Return to Monkey Island Review

Guybrush Threepwood comes off as an ambitious child in Return to Monkey Island, a long-awaited sequel in the beloved early-nineties point-and-click adventure series. Threepwood will gratuitously tell anybody on Melee Island, that he’s searching for the secret of Monkey Island, as though it’s a grand boast everyone should know about. The giddiness of Guybrush as he waxes lyrical about his intentions belies the inherent pointlessness of his ceremony. His display of repetitious gloating is a taster of Return to Monkey Island’s humorous and harmonious fusion of puzzle adventuring and comedy. The question is, do we need this return trip to Monkey Island, or will a revisit result in agony akin to squeezing a wedge of lime into both of your eyes? 

The tale begins with Guybrush’s son, Boybrush, bumbling about with his chum Chuckie, buying a couple of Scurvydogs and washing their hands in brown gunk-you know, usual adolescent activities. Eventually, Boybrush takes a pew on a bench with his dad, as the latter regales him with his story of how he found the Secret of Monkey Island.

What follows is a story of one upmanship, as Guybrush wants to assemble a crew and build a ship to beat his rival LeChuck to uncover the Secret of Monkey Island. Acquiring the support of comrades is easier said than done though, forcing Guybrush to go out of his way to appease hard-to-please acquaintances, by swindling important quest items, spontaneously swashbuckling with friends and foes, and solving slippery skull-scratchers. The ending isn’t ideal, but the adventure along the way makes for a worthwhile trip.

Dialogue plays a dynamic role, as your colourful associates will have plenty to say, but so will Guybrush. Much like in RPGs of yore, you can exhaust all the dialogue options to garner as much information as you can, or you can slip away once the necessary information has been collected. Sometimes jabbering on about the same topic will open-up otherwise concealed conversations, so at times pestering characters has its own rewards – which again harkens back to that classic Monkey Island-style humour.

This goes to show that The Secret of Monkey Island isn’t about one secret, but a plethora of secrets for the player to unearth. What you uncover and discover can be very rewarding, encouraging you to probe, poke and prod for every morsel of intrigue the game has to offer.

The act of solving puzzles in Monkey Island has its eye drawn towards humour, being succinctly aligned with the game’s general comedic tone. Some are cheeky and some are chucklesome, but what stays steadfast is Return to Monkey Island’s insatiable quirkiness, and that’s what helps distinguish itself from its contemporaries.

There’s something cathartic yet hilarious about whacking skull heads with a piece of bone marrow in order to make music, or taking up an ugly disguise so you can gain access to a pirate ship. Return to Monkey Island is proof positive puzzles in games don’t have to be boring brainteasers – they can also complement the overall charm of the game as well. 

Interacting with objects in the environment is a necessity too, convincing Guybrush to expel a remark about what you chose to click on. White circles will show you what Guybrush can interact with, but they can be cluttered together, making navigation fiddly. This is usually a problem in tight spaces like shops because they contain little room to manoeuvre, where there are many items of interest to click on, but they’re so compacted together, you can’t easily click on what you want. This issue seems to be a ghost of Monkey Island’s PC past, but thankfully, this is one of the only places where Return to Monkey Island slips up, as he’s otherwise squeaky clean throughout this adventure.

Your inventory will be your reliable companion in Return to Monkey Island, not unlike your typical point and clicker. As you waltz around the islands and ships on your travels, you will pick up items, dragging them onto characters and objects to complete puzzles and quests. Key items of note include the quest book to keep track of objectives, a scrapbook to file a certain type of collectible, a hint book to guide you if you find yourself in a dilly of a pickle, and a map of the island so you know where you are and where you want to go. Along the way, you will pick up various keys, a knife and other tools that will assist you in puzzle solving, so you are never without trusty resources when you require them, meaning you can go about your excursions without feeling lost or bamboozled.

When you are exploring, you will no-doubt come across curiously-placed white cards that maybe lying randomly on the ground, sandwiched between kinks in the ground, or sticking out from tree trunks. These are Trivia Cards, Return to Monkey Island’s main collectible. You can find them scattered far and wide on each island you visit, and there are 100 of them to collect. Make sure you have a keen eye too, because cards will turn up in different places for each player-so they aren’t the kind of trinkets you can unearth by looking up an online guide. You can access Trivia Cards and answer their questions from the scrapbook in your inventory, which is handy for quick accessibility. It’s also commendable that once you collect a card and open the scrapbook, you will be immediately drawn to the question on that card you just nabbed – so you don’t need to mindlessly traipse through the book to find it.

The guys at Terrible Toybox have done a marvellous job of visually modernising Monkey Island. The swash of colours and the meticulous animated style lends itself well to the game’s particular sense of humour. It’s one gorgeous looking game. The soundtrack is impressively realized too, echoing a palpable sense of adventure, discovery and mystery.

Paying respects to series traditionalists and newcomers alike, Return to Monkey Island gives you a casual mode and a hard mode, depending on how demanding you want the puzzles to be. If you want a relaxed story-centred adventure, you can put your feet up with the easier option, but if you want a proper brain-scraper, you can get your kicks with the harder difficulty option. Either way, you can rejoice in what Monkey Island is all about, as it capably acknowledges series veterans, but doesn’t have a problem introducing itself to new recruits either.


Despite its announcement on April Fools Day, Return to Monkey Island is no joke, even though the game is full of them. Crafted with respect for veterans and newcomers alike, Return to Monkey Island shows that the puzzles in puzzle games can be just as memorable as the story and characters. Yes, the ending is a squib, and clicking on items in tight-knit spaces is annoying, but otherwise this is a true belter of a puzzler. An exceptional love letter to 90s point and click adventuring, and a faithful-but-remodelled experience from top-to-bottom, Return to Monkey Island is definitely worth this return visit and then some….no disguises necessary!

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Brilliant puzzling and adventuring
  • Genuinely funny
  • Art style is beautiful
  • Disappointing ending
  • Clicking on items in close spaces is troublesome
  • Damn coastguards with their lime taxes
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

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