This Return to Monkey Island Review would be less compelling without first discussing the history of the series and its impact on gaming since its inception more than 30 years ago. Monkey Island is an adventure game series originally developed by the trio of Ron Gilbert, Tim Schaefer, and Dave Grossman. And what Mortal Kombat is to fighting games, and GTA III is to open-world games, Monkey Island is the stepping stone for the point-and-click genre.
The last game in this beloved series was released in 2009 and was named Tales of Monkey Island. It was also developed by Telltale Games. The seas of the Caribbean have been silent since then. But the waves jolt the deck yet again, and Don Gilbert’s Studio Terrible Toybox, alongside David Grossman’s assistance, brings this series back from the dead with Return to Monkey Island. So without further ado, let’s get into our Review.
Story And Setting
Return to Monkey Island has been developed by Terrible Toybox and published by Devolver Digital on Windows PC and the Nintendo Switch.
The game takes place in the fictional version of the Caribbean Islands during the Golden Age of Piracy. The story once again follows Guybrush, who is hell-bent on solving the mystery of Monkey Island. He hopes to accomplish this by visiting different islands, solving unique puzzles, and getting into trouble as usual. The game features returning locations from the series including the titular Monkey Island and Melee Island. It also features a host of new Islands for the players to explore. A number of fan-favorite characters, including Murray, Guybrush’s wife Elain Marley, and his archenemy, the zombie pirate LeChuck make a return.
Our GuyBrush is still the same old person we know from our childhood He’s still inelegant and blundering, but that’s what we’ve always loved about him. The dialog of this game is gold also absolute gold. It is funny yet intelligent, and the comedic element, which is an integral part of the series, is present and better than ever. The developers even managed to poke fun at themselves for not revealing the secret of Monkey Island, even though it has been more than 30 years.
The story here is not groundbreaking, but what’s present is excellent. It is a nod to the monumental stature of the early Monkey Island games, which have left behind an everlasting legacy.
In terms of the gameplay, the title presents you with two difficulties. First is Casual mode, which contains fewer and easier puzzles with more emphasis on story than its Hardmode counterpart and might give you an easier ride. But what’s the point of playing a Monkey Island game if a few more puzzles scare you? The series has always been known for its creative and fun puzzles, so why opt for less fun? Plus, this is a point-and-click game. If you remove the puzzles, there isn’t much left behind.
For those still reluctant to try the Hardmode difficulty, I can assure you that some puzzles in this game might be difficult, but all of them are solvable if you use the correct logic with the game. I realize that there is an entire generation of players out there who were not even born when the adventure game genre was at its peak, but trust me, experimentation pays off.
There are no puzzles present that might make you wonder “How would I have even figured this out?” once you solve accidentally solve them. However, if you are still unable to resolve a puzzle, you don’t need to seek help from online sources potentially spoiling your experience. This is because the game features a Hint Book.
This Hint Book does not reveal the solution to the puzzle immediately. It gradually reveals the solution to the problem, always nudging you in the right direction. Even if you seek help from the Hint Book, you would still feel satisfied after reaching the solution.
The gameplay of Return to Monkey Island 2 is akin to other point-and-click games: You click to interact. You can mess with the world in a number of ways, which include examining items or initiating a conversation with someone.
The gameplay can feel like it drags on too long sometimes because a large chunk of it involves moving vast distances by just clicking. But there are some quality of life improvements here and there which make it a relatively smoother ride when compared to previous point-and-click games. For example, now you click once to move at a normal pace and click twice to speed up.
Like others in the series, this game also involves a lot of backtracking. But this time, the developers have (finally) introduced shortcuts. No longer do you need to slog away, going back the way you came from again and again. Now you can use these shortcuts to make the backtracking considerably more bearable.
The developers have also added a Quest log which lists down all your pending tasks. It doesn’t nudge you repeatedly to perform a task, when you just want to chill and enjoy the beauty of this game, that’s the last thing you want. It’s neat and informative and accomplishes its purpose really well.
There are also Trivia cards scattered around the world, which go in your Trivia Book. Each card contains a question that tests your familiarity with the Monkey Island games.
They do not accomplish any purpose but nevertheless, they are a neat addition. It’s also really rewarding for long-time fans to collect them.
Visuals And Performance
This is the toughest part of our Return to Monkey Island Review because the visuals of this game are polarizing. Apart from the quick-witted comedy, the games in this series have always possessed a unique art style. It has always resembled cartoon shows of the 90s, and there is just something about the unique art style of The Curse of Monkey Island that generates a sense of coziness and makes one feel right at home. Perhaps it’s simply nostalgia clouding my judgment here, but hey I grew up with Disney cartoons, and watching them today still brings up feelings of comfort and longing.
The art style of the latest entry is also unique, to say the least. It is beautiful without a doubt, and its vibrancy allows for background objects to break the geometrical boundaries, and give more of an imposing feeling, like the crooked houses in a lot of old horror shows. This style also blends really well with the comedic nature of the game. Times change and this shift might seem jarring now but as time goes by, people will remember it fondly.
The title also runs flawlessly on the PC and the Nintendo Switch, and even manages to achieve 60 fps on the latter. I did not face any performance hiccups during my playthrough, but I was also using a fairly modern machine. I haven’t had time to test the game out on older hardware, but it’s obvious that you can probably run this on a potato if you wanted to.
In wrapping up our Return to Monkey Island Review, I would say that I’m truly glad this game exists in the way it is presented. It does play a little bit on nostalgia, but it does not stop there. It has successfully established itself as a great game in itself, not hiding behind the nostalgia of the previous entries.
Even new players who haven’t played the previous Monkey Island games will appreciate and enjoy it. Like its predecessor, there is still a lot of backtracking and the repetitive point-and-click gameplay might get boring for some, but it’s still not that cumbersome and fans of this genre will definitely enjoy this gem.
Sure, old-time fans have raised their voices against the art style, but with time comes change, which everyone has to adapt to. This is the Monkey Island of the new generation, which today’s kids will certainly think back on fondly.
This has been our Return to Monkey Island Review. While you’re at it, be sure to check out some of our other articles.
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Return to Monkey Island Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
In wrapping up our Return to Monkey Island Review, I would say that I’m truly glad this game exists in the way it is presented.
- The Comedy Still Shines.
- Good Characters And Story.
- Tricky But Fun Puzzles.
- The Addition Of Shortcuts.
- The Slow Pace Of The Character.