“Return to Monkey Island”, tender reunion with a lost golden age of video games

It was the time of eight-inch floppy disks and VGA in 256 colors. On the computers of the early 1990s, the adventure game acted as a showcase and the point and clickits most engaging version, unfolded marvelous picture books in which players clicked to solve puzzles and follow extraordinary stories.

Among those, The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) parodied filibuster epics with a great deal of contemporary popular culture. Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer, the game’s three main designers, mocked the romantic treasure-hunting mythos by featuring cowardly, buffoonish pirates. Its sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991), carried this quest for the absurd even further with devious enigmas and daring false leads. But after these two masterpieces, the original creators of Monkey Island scattered to the four winds. The license, for its part, had three more or less successful additional games.

More than thirty years later, however, Ron Gilbert took everyone by surprise when he announced on 1er last April, the unexpected release of Return to Monkey Island. So here is the captain back in command, with a good part of the original crew on board, headed by co-screenwriter Dave Grossman.

Read our interview with Gilbert and Grossman: Article reserved for our subscribers “We didn’t want to create a nostalgic video game”
The characters and settings reimagined by Rex Crowle (“Tearaway”) honor the graphic heritage of the genre without falling into the nostalgic temptation of pixel art.

pirate humor

The miracle of Return to Monkey Island is first of all to have managed to restore, in an almost intact way, the alchemy which characterized the golden age of point and click. Like a graphic novel, these games navigated between two poles: on the one hand, rich and evocative illustrations; on the other hand, a textual sophistication often slipping towards the trivial and unbridled humour. Here, the warm skies of the Caribbean nights and the upholstery of the shacks on the island of Mêlée immediately remind us of the lost art of 2D paintings.

The devastating humor of the series arises in this idyllic setting to disrupt the project of amateur pirate Guybrush Threepwood, once again launched in pursuit of the secret of Monkey Island. As always, the trip will be strewn with unexpected encounters, superfluous detours and misadventures where our protagonist, more silly than ever, will be both the sprinkler and the sprinkled. “So far, my adventure has been nothing but humiliation and physical pain! »laments the abused antihero during the game, as if to accuse his creators.

These spare no one: from the talking skull, Murray, crushed in a laundry press, to the pirate leaders of yesteryear converted into fish sellers, everyone takes it for their rank. True to a series that has always poked fun at its own characters, Return to Monkey Island hasn’t forgotten to make sarcasm and the absurd its main mode of communication: the game is full of absurd finds, like this enchanted frog that is offered to resolve a dispute or this incredible tree with mops lurking in the heart of the ‘island. But even more, this late episode reminds us that the historical mechanics of the point and click rely above all on the pleasure of trickery and disguise – here, Guybrush disguises himself as a zombie to join a ghost ship; there, he tampers with stacks of forms to achieve his ends. the point and clickfinally, has always been in essence a simulator of “piracy”.

Read also: Twenty years after its golden age, the resurrection of the adventure video game
Assumed parody of the star attraction of the Disney parks,

A game of yesterday and today

Whether Return to Monkey Island ticks all the boxes in the reunion game, simplicity still takes precedence over nostalgia. All the secondary characters, from the swordsman Carla to the cartographer Wally, are back? Yeah, but it’s like we left them last week. The emblematic places and motifs of the series are reconvened in a new light? Yes, but their role remains discreet and temporary.

Modernized, the game system offers comfort features: few interaction options (exit action verbs to act on the decor), two difficulty levels to choose from, an integrated help system with progressive clues and, while still fun, more fluid puzzles. Never stingy with self-quotations (and this until the very last riddle), Return to Monkey Island caters primarily to long-time fans but also welcomes newcomers. A souvenir album provides access to a summary of Guybrush’s memoirs, the central theme of a game that oscillates between going back and forgetting the past.

On the island of Mêlée is now a museum of piracy where objects associated with the feats of arms of illustrious pirates are exhibited. Ironically, most come from the adventures of Guybrush, whose name isn’t mentioned anywhere. Forgotten, our hero is also despised by everyone, starting with the trio of modern pirates adept at black magic who now reign over the island. In a parallel world, Monkey Island could have become a major successful license, declined in films and toys stamped Lucasfilm (or Disney, which has since bought the company), but fate wanted Guybrush to remain a discreet cousin of Indiana Jones, who was also the hero of point and clicks memorable.

Whether they're goofy crooks or naive sweethearts, the supporting characters of

During the game, Guybrush will have sailed from island to island in search of mysterious keys, which will have given us the opportunity to repeat the journeys of yesteryear, but always a little differently or told differently. Considering itself as an ultimate recompilation, Return to Monkey Island is a game about the pleasure of reinventing treasures of stories, but also of revisiting the past through their precious transmission. The characteristic of a treasure? Even buried for years, when it is unearthed, it retains all its splendour.

The opinion of Pixels in brief

We liked:

  • the quirky spirit and hilarious humor of Monkey Island™ more alive than ever;
  • attractive graphics and an exceptional soundtrack;
  • neither retro nor flashy, a simple and sensible update of the point and click.

We didn’t like:

  • certain places devoid of interest or crossed too quickly;
  • a successful episode but necessarily a little minor.

It’s more for you if…

  • you like the series or you want to discover it;
  • you finally want to know what lies behind the secret of the island of monkeys.

It’s not for you if…

  • you don’t like puzzles, dialogue games and grog.

Pixel’s note:

7 pieces of 8

“Return to Monkey Island”, tender reunion with a lost golden age of video games