Return to Monkey Island Review

Richard Walker

Now, more than ever, the warming glow of nostalgia is something we all need. It's little wonder, then, that the idea of returning to Monkey Island, in Return to Monkey Island, is such a fantastically inviting notion. And while the notion is great, the game itself is even better, resurrecting Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman's vivid “goofy pirate adventure” with a vibrant art style from Knights and Bikes artist Rex Crowle, whose characterful design recalls the infectious energy of those original swashbuckling point-and-click games of the 1990s.

Ah, Guybrush… We missed you!

Picking up once more with hapless pirate hero Guybrush Threepwood, Return to Monkey Island will seem instantly familiar to anyone well versed in the series' lore. Mêlée Island still looks much the same, with its dark-blue streets and bright-yellow windows, colourful shopfronts and even more colourful characters hanging around the docks and the nearby SCUMM Bar. Almost every character you could care to remember is present and correct in developer Terrible Toybox's long-awaited sequel, and, if you've missed Monkey Island's unique brand of offbeat humour and fiendish puzzling, then Return will effortlessly scratch that itch.

Anyone shrugging their shoulders at the mention of Monkey Island would also be wise to delve into this new chapter feet-first – this is classic adventuring at its entertaining best, expertly tailored to a PlayStation controller, having initially released for PC and Switch earlier in the year. Players will also be happy to learn that puzzles carry an inherent logic, especially when playing the game in 'Casual mode': a way of playing for anyone not so well acquainted with the intricacies of the halcyon days of LucasArts and its unique legacy. Hard mode, meanwhile, promises 'the full monkey', which translates to more puzzles, and, unsurprisingly, harder puzzles.

Both Casual and Hard modes come with a hint book permanently lodged in Guybrush's inventory, so you're never stuck for a solution when you inevitably butt up against some of the tougher conundrums. There's a discipline to leaving the hint book well alone, and, unless you're tight on time, I'd heartily recommend steering clear of hints and unravelling the puzzles for yourself – it's better that way, and certainly more rewarding. Even if you don't play for the puzzles, and fail to resist the allure of the hint book, Return to Monkey Island's writing and storytelling is exemplary - Gilbert and Grossman are clearly having a giant alabaster whale of a time returning to the series they birthed together, alongside Double Fine's Tim Schafer, back in 1990.

Every facet of Return to Monkey Island has been honed to perfection, from its bright and beautifully textured artwork (unfairly criticised before the game's release, by some idiots who even harassed Ron Gilbert online), to the orchestration of its puzzles, the depth of its world, the verve of its script, and the innate likeability of its characters – even the antagonistic ones, like irascible buccaneer and nemesis LeChuck – and the pitch-perfect soundtrack from original Monkey Island composers Peter McConnell, Michael Land, and Clint Bajakian. At the heart of it all is Threepwood, voiced by Dominic Armato, alongside a wonderful voice cast who bring their respective characters to life. Guybrush remains a loveable fool, driven by an implacable ambition to finally uncover the elusive secret of Monkey Island, whatever it might be.

LeChuck is back, and he's lost none of his… charm.

Return to Monkey Island is more than mere fan service or cosy nostalgia. This is an adventure crafted for new and old players alike: a tribute to past glories, brimming with easter eggs and secrets for the veterans, while newcomers can revel in the misadventure without attachment to Threepwood's past voyages. And, if you are new to Monkey Island, there's an in-game scrapbook that hits all of the key plot points, if you're interested in catching up. New player, old player; it ultimately doesn't matter. Return to Monkey Island is sublime – a terrific sunken treasure, sharply scripted, lovingly made, and nothing but a pure, unbridled joy. Unlike Guybrush repairing his old ship in predictably shoddy fashion, Terrible Toybox has made a more than seaworthy adventure - streamlined, fun, and hugely entertaining. A story of swashed buckles, impeccably told and beautifully made.

Return to Monkey Island

Often, belated sequels carry a weight of expectation that's hard to live up to. Return to Monkey Island has no such difficulties, Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman going back to a series they quite clearly still love, and, you’ll love too.

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The lilting score is fantastic and the voice performances are superb, across the board. We’ve no qualms here.


Ignore the naysayers. Return to Monkey Island looks wonderful. Rex Crowle’s art style is pretty much perfect.


Elegantly adapted to console controllers, Return is a joy to play, even if it can be a mite fiddly at times.


Whether playing in Casual or Hard mode, Return to Monkey Island is a blast, and certainly warrants more than one playthrough.


Collecting all 100 trivia cards and then carefully orchestrating specific actions will take some time, but this is a rewarding list.

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