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Reviews For Return To Monkey Island Are All Saying The Same Thing

"Return to Monkey Island" is one of the most anticipated comeback games of the year. Ron Gilbert, the original director of the series, returned to clear up a 30-year-old controversy regarding the non-answer to the "secret" of "Monkey Island." He lost his joy of sharing earlier this year when fans dunked on the new art style. Thankfully, these reviews should cheer him up.

Some people weren't a fan of the abstract storybook-like visuals that contrast with the older games' 2001 cell-shaded cartoon aesthetic. That same aesthetic often comes up in "Return of Monkey Island" reviews, but only as a small note behind the heartwarming story and inventive mechanics. "Return to Monkey Island" has accumulated one of the highest scores from critics this year next to the likes of experimental game "Immortality" and the critically acclaimed "Elden Ring."

Guybrush Threepwood returns as the "well-meaning mess" of a protagonist in "Return to Monkey Island." In this case, the story is as much about his own legacy as it is about uncovering the secret of Monkey Island once and for all. He's also joined by returning cast members like his wife, Elaine Marley, and his rival, the zombie pirate LeChuck. Despite the differing visuals, it works similarly to the point-and-click PC games of the past — much to the delight of reviewers.

The same charm that can enchant newcomers

Many reviewers are saying the same thing: "Return to Monkey Island" is a praiseworthy conclusion to the series that's filled with more heart than anyone expected from a comeback.

IGN's Ryan Caffrey calls it the "Spider-Man: No Way Home" of adventure games. "If you have made those movie memories with the Peter Parkers of the past, then No Way Home taps into something more: nostalgia, even eliciting genuine emotion at various points," Caffrey writes. "It's a funny, beautiful, polished, and well-paced story packed with plenty of puzzles that are both hilarious and challenging for anybody who appreciates a good adventure game."

It's also a game worth recommending to beginners who don't have the background of past "Monkey Island" games. As per GameSpot, there's a generally spoiler-friendly scrapbook that can help longtime fans refresh their memories and introduce newcomers to the parts that they might be missing from past titles. It even has a hint system that gives players clues without spoiling puzzles.

"Rather than pointing you to the correct answer straight away, you can ask this enchanted book questions to gradually receive hints that will help nudge you in the right direction. It sounds simple, but this system is rather ingenious," writes GameSpot reviewer Richard Wakeling.

So "Return to Monkey Island" delivers the series signature charm for both newcomers and longtime fans. It's hard to pinpoint downsides when you can even connect somewhat dated point-and-click UI as a style choice.

Improved gameplay with some downsides

Polygon makes sure to touch on the improved mechanics in its review. "One notable way in which the adventuring has been streamlined: You no longer have to select how you'll interact with objects in the world. Instead, that's established through context," writes reviewer Justin McElroy. "It's a welcome refinement, though I do miss forcing Guybrush to describe how a lamp sounds or explain why he can't talk to a tree."

Some parts felt needlessly dated, like moving from screen-to-screen, though. "Watching Guybrush stroll after your furiously clicking cursor from screen to screen wasn't particularly pleasurable in The Secret of Monkey Island, and it's no less of a chore some 32 years later," McElroy noted.  

Ultimately, even he praised the game as one worthy of pleasing veterans and newcomers alike. "Return to Monkey Island is yet another game in the Monkey Island franchise that makes only a slight effort to reflect the ever-shifting gaming landscape, while confidently clinging to the DNA that made it so beloved in the first place," McElroy concluded. "And if you're looking for the secret to creating an enduring franchise, you could do a lot worse than that."

"Return to Monkey Island" launched on September 19, 2022 for PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch.