Monkey Island is back! Ron Gilbert is once again taking over the reins of his cult saga and this year offers Return to Monkey Island, a brilliant sequel to the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood.
32 is the number of years that separate the very first episode of Monkey Island from a third installment that no one expected to see out; not even his co-creator Ron Gilbert who implored without shame and for a decade a cautious Disney to kindly resell his adored license to him. Finally invited to develop a sequel to the second episode which he had completed on a monumental plot twist before saying goodbye to LucasArt, the high priest of adventure games exercises there with claimed creative freedom: “It was something very important for me: if I have to make this game, I have to do it as I want.”. Alongside Dave Grossman, the other author, and a new kid: Rex Crowle (art director on the project), they created Return to Monkey Island.
Are there any spoilers in this test?
In the first paragraph of this test, you will find indications on the framework of the first chapter and the characters present. However, no details are given regarding the scenario.
I am Guybrush Threepwood, pirate emeritus!
“I am Guybrush Threepwood, pirate emeritus!“: since those first words uttered by Guybrush in 1990, nothing has really changed. LeChuck remains the faithful antagonist, Elaine the loving wife, and the island of Mêlée is always the starting point of an epic filled with dozens of humor and anachronisms Ottis, Stan, the cook, the voodoo witch: they too are present in the village whose colors draw directly from the palette of The Secret of Monkey Island. Winks and barely implied references cover the four corners of the island to satisfy players who have been hungry for decades and win them tender smiles.. Therefore, if a scrapbook available in the menu offers a little contextualization of past adventures, it must be admitted that newcomers will feel slightly confused. It will therefore be more judicious for them to complete the first two (excellent) games before attacking this one.
The centerpiece of this beautiful tableau of nostalgia is the music; the three original composers Clint Bajakian, Michaël Land and Peter McConnell are back, responsible for responding to a simple instruction from Gilbert: “Make Monkey Island Music” (see our interview with Ron Gilbert). A request carried out with brilliant accuracy, so much the melodies recall the good memories of yesteryear and bring body to the story (also sublimated by the excellent dubbing). Most of them are in this regard played live by musicians or an orchestra. Also, the title fortunately does not remain caulked in the fan service box and opens halfway to a more original story. ; the balance is actually quite sensible. You’ll have your share of eccentric new characters to meet, enhanced by brilliant writing with ever-relentless and intelligent humor. Return to Monkey Island is an exciting adventure for its absurd situations and well-paced pace from start to finish.
There is still something that has changed a lot: the artistic direction. In reality, it’s hard to legitimately go back to the pixel renders of the 1990s or adopt the look of the remasters of the first episodes. The graphic evolution of Return to Monkey Island seems completely logical, even natural. Here some will recognize the unique touch of Rex Crowle, already at work on Tearaway. The choice is clever, not only because it registers the license in a modern axis, but also because it respects all the same very well the shimmering aura of the saga. So of course, the change is so drastic that it will hardly be unanimous. Gilbert told us a few days before the release, “you can’t do something that everyone likes, it’s impossible.”
Point’n click general public
In addition to this imagery which has always been close to the cartoon, a new parameter also seems to stall the game in a more family register: the difficulty. In normal mode, the puzzles respond to a relatively novice audience and are excessively basic for a regular in the genre, rather invited to take the path of the difficult mode. The latter is more generous in riddles and therefore in reflection and represents a completely different experience that we can only recommend. The complexity of the puzzles is following a nice progression curve although it seems to be stagnating somewhat a bit below what was offered to us in the past. Finally, the player never feels caged by a blocking puzzle and is entitled to a very clever system of clues that works in stages. : if this little hint is not enough for you, here is a bigger one, and so on. More generally, the adventure has clear objectives, accomplished through puzzles that properly advance the story and whose solutions make real sense, even when they serve quite lunar quests (which we love ): carry out a burping contest to win a puffer fish, or find the recipe for a dish “with ingredients”.
The game also spares you a scourge of the classic point’n click: the improbable combinations to be made in your inventory before finding the right one. Here you avoid sluggish dialogues like “uh… I don’t think it works” thanks to a cross icon that tells you beforehand whether an object can be nested or not with another. Also, the controls are minimalist, the player is simply content with predefined actions assigned to the left and right clicks of his mouse. Note that the trip is just as pleasant on the controller, the developers having really taken care to offer an excellent console experience; the character moves with the stick so as to easily interact with its environment. A very pleasant surprise.
In this sense, the comfort and the absence of frustration of the player are one of the priorities of this ergonomic experience which frees itself from the laborious manipulations of yesteryear. Ron Gilbert already supported this necessity in a 1984 manifesto called “Why Adventure Games Suck”: “The average American spends most of his days failing in the office, the last thing he wants to do is go home and fail trying to relax and be entertained.“
- The writing that hits the mark
- A good balance between nostalgia and novelties
- The awesome soundtrack
- An artistic direction that works very well
- Puzzles with sensible solutions
- A good rhythm of adventure
- A very ergonomic experience and modern controls
- Correct lifespan (10h)
- Very well adapted to the controller
- A difficulty that may take a little time to settle in
Its graphic touch may have changed drastically (rightly), the Monkey Island saga retains all its shimmering and sassy aura in this episode, in particular thanks to a writing that is still as clever and a really fantastic soundtrack. Return to Monkey Island is a fresh, modern adventure that strikes a good balance between nostalgia and novelty.
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