Back to Monkey Island review (Change eShop)

In 1990, Ron Gilbert created the seminal point and click adventure The Secret of Monkey Island. He grabbed hearts and didn’t let go for 32 years. In 1991, he finished Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on a bombshell cliffhanger. In 1992 he left Lucasarts and the third secret part of his he trilogy became legend as a sunken ship. Fan communities have been theorising and fantasizing for a couple of decades about where the story would end, desperate for confirmation from Gilbert or his peers.

In 2013, Gilbert wrote: “I have always envisioned the game as a trilogy,” one that he could only accomplish with “complete control over what [he] he was doing and the only way to do it is to own it. In 2015 she wrote: “Monkey Island is now owned by Disney and they have shown no desire to sell me the IP.” The last gasp of the fans what happens if? was snorted. He complained about April Fool’s Day every year on his blog about him, proudly remaining “free April Fool’s Day” for 18 years. He once tweeted: “If I ever make another Monkey Island, I’ll announce it on April 1st.”

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On April Fool’s Day 2022, Ron Gilbert joked: “I’ve decided to make another Monkey Island.”

And here we are. Saying that Return to Monkey Island is hotly awaited doesn’t capture the mental and emotional pilgrimage of senior gamers who were dragged away as children on the shores of Booty Island by a pair of provocative demonic eyes. This is a game of the eventand perhaps the only conceivable game of events in what is, despite some scattered lights scattered over the decades, a frustrating and serious genre.

But what is this “return”? A return to the past: retrograde fan service for the forties? A return to commercial interests: Monkey Island watered down to accommodate subsequent sequels of dubious canonicity? Or it could be … can be… a return to form for the graphic adventure genre – when you didn’t know what point and click would do next, and were hooked on what it did?

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Terrible Toybox, under the direction of Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, has decided to offer something new, but at the same time the whole game is steeped in reflections on the question “What? is the secret of Monkey Island? “- the battle cry of giant monkey heads around the world. We’re invited to join Guybrush on parallel expeditions for both the in-game Secret ™ and some bigger and more transcendental secrets about what we have wished exactly all these years and whether one of these two ever existed.

It is immediately made clear that Return will lean on his story. The title screen menu directs players to a scrapbook that provides an overview of the story so far. This politely covers all Monkey Island games, but it’s clear which ones take priority. Monkey Islands 1 and 2 get a glorious multi-page retelling through images painted in Return’s new art style, with each buckle crumpled lovingly. The Curse of Monkey Island gets an orderly distribution of high-level plot points … and there were two more games.

The most hypersensitive of Monkey Island fans will detect a little selective respect for post-Gilbert works. Maybe it was our imagination, but there are small, delicate digs into the directions the story was taken, with particular interest in how Elaine Marley was portrayed. When Guybrush thinks back to the image of Elaine frozen in a statue in The Curse of Monkey Island, her remark that LeChuck “considers it a piece of furniture” could easily be directed to the authors of that third game. It is pointed out on every occasion that the Elaine of the first two games never needed to be rescued by Guybrush. It’s ironic that Gilbert and co-writer Dave Grossman have to go to the trouble of saving her here.

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Despite all of this, looking back at the series so far, Return to Monkey Island looks remarkably fresh. He possesses the nostalgia that surrounds him and confidently inserts it into the fabric of his story. New characters abound that instantly conquered our hearts – friends and foes – and the grand scale of the adventure allows space to bask in reinvented versions of familiar places, while also conjuring up tons of new places filled with mystery and fun. The jokes and pervading silly seriousness are fresher than they’ve ever been since 1991, picking the right moments to call up the classic jokes, but not making them the main attraction. The new art style speaks for itself and is gorgeous in motion and, of course, is also picked up for metaphysical jokes. The variety of perspectives on the action, the depth of the scenery and the appetizing complexity of the characters’ small worlds is exceptional.

But the biggest triumph is probably the new interface, which provides the framework for every aspect of the game to stay together in a rich gaming experience. On Switch, this is with Guybrush’s direct joystick control, using “R” and “L” to highlight interactive elements and scroll through them. This provides the exploratory experience of hovering the mouse to investigate the scenario – the first joy of reaching a new area. In the graphical adventure sense, there are no “verbs” – no type of selectable on-screen action to apply to objects in the world. However, in a more general sense, verbs are infinite. Where some modern graphic adventures have reduced all interactions to “do the thing to the thing”, Return to Monkey Island displays text to show what it will do with the push of a button. So instead of always seeing “Walk to …”, “Collect …”, “Talk to …”, “Look …” etc, Guybrush can “Brave …”, “Steal. .. “,” Clear the air with … “,” Praise the excellent ones … “etc. This is considered another space for writers to act in: a place for more jokes, surprises, and rewards for progress.

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The combination through this interface of the graphics, the writing, the excellent vocal work and the new ideas and cheerful reworkings in the music is sublime. There is a strong sense of author control over the whole experience, it all flows together to provide a coherent vision: a story of fun, adventure, liberation and sentimentality, acted out through carefully designed and thought-provoking puzzles, intertwined with fixed pieces and digressions. that made us laugh.

Given the depth of the fan’s passion pit, it would have been absurd for Return to Monkey Island not to draw. Given the specific hype about Ron Gilbert’s follow-up to his first two games, it would have been absurd not to play him. Likewise, it would be absurd to hold this game’s addiction to its roots against it. Yes, people who aren’t longtime fans of the first two games want enjoy Return to Monkey Island, but Terrible Toybox has harnessed the incredible narrative potential of fan fervor to deliver something rare and spectacular for those in the bull’s eye of the target audience. If that’s you, go ahead and add one point to the score below.

Maybe Return has finally found a way to exist thanks to the remake’s multimedia fashion as a genre, but if so, then it had no bearing on the game – it’s made with total integrity and a contagious joy that shines on every scene.

Conclusion

Return to Monkey Island enters your heart, snatches away your desire to know THE SECRET and squeezes it in front of your face. As hard as it is to admit that The Secret of Monkey Island ™ may have always been a McGuffin, it’s distressing to think that your 30 years of nostalgia for the Monkey Island 3 could be the same. Delighting you as you tremble, Return presents your mesmerized gaze with a phenomenal point and click adventure full of passion and fun. All the while, you’re hoping, painfully, that the big revelation is coming – and then …

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