickly becomes apparent in the playable Prelude that I won’t spoil here, and it keeps getting calls at all times. His overarching story involves, what else, the search for the secret of Monkey Island, and that search revolves around Guybrush’s never-ending rivalry with the zombie pirate villain LeChuck, and his love that isn’t really a triangle with Elaine Marley. . In fact, Return obsesses over the founding mystery far more than any of its predecessors, and plays itself to repeated comedic effect. Our decades of wondering if Gilbert will ever reveal the true secret of Monkey Island is reflected in the game, with even Guybrush’s wife Elaine pondering why our hero continues to cling to him. In the process, he revisits familiar places like Melee Island and, of course, Monkey Island, and leads us to new ones; just as it brings back familiar faces (like Murray!) and introduces a host of new characters. Greetings to Locke Smith, whom you will visit on several occasions and who is well aware that his very name is a play on words.

happily puzzled

An excellent story and memorable characters are only one half of the classic puzzle game equation: the other is a series of puzzles that are both challenging and satisfying to solve, serving as the foundation for any great point-and-click adventure. Return offers a hearty helping of them here, always including a comedic thread that bypasses the traditional question of which item to use on which person or location each turn. Solving puzzles is as satisfying a hit of dopamine as ever, and the 2022 iteration of Monkey Island has learned to avoid the infamously obtuse “adventure game logic” that so often made people bounce off the originals in the past. .

The puzzle structures and solutions aren’t really new, but none were so abstract as to leave me wondering how the hell I would have gotten to the solution once I figured it out. And while nothing ever frustrated me to the point of wanting to give up and try again later with a fresh mind, every now and then I got a little stuck in the mud, as is usual in these games, like when I had to use a ” Apology Frog” to win back the favor of the Governor of Melee Island, Carla. So I made use of Guybrush’s always-available hint book here and there, and quickly learned that I didn’t need to swallow my pride whole before resorting to it. It’s a very welcome evolution of a feature first introduced to the series in LucasArts’ 2009 remasters of Monkey Island 1 and 2, and it feels guilt-free because it’s not simply a tome of spoilers like using a tutorial. Instead, it gives you clues layer by layer, nudging you in the right direction but retaining the sense of satisfaction you get from solving the puzzle yourself. Only once, in fact, did the clue book tell me something I really didn’t want to know at the time. The new To Do List also helps you keep track of everything you’re currently working on trying to solve without feeling like you’re being led by the nose.

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