Monkey Island, the iconic point-and-click adventure series developed by genre heavyweights Ron Gilbert, David Grossman, and Tim Schafer, is coming back to life in 2022 with Return to Monkey Island. Better yet, Gilbert and Grossman are in charge once again, ending a 30-year absence from the franchise they helped create.
Return to Monkey Island is said to ignore every Monkey Island game of the last three decades in favor of acting as a direct sequel to 1991’s Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. Seeing as LeChuck’s Revenge was the last Monkey Island game with Gilbert and Grossman’s direct involvement, it only makes sense that they’d want to finally resolve that installment’s cliffhanger ending.
It should be noted that Murray, the talking skull in the trailer below, first appeared in 1997's The Curse of Monkey Island, colloquially known as Monkey Island 3, so Return doesn’t toss everything from the games released after LeChuck’s Revenge into the garbage. Gilbert eventually backed this up on Twitter, saying that Curse will remain canon to the overall Monkey Island plot.
Today’s announcement also mentions that voice actor Dominic Armato, closely associated with the role of protagonist Guybrush Threepwood, will be reprising the role in Return to Monkey Island.
The heavy lifting on Return to Monkey Island will be handled by Gilbert’s studio, Terrible Toybox, alongside indie mainstay Devolver Digital and original Monkey Island publisher Lucasfilm Games.
Gilbert founded Terrible Toybox with Maniac Mansion co-designer Gary Winnick in 2013 to develop Thimbleweed Park, which former Kotaku reporter Jason Schreier described at the time of its release as “Maniac Mansion meets Twin Peaks with a heavy dose of nostalgia.”
Gilbert’s flirted with his own return to Monkey Island more than once over the last decade.
In a blog post from 2013 titled “If I Made Another Monkey Island,” Gilbert detailed some of the design elements he’d include in a hypothetical sequel, including “nice crisp retro art” bolstered by modern hardware and a “full-on inventory.”
“All the games after Monkey Island 2 don’t exist in my Monkey Island universe,” Gilbert added, mirroring today’s announcement. “My apologies to all the talented people who worked on them and the people who loved them, but I’d want to pick up where I left off. Free of baggage. In a carnival. That doesn’t mean I won’t steal some good ideas or characters from other games. I’m not above that.”
The one caveat Gilbert provided, however, is that he wasn’t interested in making a new Monkey Island if he didn’t own the IP.
Then, in 2016, Gilbert publicly tweeted at Lucasfilm owner Disney asking to buy the franchise.
“I’ll pay real actual money for them,” Gilbert wrote. “I’m not looking for money, I need [Disney] to agree to sell it. Very different things.”
That’s all to say it’s unclear what happened behind the scenes to make Return to Monkey Island a reality.
In any case, this is a big deal. Monkey Island is often regarded as a seminal entry in the point-and-click adventure genre, and the series is hilarious to boot. While opinions may vary on the quality of the various Monkey Island games released since LeChuck’s Revenge, the fact that Gilbert and Grossman are involved again is a very good sign. I can’t wait to see more from this project as we near its release later this year.