‘Return to Monkey Island’ review: A swan song for a golden age of gaming

Available at: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch

Developer: Awesome Toy Box | publisher: Devolver Digital, Lucasfilm Games

“Return to Monkey Island” is the fulfillment of a promise made over 30 years ago. Since the release of “The Secret of Monkey Island” in 1990, the series has been considered a exemplar of the adventure game genre. As enthusiasts reminisce about the golden age of adventure games, Monkey Island is often cited as the epitome of transition that defined the point-and-click zeitgeist of the ’90s, even when stacked against other solid hits from the era like “Full Throttle,” “Grim Fandango” and “Under a Steel Sky”. The swashbuckling franchise featuring self-proclaimed great pirate Guybrush Threepwood has been widely loved by fans and praised by game designers (Naughty Dog co-chair Neil Druckman is Celebrity Distinguished).

This nostalgic, dramatic story is why Return to Monkey Island is such a big deal. It’s not only a return for the series, but also for its creator Ron Gilbert, who left the series after 1991’s “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.” This latest game finally answers the question fans have been speculating for decades: What is the secret of Monkey Island? Other designers after Gilbert provided their own answers in sequences. Return to Monkey Island reveals the secret straight from the original author himself – and in a definitive way.

However, Return to Monkey Island has not survived as much as 30 years of pent-up fan theorizing, forum discussions and hype from hardcore fans whose tastes are still confined within a time capsule of ’90s adventure games. Not because it’s a bad game (on the contrary, it’s too exhilarating) but because Monkey Island is a mediocre series that has been unfairly burdened with unfulfilled epic expectations. The series has always been about a silly pirate taking on funny adventures, and “Return to Monkey Island” is fully aware of this situation; The game’s most impressive feat is how you masterfully navigate this puzzle by harnessing the exhilarating energy of early Monkey Island games while relieving the anxiety of nostalgia for an irretrievable period.

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For starters, Return to Monkey Island stars the series’ Threepwood, a remarkably eccentric and lovable pirate who sails the Caribbean during an outdated version of the golden age of piracy. World of Guybrush is a cartoonish version of Saturday morning hacking, where sword fights are defined by the 1700s equivalent of “yo momma” jokes, ship captains grumbling about corporate red tape and zombies highly 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 telling through the main plot points of previous titles to catch up with you. Most of this plot point includes Guybrush’s archenemy, the undead pirate LeChuck. LeChuck is also searching for the Secret of Monkey Island and is also in love with Elaine Marley (Governor of the fictional Tri-Island and wife of Guybrush).

Return to Monkey Island can be widely enjoyed by everyone, whether you are a fan of adventure games or a complete novice. The game is conceived as a classic point-and-click title built with a modern sensibility: a simple user interface, puzzles that encourage unconventional thinking and robust dialogue along with vibrant cubist art style and highly adaptive difficulty settings. There is the Casual mode for players who want to enjoy the game’s story with less confusion and the Hard mode for those who want more of a brain challenge.

My favorite feature was the Hint Book, an in-game inventory item that provides spoiler-free advice on how to solve a puzzle or advance on a mission. Not only does Hint Book save you from using alternate tabs to the browser for help, it’s also scalable: you can rely on it as little or as much as you want. The first few tips for the job are just pointers in the right direction, but you can also go into a full entry to get everything explained for you. As someone who enjoyed playing the game on Hard but needed an occasional nudge, the Hint Book was a godsend. There is also a switch (or button for controllers) to highlight all interactable items in an area.

But even with all these new dressings and increased accessibility, “Return to Monkey Island” is a title made for life lovers. It’s full of self-referencing throwbacks, inside jokes and jokes from characters that have been introduced in other Monkey Island games. The game’s humor is dry, absurd, and often breaks the fourth wall – all of which threatens Gilbert’s iconic imprint. For Monkey Island fans, the opening title sequence from “Return to Monkey Island” that shows Mêlée Island at night with the game’s music playing is as iconic as the opening crawl in Star Wars.

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“Back to Monkey Island” is everything the developers claimed it was. It’s a great and honest adventure game that made me laugh the whole time. The only wonky thing to note is the speed. The game opens at a steady pace, then hits a sudden, massive spike. I went from a straightforward, focused mission to a specific area until I suddenly became overburdened with dozens of goals that had me traveling back and forth between multiple islands.

However, the payoff of the game’s final chapter – and the entire journey that led to it – makes Return to Monkey Island a game well worth your while. Monkey Island is a series that has been surprisingly resistant to the sequel’s escalation affecting other long-running video game franchises. Unlike “Tales of Monkey Island,” which featured a zombie plague in the Caribbean, the series has consistently focused on personal matters. Monkey Island does not aim to save the world. It’s about the adventures of a kind, wide-eyed Guybrush Threepwood – his dream of becoming a famous pirate, marrying the love of his life and finding the secret of Monkey Island. It’s the kind of life that will be celebrated with raised cups in a quayside bar, not in a cathedral where kings and queens attend. But over time, Guybrush and Monkey Island become enamored by his fans in something they are not.

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In June, Gilbert announced that he would stop talking about “returning to Monkey Island” and closed comments on his personal blog after she wrote angry posters. offensive comments Response to the art of the game trend. Some commentators have called on Gilbert to rework or scrap Back to Monkey Island altogether because it wasn’t made in the pixel art style of the first two Monkey Island games. They defended the harassment by saying it comes from a passionate place, having been deeply shaped by the Monkey Island chain since their youth.

These people longed for Monkey Island that could not be recreated. 30 years later, the original developers behind Monkey Island are now different people. They grew up, and Guybrush had to grow up with them. When I was playing “Return to Monkey Island,” I had a distinct feeling that this was a game about revisiting the past, not reviving it. through my Moody Monkey Island taught me, being an idiot and laughing at stupid jokes is more fun than being a judicial felon. After I finished the game, I felt like saying goodbye to a part of my childhood.

By officially revealing the secret and bringing the series full circle, “Return to Monkey Island” intentionally closes a chapter in the franchise’s life. It’s not the end of Guybrush Threepwood or Monkey Island, but it is a swan song of the bygone era in which you were born.