Return to Monkey Island review
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Return to Monkey Island review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on July 27th, 2023
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SECRETS OUT
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This adventure game finally puts an appropriate end cap on Guybrush Threepwood’s story while also finding creative ways to keep an old style of game feeling fresh and modern.

Developer: Terrible Toybox

Price: $9.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Return to Monkey Island answers the question of what you should do with an aging franchise that defined a genre: Give it a proper send-off. This adventure game welcomes the return of its original creators, features some super smart innovations on classic adventure game design, and closes the book on Guybrush Threepwood and LeChuck in a (mostly) satisfying way.

Find the secret (for real this time)

This latest chapter in the long-running and celebrated Monkey Island series once again focuses on Guybrush Threepwood and his pursuit to uncover the secret of Monkey Island. Only this time, the game opens with a vignette of his son playing with friends (which doubles as a sort of tutorial to teach you how to play the game) before settling on a park bench to hear his father tell the story of the time he actually found the secret he had always been looking for.

This frame narrative helps set up a story with a momentum that leads players toward where they have long been wanting to go, and features a lot of classic point-and-click adventure puzzles, corny wordplay, and expressive character design that have long been hallmarks of this series.

Revamped return

Tonally, Return to Monkey Island fits right in with other games in the series, and even features quite a few callbacks and cameos of iconic moments and characters of games' past. Structurally and mechanically, though, this game feels like a modern realization of the old point-and-click formulas of yore. This is to say Return to Monkey Island definitely still has you doing a lot of the same kinds of item combinations and pixel hunting that other games had you do, but everything is structured and designed in a way to feel more seamless and natural than it has basically ever felt.

There may have been a time or two when playing Return to Monkey Island that I felt slightly perplexed by a puzzle or task, but I never once felt stuck or without a clue of what I was supposed to be doing next. The game's handy to-do list and optional hint book go a long way in keeping you always on track and moving forward, but there's also a lot of credit to be given to the thought behind all of the puzzle designs in the game, every tooltip that pops up when holding a finger over it, and the way the game writing guides you through its story.

Goodbye Guybrush

Another celebration-worthy aspect is the way that Return to Monkey Island tells its story. As a game focused on allowing you to actually discover the secret that has been danced around for over three decades, it firmly and confidently commits to reflecting on Guybrush's legacy and putting an endcap on a series, at for the most part. There are multiple endings to the game (some of which are gags), but some are less satisfying than others, and I almost wish the game commited to a single one. Still though, it is a story lovingly told, and--despite a somewhat abrupt turn toward the end--is a heartfelt send-off for a series from the original creators.

As for how the game plays on iOS, well, it's basically perfect. Point-and-click style games always tend to work well on touchscreens, but Return to Monkey Island goes above and beyond by having gesture and multi-touch controls that ensure you never accidentally skip past dialog (unless you want to) or select the wrong item when two are close to each other. I imagine it's a great playing game on other devices, but Return to Monkey Island plays so well on my iPad I'm not sure I'd want to play it anywhere else.

The bottom line

Return to Monkey Island is a game made with a clear affection for the genre and series itself. It is also a confidently told story with some incredible design work to make sure it still feels like a classic point-and-click game without all of the sore spots that usually come with that.

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