Guybrush Threepwood, the legendary pirate, is discovered seated on a park bench, a little older but not necessarily wiser. He is telling a familiar child the story of an adventure from The Secret of Monkey Island. The plot that develops is largely a mash-up of his previous two adventures, with a few cubes from Curse, Escape, and Tales thrown in. Le Chuck, Guybrush’s archenemy and the ghost pirate from Melee Island, is also looking for information on the island. He seeks the assistance of well-known figures including his lover Elaine and shady used boat salesman Stan. The sarcastic Locke Smith, whose name is about as on-the-nose as the comedy goes here, is one of the welcome and endearing new pals.
It’s hard to put into words how enjoyable Return is to play for a lifelong adventure game enthusiast. The contextual interaction, conversation, and puzzles have been improved from director Ron Gilbert’s Thimbleweed Park engine to the point that they feel entirely new. Backtracking between sites you’ve been before and sorting through discussions are no longer necessary. It feels like you’re always where you need to be rather than robotically moving between screens. Here, everything has a surface logic, thus the puzzles themselves are no longer ludicrous exercises in item combination. Additionally, there isn’t even any pixel hunting to speak of because of the intricately detailed visual style.
A hint book is available in the inventory right away and provides a variety of levels of hints, from subtle proddings to thorough explanations of the solution.
There are two difficulty levels to round out the enhancements to the quality of life: Hard mode, sometimes known as The Full Monkey, is basically just standard and is where fans of particular series and genres should go. The puzzle chains are cut short in casual mode, making it unnecessary to search multiple locations for an item; you can just pick it up off the ground.
The development team went above and above to make the game seem fluid when played with a controller, and it truly shows. Moving that mouse about is tedious and annoying, as anyone who has played point-and-click adventures on the PlayStation 1 will attest. The controls in this game are simple to use and establish a precedent for experiences that are typically more comfortable on a PC.
In the end, Return to Monkey Island’s original developers Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman not only created a loving homage to a genre they helped popularize, but they also gave it new life.
- Rex Crowle’s gorgeous artwork
- Appeals to newcomers and veterans
- Improves on the classic formula
- Story and dialogue are excellent
- A bit too short