Monday 10 October 2022

Return to Monkey Island Review (Switch)

It still seems barely believable that this game actually exists. As long time Monkey island fans we have played through the original four games, the two remakes and even the episodic series, so to have another full entry arrive is as wonderful as it is surprising. Even when we were reviewing Thimbleweed Park and Broken Age it never really even crossed our minds that a new Monkey island would even be possible at some point in the future. But here we are. No pressure on the team then!

For those new to the series, the games follow Guybrush Threepwood, a wimpy aspiring pirate who continually clashes with the ghost pirate LeChuck as he searches for the Secret of Monkey Island. The opening menu will get you up to date as it gives you access to a scrap book where players can have the previous four main Monkey Island games explained to them through a host of amusing anecdotes told by Guybrush.

After choosing to play on hard or casual (which removes key chains in the puzzles that need to be solved), you’ll be thrown into the game seemingly at the end of the Monkey Island 2. After a genius resolution on how that game ends you’ll then embark on your new quest in what is about as traditional a point and click adventure as you can get these days.

In terms of the new graphics style it has a paper/card element to the design which is similar to something like Tearaway or a sort of digital pop up book. It works really well and adds to the feel of an old tale being told with players sort of moving through the pages. It also helps to make the environments looks absolutely stunning at times.

Presentation mimics much of the original games with it playing out over what essential amounts to a 2D set of screens. Each screen has point of interest for you to interact with and you can select these by pushing the analogue stick or have Guybrush walk close to them in order for them to highlight.

Puzzles are solved by finding and combining objects and then taking them to where they need to be used. An early example of this is needing to get hold of a key to open a door. Here you’ll need to find a magnifying glass to read the lock serial number then take the number to a lock smith to have them make you a new key. Exactly how many steps each puzzle has depends on if you are playing on casual or hard.

The puzzles throughout are of an excellent standard and carry on the tradition of players needing to think outside the box but not descending into the trope of needing to try everything in your inventory on everything else in the hope that something works. There is a kind of strange logic that runs through the game (and the series), and it remains consistent throughout.

Much of the early part of the game will be familiar to long time fans as many of the locations from the first game are back with the initial section set exclusively on Melee island. It’s great to see the original screens recreated here and a fair few of the jokes play on what has or hasn’t changed. While the game is welcoming to new fans there is certainly a lot to be gained from being familiar with the other games as well as nostalgia plays a big part in much of the dialogue.

Overall, Return to Monkey Island is better than we could have ever hoped for. It can happily sit alongside the other games in the series and may have hopefully shown there is life to get another game or two going, or at least get the HD remakes on the Switch. It’s an essential experience for those who have grown up with the series, but it is also welcoming to newcomers and will likely create a lot of new fans as well. Maybe there isn’t anything here quit as genius as insult sword fighting but the writing is great, the puzzles are clever and the audio work is second to none.

Overall 8/10

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