So I know some consider it a sin to play this game without playing the others in the series, but that is exactly what I did and you know what – it was actually pretty fun.
Return to Monkey Island brings out some of the best of the point & click genre and as someone that used to play this genre religiously, it has been fun to get back into it. The game opens with a quick tutorial and then throws you right into it. And by right into it – I am not saying this lightly. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I haven’t played one of these in a while or if maybe I should have gone with the easier difficulty, but this is a VERY difficult game.
The puzzle design here is so abstract that if there wasn’t a hint feature, I would probably not have made it far at all. It’s not the type of point & click that requires pixel hunting – and there’s even a highlight interactables feature to remove that tedium – but the environments are so large and there’s just so many possible item combinations that it can feel quite overwhelming. The game does a decent job in guiding you through its dialogue, but I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t get stuck a few – or rather, several – times.
For example, for one puzzle I had to apologize to a character in order to borrow one of their books. Of course, to do that, you have to find an apology frog. And then you have to write an apology on that frog. And to do that, you need to select the correct dialogue choices in sequence. I spent so long trying all the possible dialogue sequences only to find out that I was actually outright missing some because I had yet to interact with a plaque on a statue way out in town on the other side of the map.
It’s honestly a bit ridiculous at times, but I guess that’s what I get for not playing on casual difficulty. Really though, this game just encourages you to interact with every single object you can. It’s impressive too because practically every object, character, location, etc. all has some expansive, voiced dialogue to match. The main character is constantly cracking jokes, breaking the fourth wall, and the story in general is fairly engaging in spite of its overall simplicity. This is definitely one of those narrative games carried by its dialogue over anything else.
And as someone that never played this series before, I had no problems getting into it. There is a “scrapbook” feature on the main menu which provides an extensive, voiced summary of the previous games, but honestly I didn’t even need that.
I also remember a bit of controversy surrounding the art style, but that too was fine. It’s definitely stylized, but the studio has done a great job with all the little details in the world and the animation too. The music is also fine, but I’d be lying if I said it was memorable enough to listen to outside of the game.
So yeah, Return to Monkey Island has been pretty good for me, although not without its missteps. The puzzle design is generally good and I love the interactivity, but it can feel obtuse at times. The story is also good – even if simple – although it does take a while to get going. A decent play all around though, worth a look for point & click fans.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.