Return to Monkey Island looks damn pretty in the first recording

Guybrush on a cliff top, talking to a bearded man by a campfire, in a very famous scene.

Screenshot: Devolver Digital

Thanks to this morning’s distinctive disposable Nintendo Direct Mini, we’ve finally seen footage of Ron Gilberts Return to Monkey Island. While there has been a wealth of information and publicity for the game since the announcement in Aprilthis is the first time we have a glimpse of what it will look like when you play.

After some art in the game narrated by the recurring Guybrush Threepwood actor, Dominic Armato, this morning’s revelation switches to a series of somewhat clumsy dumb clips of the game, showing a really lovely paper-cunning look to their characters and animation.

If anything, the art style reminds me of Double Fines very pretty (but ultimately awful) Broken Ageso we hope it can be given a story and riddles that match the beauty.

I can not tell you how much concern I put in anticipating this game. Like anyone old enough to have had the original Monkey Island games define part of their teens, the swirling amount of memory and nostalgia make them too precious a property to watch get fucked.

Then again, as a species, we survived the lack of love for those (actually unfairly insulted) Escape from Monkey Island in 2000, and then the tiring mediocrity in Telltales 2009 experiment with Tales Of Monkey Islandso maybe at this point what we are actually looking for is the first one right good entry in the series since 1997, about 25 years ago now.

There is only speculation at this time, but the trailer suggests excitingly that in addition to playing as the powerful pirate Guybrush Threepwood, Return can also see you play as Elaine Marley, swordswoman, ship captain and once governor of the tri-island area. What this trailer not show us is how the game should actually be played and that is my biggest concern. Everyone is so damn scared of the right point-and-click interface these days, and instead tries to chronically simplify – and as such make impotent – the genre so that it runs on a single button on a controller. Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert had the confidence to go all the way back to LucasArts’ classic verbatim interface for his latest game, 2017 Thimbleweed Parkbut I worry that no one is going to be disappointed to let him do that in this far higher profile project.

The game’s own page says that it will have “a smart development of classic adventure game controls. Context-sensitive interactions, reactive dialog trees and a user-friendly inventory system, so do what you want. It can be anything from exactly what I was hoping forto something that actually plays the game for you as in too many recent examples.

The plot will pick up from the end of Gilbert’s last engagement in the series, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, but fortunately makes good sense to incorporate the third game’s best addition, Murray the talking skull. When Gilbert and Grossman write, there is good reason to have high hopes, although it lacks the Tim Schafer factor that (I think right) made the second game so much more fun than the first.

There is still no release date, just an ambiguous “2022”, which of course can very easily tip over to a “2023.” From the lack of tuned clips in the trailer, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is further away than I might like.