‘Return to Monkey Island’ overview: A swansong for a golden age of video games

Obtainable On: PC, Mac, Nintendo Change

Developer: Horrible Toybox | Writer: Devolver Digital, Lucasfilm Video games

“Return to Monkey Island” is the achievement of a promise remodeled 30 years in the past. Because the launch of “The Secret of Monkey Island” in 1990, the sequence has been held up as a paragon of the journey recreation style. When fans are fondly reminiscing in regards to the golden age of journey video games, Monkey Island is usually referenced because the go-to instance that outlined the 90s point-and-click zeitgeist, even when stacked towards different powerhouse hits from the period equivalent to “Full Throttle,” “Grim Fandango,” and “Beneath a Steel Sky.” The swashbuckling franchise that includes Guybrush Threepwood, self-proclaimed mighty pirate, has been broadly beloved by followers and praised by recreation designers (Naughty Canine co-president Neil Druckmann is a noted superfan).

That nostalgic backstory is why “Return to Monkey Island” is such an enormous deal. It’s a return not solely of the sequence but additionally for its creator Ron Gilbert, who left the sequence after 1991’s “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge”. The game finally answers the question that fans have speculated about for decades: what is the Secret of Monkey Island? Other designers after Gilbert have provided their own answers in sequels. “Return to Monkey Island” reveals the key straight from the unique creator himself and in definitive vogue.

“Return to Monkey Island” didn’t fairly reside as much as 30 years of pent-up fan theorizing, discussion board debates and hype from hardcore followers whose tastes are nonetheless locked inside a 90s journey recreation time capsule, nonetheless. Not as a result of it’s a nasty recreation (quite the opposite, it’s fairly pleasant) however as a result of Monkey Island is a humble sequence that’s been unfairly saddled with an unfeasibly epic expectation. The sequence has at all times been a few foolish pirate happening zany adventures and “Return to Monkey Island” could be very self-aware about this place, and the sport’s most spectacular achievement is how deftly it navigated that conundrum by tapping into the joyful vitality of Monkey Island’s earliest video games whereas tempering the nostalgic angst for a time that may’t be recaptured.

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For the uninitiated, “Return to Monkey Island” stars the series protagonist Threepwood, a quippy and remarkably likable pirate sailing the Caribbean during an anachronistic version of the Golden Age of Piracy. Guybrush’s world is a Saturday morning cartoon version of piracy, where sword fights are determined by the 1700s equivalent of “yo momma” jokes, ship captains grumble about corporate red tape and zombies are extremely vulnerable to root beer. Since the game is a sequel (specifically to “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge” in the series’ timeline), you’ll also need some background information before playing.

To that end, “Return to Monkey Island” has a digital scrapbook with Guybrush himself narrating through the major plot points of the previous titles to catch you up. Most of those plot points involve Guybrush’s archnemesis, the undead buccaneer LeChuck. LeChuck is also seeking the Secret of Monkey Island and is also in love with Elaine Marley (governor of the fictional Tri-Island Area and Guybrush’s wife).

“Return to Monkey Island” can be widely enjoyed by everyone, whether you are an adventure game veteran or a total newbie. The game is designed as a classic point-and-click title crafted with a modern sensibility: simple UI, puzzles encouraging unconventional thinking and punchy dialogue coupled with a vibrant Cubist art style and highly adaptable difficulty settings. There’s the Casual mode for players who want to enjoy the game’s story with minimal puzzling and a Hard mode for those who want a more cerebral challenge.

My favorite feature was the Hint Book, an in-game inventory item that provides spoiler-free tips on how to solve a puzzle or progress a quest. Not only does the Hint Book save you from alt-tabbing to a browser for help, it’s also scalable: you can rely on it as little or as much as you want. The first few hints for a quest are just nudges towards the right direction but you can also go through an entire entry to get everything spelled out for you. As someone who enjoyed playing the game on Hard but required the occasional nudge, the Hint Book was a godsend. There’s also a key (or button for controllers) for highlighting all the interactable items in an area.

But even with all these new dressings and increased accessibility, “Return to Monkey Island” is very much a title made for lifetime fans. It’s rife with self-referential throwbacks, inside jokes and cameos from characters introduced in other Monkey Island games. The game’s humor is dry, absurdist and often breaks the fourth wall — all of which compromise Gilbert’s auteur mark. To Monkey Island fans, the opening title sequence from “Return to Monkey Island” showing Mêlée Island at night with the game’s theme music playing is as iconic as the opening crawl in “Star Wars.”

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“Return to Monkey Island” is every part that the builders purported it to be. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt journey recreation that made me chuckle all over. The one wonky factor to notice is the pacing. The sport opens at a gradual tempo after which hits a sudden and big spike. I went from having a transparent, centered mission for a particular space to immediately being saddled with a dozen targets that despatched me frantically touring forwards and backwards between a number of islands.

Nonetheless, the payoff of the sport’s closing act — and the whole journey that leads as much as it — makes “Return to Monkey Island” a recreation effectively value your time. Monkey Island is a sequence that has been surprisingly proof against the sequel escalation that impacts different long-running video video games franchises. Aside from “Tales of Monkey Island,” which featured a zombie plague outbreak within the Caribbean, the sequence has persistently centered on the private. Monkey Island isn’t about saving the world. It’s in regards to the adventures of the sort and wide-eyed Guybrush Threepwood — his dream of turning into a famend pirate, marrying the love of his life and discovering the Secret of Monkey Island. His is the kind of life that might be celebrated by raised mugs in a dockside tavern, not trumpeted in a cathedral with kings and queens in attendance. However over time, Guybrush and Monkey Island have turn into lionized by his followers into one thing they aren’t.

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In June, Gilbert introduced he would cease speaking about “Return to Monkey Island” and closed feedback on his private weblog after offended posters wrote abusive feedback in response to the sport’s artwork path. A number of the commenters demanded that Gilbert rework or outright cancel “Return to Monkey Island” as a result of it wasn’t made within the pixel artwork model of the primary two Monkey Island video games. They defended the harassment by saying it comes from a spot of ardour, having been deeply formed by the Monkey Island sequence since their youth.

These individuals have been craving for a Monkey Island that may’t probably be recreated. After 30 years, the unique builders behind Monkey Island are completely different individuals now. They’ve grown up and Guybrush needed to develop up alongside them. As I used to be taking part in “Return to Monkey Island,” I received the distinct sense that this was a recreation about revisiting the previous, not reliving it. Throughout my moody tween years, Monkey Island taught me that being goofy and laughing at dumb jokes is far more enjoyable than being a judgmental moper. After I completed the sport, I felt like I had mentioned goodbye to part of my childhood.

By formally revealing the Secret and bringing the sequence full circle, “Return to Monkey Island” is intentionally closing a chapter within the franchise’s life. It’s not the tip of Guybrush Threepwood or Monkey Island, but it surely’s a swansong for the bygone period that birthed them.

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