Back to Monkey Island review (Switch eShop)

In 1990, Ron Gilbert created the groundbreaking point and click adventure game, The Secret of Monkey Island. He won hearts and hasn’t let go in 32 years. In 1991, he completed Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on a bomb cliff. In 1992, he left Lucasarts, and the secret third of his trilogy became legendary as a sunken ship. Fan communities have theorized and fantasized over several decades about where the story was headed, desperately seeking confirmation from Gilbert or his colleagues.

In 2013, Gilbert wrote, “I’ve always imagined this game as a trilogy” – one that he could only create with “full control over what [he] he did, and the only way to do that is to have him. In 2015, he wrote, “Monkey Island is now owned by Disney and they have not shown any desire to sell my IP.” The last sigh of fans what if? was blown away. He mourned April Fool’s Day every year on his blog, proudly remaining “Fools’ Day free” for 18 years. He once tweeted: “If I can ever make another Monkey Island, I’ll announce it on April 1st.”

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

Here we are. The statement that Return to Monkey Island is eagerly anticipated does not reflect the mental and emotional pilgrimage of aging gamers who were kidnapped ashore on Booty Island by a pair of mocking demon eyes. This is event gameand perhaps the only event game imaginable in what – despite a few scattered bright lights over the decades – a frustratingly sedate genre.

But what is this “return”? Back to the past: reverse fan service for 40-year-olds? Back to Commercial Interest: A watered down Monkey Island to accommodate later sequels of dubious canonicity? Could it be … perhaps… a return to form for the graphic adventure genre – until you didn’t know what point-and-click was going to do next and were delighted with what he did?

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Terrible Toybox, under the leadership of Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, has set out to deliver something new, but at the same time the whole game is intertwined with reflections on “What is the secret of Monkey Island? – the cry of giant monkey heads around the world. We’ve been invited to join Guybrush on parallel expeditions for both The Secret in the Game ™ and some bigger, transcendental secret about what exactly we’ve been longing for all these years, and if any of them ever existed.

You can immediately see that The Return will be based on its history. A menu on the title screen directs players to the Scrapbook, which provides an overview of the story so far. This politely covers every Monkey Island game, but it’s clear which ones are prioritized. Monkey Islands 1 and 2 get a great multi-page storytelling through painted pictures in the new artistic Return style, with each buckle fastened with love. The Curse of Monkey Island has an orderly number of high tier story points… and there were two other games.

The most hypersensitive Monkey Island fans will detect a bit selective respect for the works of post-Gilbert. It may have been our imaginations, but a gentle little digging in the directions we took this story with, with particular interest in how Elaine Marley was portrayed. When Guybrush looks back at the painting of Elaine frozen in a statue in The Curse of Monkey Island, his remark that LeChuck “thinks of her as furniture” could easily address the authors of this third game. It is emphasized at every opportunity that Elaine from the first two games never needed to be saved 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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Even so, looking back at the series so far, Return to Monkey Island seems fantastically fresh. He owns the nostalgia around her and confidently weaves it into the fabric of her story. Lots of new characters that immediately conquered our hearts – friends and enemies – and the great scale of the adventure allows you to bask in recreated versions of famous places, and at the same time conjure up a lot of new locations full of mystery and fun. The jokes and the ubiquitous silly seriousness are fresher than ever since 1991, choosing the right moments to bring up classic lines but not making them the main attraction. The new style of art speaks for itself and is gorgeous in motion – and of course is also harvested for metaphorical jokes. The variety of views on the action, the depth of the scenery, and the appetizing intricacy of the heroes’ small worlds are amazing.

But the biggest triumph is probably the new interface that provides a framework for every aspect of the game to connect to a rich player experience. On the Switch (and in addition to the touch screen operation) this is done by directly controlling the Guybrush joystick, using the “R” and “L” to highlight interactive elements and switch between them. This provides an exploratory experience of moving the mouse to explore the scenery – the first joy to reach a new area.

In terms of the graphical adventure, there are no “verbs” – there are no on-screen action types that can be applied to objects in the world. However, in a more general sense, verbs are infinite. Where some modern graphic adventures have limited all interactions to “do things to do things”, Return to Monkey Island displays text to show you what a button press will do. So instead of always seeing “Go to …”, “Receive …”, “Talk to …”, “Look at …” etc. Guybrush may be “Brave …”, “Steal …”, “Purify the air …”, “Praise the perfect … ”Etc. This is treated as another play space for writers – a place for more jokes, surprises and rewards for progress.

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The combination of graphics, writing, excellent voice work and new ideas and joyful modifications in music through this interface is sublime. There is a strong sense of author’s control over the entire experience, everything flows together to deliver a coherent vision – a story of fun, adventure, liberation, and sentimentality, played with carefully designed and inspiring puzzles, laced with set pieces and extras that we laughed at.

Given the depth of the fan passion well, it would be this absurd so that Return to Monkey Island doesn’t draw on it. Given Ron Gilbert’s demands for a continuation after his first two games, it would be absurd not to play it. It would be equally absurd to keep this game dependent on its roots against it. Yes, people who have not been fans of the first two games for a long time will be have a great time with Return to Monkey Island, but Terrible Toybox harnessed the incredible storytelling potential of fan enthusiasm to deliver something rare and spectacular for those in the top ten target audience. If so, go ahead and add a point to the result below.

Maybe Return has finally found a way to exist with a multimedia remake-as-a-genre mod, but if that’s the case, it doesn’t affect the game: it’s made with complete integrity and a contagious joy that sparkles with every step. stage.


Return to Monkey Island reaches your heart, tears out your desire to know the MYSTERY and clamps it in front of your face. While it would be hard to admit that The Secret of Monkey Island ™ could always be a McGuffin, it’s painful to contemplate that your 30-year longing for this Monkey Island 3 may be exactly the same. Delighting when you shiver, Return presents your paralyzed gaze with a phenomenal point-and-click adventure bursting with passion and fun. You’ll have the painful hope at all times that a great discovery is coming – and then …

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