Return to Monkey Island

Back to Monkey Island Reviews

Back to Monkey Island Reviews


need to know

what is it? A bright, goofy point-and-click adventure that unfolded after 1991’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.
expect to pay $25/£19.49
release September 19, 2022
developer scary toy box
Publisher Devolver Digital, Lucasfilm Games
audit date Intel i7-8550U, GeForce MX150, 16GB RAM
multiplayer game? Do not
association Official website(opens in a new tab)

1991’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’s infamously dazzling ending left players longing for solutions that the subsequent Monkey Island games never achieved. Thirty years later, after effectively saying it might never happen, key members of the original Monkey Island team — including series creator Ron Gilbert — have finally made a reboot that begins after LeChuck’s Revenge is over. game. Of course, they immediately upended our 30-year-old expectations of what would happen next.

The playful opening of Return to Monkey Island confidently asserts that this is the real Monkey Island experience we’re here for: sharp, self-aware and downright stupid. It bombards you with gimmicks, but the characters you encounter are more than just comedy props, and the devious flow of intertwined puzzles has been modernized to keep up with the tempo without losing the satisfaction of solving problems. It was a huge success.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

The opening prologue takes you to a homage to the classic Monkey Island, before taking the hobbling Miki back to his past. Older, tired, and more challenging to hold your breath, Guybrush grew with us, as did Monkey Island’s classic characters and settings. Everything and everyone here has embarked on a journey. Cartographer Wally has been reinvented by finding confidence without losing his charming spirit, and even LeChuck seems to have found a softer side, albeit still the deeply exasperated villain we adore.

Everything from the characters and narrative to the revamped interaction and puzzle-solving system is different but familiar in Return to Monkey Island. It can transport you temporarily into the ’90s — at least if you also have fond memories of staying up late to solve pirate puzzles — but it’s not stuck there.

The story has always been engaging and dynamic, but too much detail spoils LeChuck himself, so I’ll keep it general. Following the start of Mêlée Island in the first game, Guybrush sets out to sea to explore ancient locations, such as Monkey Island itself, as well as brand new lands, including the tortured, creepy Island of Horrors and the Viking Age-inspired place Brrr Muda. Guybrush is once again tracking down the infamous secrets of Monkey Island. LeChuck also restarted the work. Of course, both were captivated by Elaine Marley. At the same time, none of them really understand what the secret of Monkey Island really is.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Everything is the same, but as time goes on, new characters come to power, upending the traditions and conventions of the Gabrush world. Veteran seal guards are now on the fringes, replaced by young upstarts eager to reset the rules. Even voodoo is falling out of favor, with the younger generation preferring to use “black magic” instead.

Many of Return to Monkey Island’s best moments come from new characters, who are almost universally excellent. Highlights include the charismatic Putra, LeChuck’s undead kitchen chef, who serves up rude rudeness and a variety of delightfully disgusting food settings as she develops a crush on Guybrush. Or Locke Smith, the new locksmith in the town of Mêlée. Deliberately ridiculous names aside, Locke is cold to the core, putting up with Guy Brash at best, providing all kinds of laughs as she refutes the protagonist’s pun about “hair” or extinguishes his passion for treasure hunting. Confused about maps that don’t have any X-marked places.

Of course, this is a game that is both familiar and unfamiliar. Much of Return to Monkey Island is set in an environment that has undergone subtle changes. Visit the Scumm bar for this version of the game and see at a glance that everything looks the same. The overall composition has not changed, right down to the seating of the people. But keep your eyes peeled for a little more, and it’s clear that the original scene has been completely reworked.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

The odd shattered glass in the windows suggests there’s still plenty of piracy going on, but Scumm Bar isn’t the tattered diving it used to be. Once stained walls were brightly painted, framed artwork hung everywhere, and new clients demanded more gorgeous meals. Going to the back of the bar, three stylish, crafty young men now fill the seats that once belonged to three elderly pirate chiefs. This is the scene many of us may have seen in real life, where a beloved, imperfect dimple succumbs to gentrification and suddenly becomes all sorts of horrible; i.e. youthful, clean, stylish. Meanwhile, the new locations in Return of Monkey Island are original in nature, but fit perfectly with the established tone and lore of the series.

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The overall design hasn’t changed much: it’s a simple point-and-click adventure game that plays as genre fans would expect. Talking to the game’s actors can tell the story, push you in the right direction, and seed your mind with goals and hints that guide you through various puzzles to find the key, outsmart those who stand in your way, extract information from the environment, and unlock the path to the ultimate secret of Monkey Island.

