Back to Monkey Island review: The Best Kind of Nostalgia

As for any critique you can make of the Monkey Island franchise, you have to admire its utter disapproval.

Today’s release of Back to Monkey Island marks 13 years since the last game, Telltale’s The Story of Monkey Islandan episodic adventure from 2009. That hiatus was preceded by a nine-year vacation later Curse of Monkey Island, it’s the ultimate LucasArts adventure game. Did I mention six years passed before that?

Back to Monkey Island marks the return of two of the original series’ three creators (Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman are back, DoubleFine’s Tim Schafer is not). So it’s perhaps no surprise that the latest adventure of Guybrush Threepwood, the mighty pirate, is most closely tied to his own legacy.

Although the game begins after the events of Gilbert’s last entry, Monkey Island 2, Return does not attempt to rule out non-Gilbert games. It just decided to pick an unanswered question hanging in the series’ history. Specifically: “What is it really?” to be Monkey Island’s secret? Despite being the title of the first game, the typical secret was never revealed.

Guybrush and a crew in the cabin of a ship in Return to Monkey Island

Image: Terrible Toybox / Devolver Digital

Therefore Return follows Guybrush as he engages in a race with his constant nemesis, the ghost pirate LeChuck, to uncover the secret with the aid of former activist Elaine Marley, who happens to also be Guybrush’s wife. . Throughout the journey, there are many funny jokes about how long it has been since the last Monkey Island game. Many people on Melee Island, Guybrush’s hometown don’t seem to remember him well, and Threepwood comments on some questionable repair work in town.

However, while Back to Monkey Island Sometimes being aware of a relic how it might feel, it doesn’t seem to care about growing.

Of course, there have been obvious upgrades. Extremely ugly polygon image of Escape and The Story of Monkey Island has been replaced by a type Henry Selick aesthetic, like a living map with hinged paper dolls. The interface is sure to polarize longtime fans of the game (I’m definitely the first of all pop culture fandoms), but it’s certainly less outdated than the 3D models used. used for every other Monkey Island game released this millennium.

A remarkable way in which the adventure has been streamlined: You no longer have to choose how You will interact with objects in the world. Instead, that is set through the context. Left-clicking can continue a conversation with a friend, view a picture, or simply walk to another point in the room. If you can talk to the aforementioned friend or steal their wallet, you can right-click, but the two options are still as far away as ever. It creates a more engaging experience, where the UI really serves the story rather than being central, as is much more common in this genre. It’s a welcome improvement, although I accidentally forced Guybrush to describe the sound of a lamp or explain why he couldn’t talk to a tree.

The camera flashed on a woman dropping a rope in Return to Monkey Island

Image: Terrible Toybox / Devolver Digital

I would appreciate a similar improvement to go around the world. Watching Guybrush go for a walk after your cursor frantically clicks from screen to screen isn’t particularly enjoyable in Secret of Monkey Island, and it’s a lot of chores around 32 years later.

Fortunately, the other parts of the series Back to Monkey Island was organized and more welcoming.

This is still the kind of warm, goofy Caribbean joke that Monkey Island always deals with. Stealers like Stan, the slippery train salesman, and Otis, the thief frequently in custody, help Guybrush on his journey and swordfights are accomplished through throwing insults (a whole incident. literal and metaphorical responses). It’s the vibrant, eager, and fun Monkey Island you’ve always known.

Puzzle-solving is still as dramatically improved as they were – you can’t borrow a chef’s mop, you’re obviously on a psychic quest to discover the fabled reed. Maybe the apology you wrote on the frog wasn’t personal enough? There’s a normal mode with less puzzles, but that’s more of a recap than an evolution. If you get stuck, there’s no need to call LucasArts 900. Instead, you’ll find a built-in guidebook to push you in the right direction.

ReturnThe humor of, perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the series, is not as pushy as some of the more compelling attempts in the comedy adventure genre. There are very few pop culture references or excessive visual jokes (I’m looking at you, Starbuccaneers). It seems content to move between “light-hearted fun” and “smiling” on the Chuckle-O-Meter. The game takes ownership of the work as its predecessor refuses to unwrap any game, that’s not necessarily my pocket. That said, I had a few deep laughs at some of the more abstract jokes closer to my taste.

A character who works in a curio shop in Return to Monkey Island

Image: Terrible Toybox / Devolver Digital

While it’s fascinating to read what a grown man does and not find it funny, I had to stop, specifically mentioning returning composers Michael Land, Peter McConnell and Clint Bajakian, who continued Continues the franchise’s “pirate pirate” score in a way that’ll feel like a blanket snuggling into the ’90s adventurers. Ditto comes back with the voice cast. , which includes Alexandra Boyd’s irreplaceable Elaine and Dominic Armato’s lovable and never-out-of-fashion Guybrush.

All combined in a nostalgic experience in the best way. Back to Monkey Island really took back the joy the series brought back in my youth, instead of pushing me to the ribs and reminding me of all the fun we used to have back in the day.

It’s weird – but interesting – for a series with this long, uneven history, Back to Monkey Island does not seem particularly interested in reasserting its importance or importance. It seems gratifying to see how other people in the world, especially players, contextualize its existence. It doesn’t require the player to have prior knowledge of the series, but it also doesn’t over-explain its characters or jokes.

Back to Monkey Island is another game in the Monkey Island franchise that makes just a little effort to reflect the ever-changing game landscape, while confidently clinging to the DNA that made it so popular in the first place. And if you’re looking for the secret to creating a lasting franchise, you could be worse off than that.

Back to Monkey Island released on September 19 on Windows PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch. The game has been evaluated on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Devolver Digital. Vox Media has an affiliate partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.

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