Return to Monkey Island: A return to form…
While reports of its outright death are arguably exaggerated, few genres have been more anemic in the last decade or so than the classic adventure game. If you grew up on classic series such as King’s Quest, Space Quest, Indiana Jones, and the Fate of Atlantis, and yes, the much beloved Monkey Island series, you had to search pretty far and wide for your next hit of that specific style of “point and click” adventure game. Arguably the classic “adventure” genre as a whole has kind of evolved into other genres such as “walking simulator” or whatever you’d consider games like Danganronpa or Phoenix Wright or the Ace Attorney games. Games much more if not completely focused on logic puzzles with little to no action whatsoever.
Monkey Island, which last made a stab at a comeback in 2009 (by all measures a pretty successful one, just fallen victim to both Telltale Games financial issues down the line and original creator Ron Gilbert basically disavowing it) really brings things back to basics with a side-scrolling adventure that relies as much on humor as it does puzzles with Return to Monkey Island. It does incorporate a few modern touches but is that enough to make it something worth coming back to?
The adventure games of the 90s were extremely formative for me, but even I really haven’t gotten into one of these specific types of adventure games for at least a decade. Indeed, even Ron Gilbert’s previous effort, Thimbleweed Park, really failed to hold my attention arguably being too beholden to that throwback style with having one of the genre’s biggest issues where a lot of the solutions of the puzzles are ridiculously obscure. It’s frankly not fun to basically have to look up too many solutions because the people who designed the puzzles made it ridiculously obtuse.
While a little of this is present in Return to Monkey Island, it rarely feels like there’s no possible way I could have known the solution to a particular puzzle, just a solution that really didn’t occur to me, which is a big difference. The game also gives you an in-game hint book pretty early on which can give you vague hints or straight up tell you what you need to do, which helps quite a bit with any roadblock you might be experiencing. It also gives you a super handy “to-do list” which has all your pertinent objectives and checks them off as they are completed.
But none of this would matter if Return to Monkey Island doesn’t have anything comepelling to base these puzzles around. The puzzles are almost secondary to the characters, the writing and the general atmosphere of the game and that’s actually fine because all those aspects are impeccably well done and charming as hell. Pretty much every character is fun to interact with and has some incredibly clever lines, the music is super charming and the graphic style of the game just adds to the fun.
I don’t feel like Return to Monkey Island is some breakthrough title that raises the point and click adventure genre to a new level, but it is a game that really pulls on the strengths of that genre as does it incredibly well so if you’ve been wanting an adventure game that feels as good as the old ones but leaves most of the more annoying parts behind, this is certainly worth checking out. It probably won’t take you longer than a weekend to finish but it’ll be a fun weekend for sure.
That’s all for today, I’ll likely squeeze in one more post before the end of the month (probably about Disney Dreamlight Valley unless something else pops up as I’m still playing a ton of that), so see ya real soon!