It’s a simple point-and-click adventure game with a gameplay that does exactly what fans of the genre would expect.

But while it’s a traditional click at a basic level, that’s not to say it lacks inspiration. Far from it, there are plenty of bright ideas, and fresh puzzles with a playful spirit. Your inventory will soon be filled with all kinds of silly items, books of never-dead (and terrifying) poetry, avocado-based deli substitutes, and some too many abandoned human skulls. Meanwhile, many of Return’s best puzzles are those that are primarily dialogue-based. One of the most memorable requirements is that you learn to make up a good bootleg story by firmly telling a bad story to unknown characters throughout the game world. Their feedback can help you hone your craft: a puzzle about writing in-game, and it’s all about writing.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

However, the puzzles play out a bit faster here than in previous Monkey Island games. That’s not to say it’s a very easy monkey island. Instead, you’re less likely to get caught up in individual growls or weird logical jumps. For example, the solution is never as sluggish as the infamous monkey wrench puzzle in LeChuck’s Revenge. Thanks to a few small additions, Return to Monkey Island made me feel smarter and more capable, rather than overwhelmed or confused.

For those who just want to enjoy the world and humor, there is a casual mode that simplifies the puzzles and emphasizes the narrative. The more important change to me, though, is the addition of contextual action descriptions. Hover over interactive objects and descriptions of what you can do offer more flavor than past games. Previously, when you hovered over various objects in the Scumm Bar kitchen, you might see the “Pick” text, but now two pointers specific to a single item may appear. For example, hover over a chef’s mop and “appreciate the mop” appears as an option for the left mouse button, while “sneak away with the mop” appears as a right-click symbol.

It’s a subtle tweak, but the extra text doesn’t just simply inject more delightful personality, tone, and laughter into a game that’s already rich in these things. The extra context doesn’t make the puzzles any easier, but it does provide clearer information about what a click might lead to, helping to make the progression of the game more rhythmic and engaging. Rarely will you find yourself desperately clicking anything with every available command in the hopes of success; once the backbone of interaction with the best adventure games.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Then there is the prompt system. Those who want the gratification of getting out of their way can ignore it, but for those of us who usually go to Google, the in-game prompts stay immersed in the world. It’s much better than pulling out external guides, and you can choose how subtle or explicit the cues you digest are. Another small improvement for time-crunched players is the speed at which Guybrush runs. Despite his age, he moves faster than ever. You mainly want to take a leisurely stroll and experience it. But going through the city center of Mêlée countless times? Sprint it.

Solutions are never as sluggish as the infamous monkey wrench puzzle in LeChuck’s Revenge.

The most obvious and controversial modernization is art. Yes, it’s not pixelated. But this is Monkey Island in 2022, and the look fits Gilbert’s world. Nearly every screen is filled with more than was initially apparent—for example, accompanying animated background moments like ant pillars busy in the bushes—making each island feel like a place to live. The occasional shooting star feels like a detail from a ’90s game, but looks modern. There are some gorgeous lighting effects, and the scene is beautifully composed.

Importantly, art is also practical: objects and details pop, and the way forward is never too obvious or too vague. no taste. If you don’t like art, you don’t like it. But it works.

The audio is also excellent, re-interpreting classic scores with variety and dynamism. The sound effects—from off-screen whispered conversations to detailed soundbeds—are just as brilliant, creating a sense of space in 2D scenes.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Its shortcomings are mostly superficial. Selecting or interacting with items in your inventory can be clunky and imprecise, and too many puzzles will have you going back and forth throughout the game world. While the voice acting is largely excellent, on rare occasions the lines appear to be slightly late, which may be a quirk of the technology behind it.

None of this should deter Monkey Island fans. However, those of you who haven’t played the Monkey Island game might want to pay attention to what this title means. There’s no need for rhetoric to enjoy the story, and there’s an engaging interactive scrapbook that vividly sums up previous events in the series, but to really enjoy Return to Monkey Island is to laugh at yourself — reference jokes, or Deliberately rolled my eyes at Guybrush’s deliberately bad lines and choices. Walking into a familiar building in search of unexpected interiors is only delightful if you know the existing lore. Half the fun is getting jokes or references before they’re fully revealed. As a Monkey Island fan, it’s hard for me to imagine what a newcomer’s experience would be like. But for those of you who have followed Guybrush’s misadventures for life, it’s as good as it’s been for a long time: fun, engaging, blazingly fast-paced, modern and full of neat ideas and quirky characters. This is what we’ve been waiting for since LeChuck and Guybrush came out from… If you know, you know. If you don’t, it’s time to go back to the original state.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.