Return to Monkey Island

This is a review of Return to Monkey Island from someone who never played the original games in the Monkey Island series.

The TL;DR version: My apologies to the Monkey Island fans out there, but I don’t understand what the fuss is about.

While I enjoy the occasional hunt-n-click game, such as the various Telltale games, I’m going to lose patience with it unless the story is compelling or it’s part of something with which I’m familiar (e.g., Back to the Future and Batman: The Telltale Series).

I have a very dim memory of playing one of the original Monkey Island games. I think I tried the first or second one, got stuck on one of the first puzzles, and stopped playing.

There were a couple of glowing reviews of Return to Monkey Island on the web sites I frequent, so I decided to give the game a try.

Well, this time I can’t complain that I got stuck on one of the puzzles. The game includes a gradual hint system. Click on the appropriate icon once to get a vague hint, click again to get a clearer hint, until you finally just see the solution. In the end, I only got stuck a couple of times; I was able to solve the rest of the puzzles on my own.

Another challenge in many hunt-n-click puzzle games is that you may not know from the graphics what is “interesting” and what’s just part of the picture (the Myst-style games are notorious for this). Again, this is not a problem in Return to Monkey Island; the default is to highlight items of interest when you press a certain key (you can turn this off if you want a greater challenge).

The problem I had with the game was the story and the humor.

Of course, this sort of thing is subjective. But I’m the subject, or the object, or whatever. I can only report my experience when playing the game.

The story itself is fairly basic. You play Guybrush Threepwood, a pirate/hero wanna-be. In the previous Monkey Island games, you never actually found the “secret” of Monkey Island. So you set out to find a way to get to the island and uncover its mystery.

I found the humor to be rather weak. I chuckled once or twice, but most of the jokes seemed pretty obvious to me. Given the number of references to the earlier Monkey Island games, it might be that the jokes would have landed better (and the story more engaging) if I was familiar with the references.

I also felt that the ending of the story seemed incredibly anticlimactic. Or perhaps that was part of the humor. I don’t know.

This is what my father must have felt when he watched me watching Star Trek. He just didn’t get it. And, for this game, neither did I.

This might be one of those times where the hype causes my expectations to be too high. If I try to be objective, I can acknowledge that for someone who likes a mildly challenging hunt-and-click game, this is a decent enough entry in the genre.

If you’re a Monkey Island fan, you’ve probably already picked up this game. If not, my recommendation is to get it only if you feel the price is right for a simple puzzle/story game.

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