It’s the adventure comeback of the year: After more than three decades (!), Ron Gilbert returns to his iconic pirate saga and serves up a brand new Monkey Island to the fans. So: A classic, funky Caribbean adventure in point & click style, which is intended to tie in with many old Lucas Arts virtues. Also on board: beloved characters, familiar locations, lots of ghost pirates, voodoo magic, hidden treasures, bad manners, cool music and of course our favorite pirate Guybrush Threepwood. But: does it come close to the originals? Does it maybe even set new accents? And how does the controversial graphic style affect the fun of the game? We played through Return to Monkey Island twice and tell you why the pirate adventure meets most expectations, but rarely exceeds them.
Please no spoilers! In our test, we deliberately left out some details of the plot or described them as vaguely as possible so as not to reveal any surprises. If you have already played the game, we also ask you not to spoil anything in the comments. Thanks!
Although the story has a few big surprises in store, the majority of the game is knitted around a simple basic idea: Guybrush, who has now noticeably matured, starts again to discover the legendary mystery of Monkey Island once and for all. It almost goes without saying that he is in a neck-and-neck race with his archenemy LeChuck. And nostalgia is spared otherwise either, for example you spend a lot of game time on Mêlée Island, the main island from the very first one Part. Of course it has changed over the years, for example the cartographer Wally has now opened his shop here, the formerly Terribly Important Pirates had to vacate their place in the Scumm Bar and there is also a fresh breeze blowing in the governor’s mansion (with a familiar face) . All in all, it’s a likeable mix of old and new, and as a fan you’ll feel right at home. However, we would have liked to finally see more of Melée Island and explore new areas of the island. But unfortunately nothing comes of it, basically we visit the same locations as 32 years ago and enjoy no freedom. A missed opportunity.
Source: Terrible Toy Box
Of course, later you will also travel to completely new places, such as the snowy town of Brrrr Muda or the tropical Scurvy Island, where Elaine has built a huge lime plantation. Terror Island, an island straight out of a horror film, is also one of the new locations. All of this is a welcome change of scenery, but you shouldn’t expect too much here either: Even in these new areas there is often surprisingly little to discover, some islands even consist mostly of screens that don’t contribute in the slightest to the gameplay. Instead, the developers prefer to send you back to old locations several times, for example you will have to look around LeChuck’s ship more often and Mêlée Island will also be warmed up in the second half. While that’s not bad and fits well with the puzzle design, we would have liked a little more variety.
When it comes to humor, the developers don’t pull out all the stops either. There are tons of smuts and allusions, but we didn’t come across any real hits in the test. The first three Monkey Island games in particular seem noticeably more sharp-tongued, quick-witted and funnier than the youngest part. Of course, the whole thing still turned out to be charming, also thanks to the excellent English speakers. Right at the front: Dominic Armato, who has been lending his unmistakable voice to Guybrush since 1997. However, there are no German speakers, so you have to make do with subtitles and German texts. It’s also such a pity because parts three to five have clearly shown that Monkey Island can also work excellently in German.
With the puzzles, you can finally expect decent adventure food based on the classic Lucas Arts scheme. That was a lot of fun in Thimbleweed Park and it works great again here: You conduct detailed dialogues, receive several tasks at once, find hints and tips. And of course everything that isn’t nailed down is bagged again: knives, keys, shovels, voodoo stuff, fish, demon peppers and much more are used in a wide variety of puzzles that fit neatly into the story and are never too tricky devices. What exactly needs to be done is recorded this time in a task list that you can view at any time. This (and a sympathetic story trick) makes it easy to find your way back into the game, even if you let it be for a few days.