A couple of Guybrush superfans met to discuss this magical, evocative, and hilarious series next week.
Chris Donlan: When I was young, a friend of mine had Monkey Island on the family PC. I remember the PC was kept in the hallway, and we played for hours and hours into the evening. I wonder if your early memories of Monkey Island are worth it. When did you realize it was the thing for you?
Victoria Kennedy: It was also a friend for me, or at least one of my brothers friends. My first memories of Monkey Island are not actually playing it, but seeing other people playing it. I can certainly recall being so shocked by the music (something that to today, still gives me a pleasure rush of Dopamine whenever I hear it), as well as the colours. To put it simply, it really made me happy.
I continued to play it for myself when I was quite young now, and it gave me the amazing sense of adventure that I had never encountered before. I think another thing that small me liked was that although it certainly had the sense of adventure to it, there was never any concern about anything going horribly wrong. I hope this makes sense! What is the history of this series that you think is so impressive and profound?
Chris: I think you praised it, because the design and the atmosphere are so important to this game''s appearance. Back in the early 1990s, it seemed unbelievable that a game might be so rich and evocative and also so funny. I remember the moments when the game broke the fourth wall, and it was always a real shock: games might do this? They might make jokes?
It''s not that sense of location that I like most people. It''s something really magical to me about going on Melee Island at night - it''s one of the great locations in all video games. I was always somewhat disappointed that you visit Monkey Island during the day. Do you have any of your favourite locations?
Victoria: I love, but still love, the way the game breaks the fourth wall! Hmm, as for locations, there are a few great ones to choose from. From the first game, the Scumm Bar immediately springs to mind! Alot of play, and so much debauchery (perhaps a strong word, but at the time this is how I remember it feeling) with the pirate hanging off an anchor / chandelier with a grog in hand. That was incredible for me.
In subsequent games, Booty Island stands out - perhaps because this is where I got to see Elaine Marley again. When I was younger, I idolized Elaine, along with Sophia from Indiana Jones: Fate of Atlantis and TMNTs April ONeil. I also loved the area at the start of LeChucks Revenge, where the town is basically a slew of ships. Do you have a particular problem that you still remember for the better or for worse?
Chris: It''s the structure of puzzles I remember more than the puzzles themselves. I truly, really love the Three Trials, because it''s almost an open-world event. It''s a series of challenges that send you out across Melee Island and the whole island provides the solution. I also love how it always subverts your expectations - the easy solutions are never correct.
Victoria: Swordfighting! I am rubber, you are glue! This was comedy gold, and I loved that I could be there without causing any damage to my actions.
I completely agree with your feedback on how puzzles often compromise your expectations. I played the third installment, Curse of Monkey Island, more recently, but there was only one puzzle in the room where you perform a duel with a banjo to get a pirate to join the crew. I just love that logic! Are there any puzzles or locations you are hoping to revisit in Return to Monkey Island?
Chris: I am currently playing it, so I cant answer that! One thing I will mention is that I thought Curse dealt really well with the nostalgia angle - the desire to recreate the original. If I remember correctly the whole final act is set in a theme park based around the first two games, so you go through these dioramas from the previous story. I love that game, even though you know Ron Gilberts very well.
Victoria: Curse, yes, thanks to the final two, not as much to be honest. The large chunk spent inside (can I add spoilers here) the manatee in Tales felt too gosh I cant imagine of a word for this one. I did, however, like the introduction of Morgan LeFlay. What are your opinions about them?
Chris: I played four times and liked it, but I cannot remember the Telltale ones too much. I think LeChucks Revenge is really keeping up, as the weird, spooky middle-act? When you spoke with Return the previous day, it seemed unlikely it would not be the last one, so would you be happy to see the series continue on forever?
Victoria: If there is a viable concept that is effective, then please keep it coming. As much as I love, this series, I would hate to see it go stale and leave it home.
When I spoke to the developers, they said that they had discussed a game with Elaine at the start, and Guybrush as a sidekick. I think that this might be a lot of fun if done with the right team behind it. Elaine is a great character.
Donlan, let''s face the lack of night-time excursions, which you believe is the best island - Melee or Monkey?
Chris: Definitely Melee. It felt like it provided you an incredible amount of freedom to explore, and it is simply piratey to the max. Its probably my favorite video game island, up there with Wind-Waker stuff and The Silent Cartographer. What else is your opinion?
Victoria: I am completely agree with you, and I love how you describe it as a little theme park. That is precisely it!
Recently, I asked for a return to Monkey Islands developers. Dave Grossman and Returns art director Rex Crowle both said Melee, but this was true for two reasons.
Because of its more densely populated than Monkey Island, Melee was easier to write for. In his words:
Because it''s a lot of people in the writing and storytelling world, I think the better island is Melee. When we had all been on Melee Island, I was like, Wait, this is difficult, because there''s so much to it. I''m grateful that there are still people in the room.
So, from that perspective, and that point, I think Melee Island is better.
I really like the thought process behind those notes, and this was something that never crossed my mind before talking with the Monkey Island team. I will look at Monkey Island differently now, and I will smile imagining Grossman trying to make the world easier for his teammates without losing any of the games whimsy.
Despite Crowle''s sense of mystery and the dark of Melee, he said, "I just don''t know if," as you''re walking past an alleyway, whether someone''s going to just jump out and grab you and pull you back there.
Following Grossmans'' comments about the lack of people there, my favorite response for this one, however, was Gilbert. He, in a completely deadpan manner, admitted to me that he prefers Monkey Island for a holiday.