a monumental masterclass in metatextual mischief

It has been 32 decades considering that The Top secret of Monkey Island warped the video clip video game landscape with its timeless wit and mechanical ingenuity. Now in its 30s, the sixth entry in the point-and-click on series is acutely conscious of the nostalgic load it carries. Return To Monkey Island is a brave and refreshing adventure sport about confronting your personal legacy. It solutions complicated metatextual issues with incredibly relocating answers, all the whilst delivering every little thing that lovers may well count on from these types of a coveted sequel.

Return picks up quickly immediately after the occasions of 1990’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, which would make perception, as this also marks the return of the collection creator, Ron Gilbert, to Monkey Island. When Gilbert was not associated in Curse (1997), Escape (2000) or Tales Of (2009), their contributions to the Monkey Island mythos are however heartily revered, with figures and in-jokes popping up all around the store for the lore nerds to titter about.

Back in the driver’s seat, the problem Gilbert ponders in Return is a easy but hugely efficient 1: “What was The Secret of Monkey Island, anyway?”. Clumsy wannabe pirate protagonist Guybrush Threepwood returns to Melee Island to confront aged friends, constitution a ship and figure it out once and for all. What follows is a uniquely resonant reckoning for individuals ‘in the know’, but Return To Monkey Island ventures significantly over and above enthusiast assistance and proves alone a extremely clever and perfectly-manufactured recreation for newcomers outside the house its reverie orbit.

Return To Monkey Island. Credit: Terrible Toybox.
Return To Monkey Island. Credit: Terrible Toybox.

Not to crack custom and complete heresy, Return To Monkey Island is however really a lot a point-and-click adventure activity, although it feels much more at household on a controller these days (the Steam Deck currently being my vessel of preference). As Guybrush, you wander all around lively hubs, chatting to charming figures, investigating their abodes and procuring products to blend and conjure puzzle options. There is your vintage disguise plot, ingredients to get, and stubborn leader to depose, but it also veers in many unexpected instructions involving rooster grease, algebra and avocado fizz.

I performed on the hardest trouble, and I didn’t battle as much as I have in previous entries. But which is not to say Return To Monkey Island is straightforward. I was profoundly stumped a handful of instances, but this was noticeably mitigated by the constructed-in hint system, which is perfectly-prepared and vague ample to be respectful to the many eureka times Return has to offer you. Stubbornness will determine how significantly time you get out of it, but I clocked a at ease 12 several hours throughout a few days, and it under no circumstances when felt like a chore, thanks to its tight pacing and compelling stakes.

The primary grievance lobbied at Return when it was exposed before this 12 months concerned its angular, beady-eyed paper slash art model, helmed by Rex Crowle of Tearaway fame. A curious grievance aimed toward a collection that has traditionally wrestled with pixel art, Disney cel animation, early pre-render 3D and Telltale chic… But Monkey Island is even now an adaptable canvas in 2022. Crowle’s deft hand and eye for depth imbues characters like the ghost pirate LeChuck with animated energy — whilst ranting at Guybrush, I recognized a concealed tension toy gripped less than the villain’s desk!

Return To Monkey Island. Credit: Terrible Toybox.
Return To Monkey Island. Credit score: Awful Toybox.

Meticulous set dressing and vivid colors breathe everyday living into the game’s environments, and slight 3D effects insert a sprinkle of magic to cutscenes. New figures simply in shape the mould and aged hands hardly ever seem out of area. The assumed and treatment required to recreate the infinite texture depth on Stan the wheeler dealer’s suit could only arrive from the head of another person who enjoys the home dearly. It displays in the course of the several diversified island nooks Guybrush puzzles via in his journey, avoiding any uninteresting notes. An elevated artwork design and style like this would make considerably additional perception than nostalgia-baiting pixel artwork, in particular for a recreation meaningfully pursuing its own cultural heritage. I assume it will occur out in the clean, even for the dogged sceptics.

Seriously, Return’s most controversial transform is that Guybrush contextually interacts with the world, somewhat than picking out to chat, use or take a look at objects separately. The very good news is you can nonetheless interact with almost everything in some way, and there is dialogue that ribs you for making use of objects on property that really don’t make feeling. It may well be a thing to get used to for die-challenging experience activity fans, but it feels only truthful as a way to modernise Monkey Island for the generations who have developed up without it. I didn’t recognize its absence, especially when actively playing with a controller, and it certainly didn’t affect the comedy. Return To Monkey Island is just as stomach-buckling as any other entry in the collection, with its absurdist jokes about rock soup and artistic accounting.

Return To Monkey Island. Credit: Terrible Toybox.
Return To Monkey Island. Credit history: Terrible Toybox.

And yes, iMUSE pioneers Michael Land, Clint Bajakian and Peter McConnell return to get the job done their pan flute-y elegance on the soundtrack, which has assortment and aptitude by the boatload. It’s a rare sort of score that you only get with experience game titles, a masterclass in repetition and homage, in that it has to placate and soothe the player as they wrack their brains for answers. I’m however buzzing their ‘LeShip’ topic now, and the Monkey Island master concept is even now an all-timer that by no means fails to impress when revised.

But I think the best selling point of Monkey Island has usually been its special spirit, and Return’s misty-eyed, reflective tone cranks it up to 11. There is practically nothing prickly about it, and Guybrush is however the best plucky protagonist. It is just brimming with this joyful, punch-up comedy that feels so novel in 2022. Regardless of becoming inherently ‘meta’, it’s not overly cynical or ironic and provides a story that everyone youthful or outdated, captain or swabbie, could delight in.


Awful Toybox has delicately conjured a foolish-billy environment total of fallible, memorable figures, and it feels like observing a comforting action motion picture from your childhood. Observing Guybrush and Elaine banter like a self-aware, loved-up pair was a breath of clean air I didn’t know I essential. And suffice to say, when it sooner or later grapples with that golden legacy that presents its comeback this sort of excess weight, Return To Monkey Island easily sticks the landing, and there is not a dry eye in the dwelling. How? …Well, that’s just The Mystery, is not it? Go come across out for yourself, mighty pirate.

Return To Monkey Island is out now, for Pc and Nintendo Swap. This evaluate was performed on Laptop and Steam Deck.

The Verdict

If accurate accomplishment in artwork is realising creative ambition, then Return to Monkey Island is a masterclass bursting with metatextual mischief. By turning inward and confronting its possess legacy, this sixth entry in a storied series summons the laughter and journey of its forebears but ventures over and above them to produce a surprising and courageous dose of heart. All those looking for nostalgia will locate it, but not in a way that feels fleeting. And newcomers to the sequence will come across a sleek, should-engage in, thoroughly modernised experience video game that supplies a good deal of explanations to dig in the LucasArts archives.


  • A uncommon tale of legacy-reckoning from reflective creators
  • Continually hilarious for 10+ hrs
  • Brilliant artwork style and an infectious score
  • A fun-very first, available revival of stage-and-click on mechanics


  • Some required modernisations that may well anger devout journey gamers