So often we view things we grew up loving through rose-colored glasses, and upon revisiting them later in life end up soiling those good memories we once had. This is especially true when talking about video games. There are games I adored as a kid that I couldn’t wait to fire up and re-experience as an adult, only to have a cold bucket of water thrown in my face when I realized that the gameplay just didn’t hold up in the gaming world of today. Video games have had multiple decades of refinement and so much of what we cherish from the ’80s and ’90s “glory days" of video games just hasn’t aged well at all. Sometimes things are just better left as great memories.
One particular genre I’ve had a hankering to go back to over the years but have held back on for fear of exactly what I describe above are the classic point-and-click adventure games from the likes of LucasArts or Sierra On-Line. I absolutely adored the King’s Quest, Space Quest, Monkey Island games and more, but they are also from a time where I could bang my head against a particularly obtuse puzzle for 8 straight hours without ruining the entire rest of my week. Now with my middle-age status, a full time job, two young kids, a wife, and a mortgage to worry about, I’m lucky if I get 8 hours a week in total to dedicate to any sort of gaming, let alone one single puzzle in one single game. No sir, I am downright frightened to try and play through any of those games again.
There is one silver lining to this, however. Sometimes the minds behind those classics you loved as a kid are still kicking around making games, and sometimes they make a brand new game in a series you loved that features modern sensibilities and takes into account you might be an adult with responsibilities and stuff. Such is the case with Ron Gilbert, creator of the Monkey Island series, who had a major part in the original two games but was pretty hands-off with anything that has come out in the series since. He had always dreamed of making a direct follow-up to 1991’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, and in recent years that finally happened in the form of Return to Monkey Island which hit consoles and PC last year and arrived on iOS and Android this very week.
What I love about Return to Monkey Island is that it’s like playing one of those classic adventure games as you remember it, not as they actually are. There are quality of life improvements and features here that you would expect from a game made today and that weren’t common in the games from 30+ years ago. That includes a well-designed hint system so that there can still be the insanely obtuse or absurd puzzle solution but you won’t need to seek out a FAQ.txt or log into Usenet to try and find help solving it. The help is there if and only if you want it. Another thing that remains is the offbeat humor the Monkey Island games are known for, thanks to many of the same key players from the early games in the series returning for this sequel. You can find even more information about this game in our review from earlier this week.
While Return to Monkey Island is its own standalone story and doesn’t require that you’ve played any previous games to enjoy, there is certainly plenty of fan service for anyone who did, and it makes me extra sad that we lost the relatively great iOS versions of The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2 Special Editions some years back. Being able to play those enhanced ports of the first two games in the series, and then this decades-in-the-making sequel, all on the touchscreen that feels so at home for adventure games, would have been a treat. Alas a boy can dream, and perhaps someday those original games will return, but for now I’m enjoying feeling like a kid again with Return to Monkey Island and if you have fond memories of the series or are completely new but just love classic-style adventure games with incredible production values, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.