Return to Monkey Island is an adventure game that continues the tales of Guybrush Threepwood from the The Secret of Monkey Island series. By way of background, while I did play some adventure games in my far-gone youth, I didn’t actually play any of the Monkey Island games until a few years ago.
In Return to Monkey Island, Guybrush is finally going after the biggest scurvydog of them all: the secret itself. That old nemesis. Also going for the secret is the ghost-pirate LeChuck. That second old nemesis. But there’s a catch: Guybrush needs a ship, and LeChuck is readying a voyage of his own to that fabled shore.
As expected, the old favorites show up. The tale starts on Mêlée Island (after a brief but fun Gaming-101-plus-framing-tale that sets Guybrush relaying the deed to his young son). Elaine, The Scumm Bar, Stan, the Governor’s Mansion, the Lookout, that weird back alley on high street where you always go when you’re frustrated with a puzzle and need to stop and think, and even Murray the demonic skull.
Art-wise, it is a departure for the series (though if you really want to see a departure, go play the original in CGA-graphics mode). It’s a nice style, both clear and comic. The gameplay art fits the world and feels comfortable, but the closeups really pop. They remind me a bit of The Ren & Stimpy Show, the way they are often gross, exaggerated, but still really fun to look at. (See Ren & Stimpy Wiki: “Gruesome close-ups”.)
The Caribbean-style music and the voice acting are excellent. They really set the mood throughout the game, even if you don’t have any rum handy for grog. The pacing is solid (though you have the option of playing the easier version or the less-paced writer’s version (the latter through the options)). Even the hard version’s extra puzzles weren’t all that hard.
This is a game made by experienced professionals who know what they’re doing when it comes to adventure games, extending a known franchise they created decades ago. That’s the kind of proposition that goes one of two ways. Lucky for Guybrush, and for gamers, this one went the good way.
In all, it took me about 26 hours to beat the game and to get all 39 achievements (a good chunk of which was hunting for trivia cards only to get the questions wrong (How did I get the same question wrong five times when there are only four answers?)). I had a fun time playing, and I think this one is worth a look. (Also, I now know the real secret of Monkey Island. So that’s something.)