Return To Monkey Island is a Nostalgia baked love letter that also offers something new
By Ezekiel McAdams
September 24 2022
This is a non spoiler review.
Return To Monkey Island, the highly anticipated sequel to the Monkey Island franchise finally dropped on September 19.
There is a quote that is widely attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I don’t think there is another quote that succinctly addresses this game more. The latest sequel is all about the journey, not the destination.
The newest iteration is a wonderful romp back to the universe and characters created but also a fine addition to the adventure genre.
An adventure that's a nostalgia ballad filled with guitar solos we remember but also bringing something new to the table. A Monkey Island for 2022.
For many adventure game genre fans this return was the holy grail. Ron Gilbert, the original creator and designer returned at after thirty one years to finish his story. It was also the cliffhanger ending of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge that had confounded and prompted decades of speculation.
Gilbert made waves in April of this year, when he announced his return and that a deal had been made with Disney whom acquired the LucasArts game studio via their acquisition with Lucasfilm in 2012 that included the game studio.
Another ripple of controversy was the art depicted in the teaser trailer. In a social media post, Gilbert explained his decision to hire Rex Crowle as lead artist due to his unique style. He had first taken notice of Crowle when fan art was sent to him years ago. To cement his point and stance, further elaborated on his blog, Grumpy Gamer, that each Monkey Island game advanced the art that was state of the art for the period and that Miller’s heavily stylized art was logically the next step for him and the team.
This sequel is heartfelt journey that deals with change and the passage of time and how stories change and evolve over generations. The game leaves the viewer with the sweet punch to the heart that is the journey and not the destination that matters. It is the people we meet along the way, our experiences, growth that defines us and our memories
Gilbert expands the universe with new characters, islands and journeys. Some characters clearly a nod to Gen Z and Millennial such as Captain Madison and the new pirate leaders at the Scumm Bar or Carlos, the Pirate Lore Museum curator whom opines on the stories and trinkets of yesteryear without appreciating the generation before.
Gilbert reunited with Dave Grossman, whom was a programmer and writer for not only the first two Monkey games that Gilbert designed but also the Tales of Monkey Island series for TellTale games.
The duo have maintained their status of excellent in plot, writing and characters. The pace is perfect and a genially joyous experience.
Miller’s art is top notch, heavily stylized and evocative sandwich, continually evolving the world of Monkey Island into a current mindset akin to an exhibition for a breakout artist.
The voiceover work stands strong like a burning sun, bringing back Dominic Armato as the voice of Guybrush, Alexandra Boyd as Governer Elaine Marley. Jess Harnell replaces Earl Boen as the voice of LeChuck. Boen recently retired from acting
It is some of the voices that truly shine such as Locke Smith and LeChuck’s new crew, Quartermaster Iron Rose and Putra the cook.
Rob Paulsen returns as Bob, one of LeChuck’s ghost minions. Paulson portrayed the voice for the special edition of the original game that was released in 2009.
The design engine, Dinky, was a real plus that both evolved and simplified the interface in terms of action and accessibility. Lead programmer, David Fox did a great job, as well as the other programmers.
Return to Monkey Island is a must for fans of the adventure genre, whether fans of the Monkey Island franchise or not, this is a rollicking adventure from start to finish that satisfies both the nostalgia itch but a new experience that adds to the franchise.