by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Regaining my sea legs
When one of your favourite games of yesteryear gets a remake or a long-delayed sequel, there are always going to be mixed feelings before playing the game. Will it be able to retain those aspects of the game that made you enjoy the original, whilst still providing something fresh and new? Will the game be relevant to the new breed of gamers?
I must admit, I entered into Return to Monkey Island with some trepidation. I loved the previous games in the series. Everything from the visual style to the puzzles, to the humour made The Secret of Monkey Island and its sequels so fun to play. Would Return to Monkey Island be able to invoke the same sense of enjoyment?
Return to Monkey Island starts the game with a pseudo tutorial, having players control Guybrush Threepwood's son, as he and his best friend Chuckie work their way through a series of simple quests, allowing gamers to familiarise themselves with the controls and the gameplay. Once they've completed their tasks, the game moves onto Guybrush telling his son the backstory of how he learned the Secret of Monkey Island. It is in these flashback phases that we take control of Guybrush and work our way through the puzzles.
The story often comes back to Guybrush and his son having a chat about certain aspects of the story. This banter between the two is reminiscent to the grandfather and grandson from The Princess Bride as they discuss certain parts of the story. And rather than reducing the flow of the story, I found that this father/son interaction to increase the narrative. However, the further you go into the story, the less interaction there is between the two, much to my dismay as it would leave the story open for the youngster to follow in Guybrush's footsteps if there were to be further instalments
If you have played any of the previous Monkey Island titles, you will see some familiar faces amongst the characters. Given that the early part of the story takes place across Melee Island, it makes sense that existing characters make an appearance. But as the game takes place several years after the events of previous instalments, it is great to see the addition of some great new characters such as Locke Smith, the locksmith.
A Jolly Roger
The Monkey Island series is well known for its humour, and this continues in Return to Monkey Island, both within the story and the puzzles themselves. A spoiler alert notice…I couldn’t help laughing out loud as Guybrush takes his knife to a mop handle tree with clear mop handle-like branches only for us to return from a black screen to see he has whittled down the whole tree and forest creatures crying. Such a Guybrush thing to do. He is the Mr. Bean of the pirating world, bumbling his way through the puzzles, but still managing to find a way. He is the sort of person who literally trips over the main clue in an escape room after everyone else has done all the hard work.
This humour is re-iterated throughout the course of Guybrush's journey, and it is a relief that the writers have not lost their sense of humour in this PC (political correctness) world. The story does end somewhat abruptly, and I must admit that although I was a little disappointed when the secret was finally revealed, I did chuckle to myself at the outcome.
Return to Monkey Island allows players to select from two difficulty settings, but even on the harder of the two settings, I found most of the puzzles to be reasonably straightforward. There were only a couple of occasions that I thought of peeking in the hint book provided. There are loads of places to visit and explore, and as I got further into the story, I did find that I was backtracking from one place to another in order to collect a required item from one person to give it to another. However, my point-and-click trick of collecting anything that can be picked up did come in handy. Indeed, most items that can be picked up will be of some use, even if it is not immediately evident.
There is also a quest journal in Guybrush's inventory, and I did have to look at this a few times to keep track of where I was up to on certain tasks as I was sailing from one island to another, as the game often lets players complete multiple puzzles in any order they choose. Indeed, some puzzles even offer multiple solutions.
Worthy of your pieces of eight
These puzzles all take place in a vibrant cartoon world, which feels more like the first two games in the series than the more realistic versions of the more recent editions. Each of the locations that players visit have their own identity, and although you’ll spend much of the time talking to residents of Melee Island, the island has several appearances throughout the course of Guybrush’s adventure. The interface too is clear, enabling Guybrush to access his inventory easily so that he can use items with just a couple of clicks. Jaunty pirate shanties play in the background, keeping the mood light and jovial throughout the entire story.
I mentioned at the start of this review that I had some trepidation with regards to this latest Monkey Island title. After all, it had been more than a decade since Guybrush and crew ventured across the Caribbean. But I need not have worried. Return to Monkey Island follows the tried-and-true formula of past titles whilst adding a new flavour to the series. The vibrant visuals and wonderful voice acting are surpassed only by the quality puzzles and humorous story. And although I found most of the puzzles reasonably simple, this may be due to my veteran status when it comes to point-and-click adventure games. Return to Monkey Island is a wonderfully nostalgic journey with old friends and new, one that has me helpful that a further sequel is just over the horizon.
As always, follow us on Instagram for news updates, reviews, competitions and more.
Story and puzzles are interesting, simple controls
Lots of backtracking from one location to another