Adventure games are dead — you can tell, because literally everyone is literally constantly making them.
Adding further credence to this superbly pixellated paradoxical prevarication is the fact that — rather like economic crises, housing market bubbles and announcements that, no really, we’re far past the point of no return for climate change guys for serious — that thing that happens about once every decade, give or take, has finally come to pass.
In other words, a new Monkey Island game has finally been announced.
In a beautifully elaborate April Fool’s double-bluff on Twitter by Ron Gilbert, the seeds of oh-crumbs-this-could-actually-happen were sown — and lo and behold, Devolver Digital, Lucasfilm Games and Terrible Toybox collaboratively dropped the cannon-shell a few days later.
And speaking of cannon — sorry, canon — it turns out that Return to Monkey Island is honouring Ron Gilbert’s promise. In other words, it’s his definitive version on what actually happened after that ending to Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, all those decades ago.
What a time to be alive.
The history behind Monkey Island is as mysterious as Guybrush Threepwood’s past. The series sporadically continued after one of its co-creators departed the studio, yet — despite being a comedy game — there’s a level of continuity to the Monkey Island series that Mr Gilbert clearly felt didn’t follow his initial vision from The Curse of Monkey Island onwards.
One could argue, of course, if one were feeling a tad mean, that if one wanders off from a studio you’ve entrusted an IP to, you likewise abdicate any creative say in the direction said series takes — yet it’s clear Ron Gilbert’s passion project has always been Monkey Island, and we can’t help but revel vicariously in how exciting it must be for him to be putting the band back together to make this title after all this time.
Yet the question remains — if this is Monkey Island 3, when all is said and done, what happens to the existing Monkey Island continuity?
Are we redoing and rebooting continuity?
Is Mr Gilbert’s chagrin with the way the Monkey Island series panned out so strong that he’s using this golden opportunity as a do-over?
Is that the real meaning behind the cheeky way Murray gets punted into the ocean and out of sight in the reveal teaser trailer — literally kicked out of canon because he’s been in every game since Curse and those will no longer count?
The odd thing about this series is that it does have a continuity and characters do actually progress and change over time, despite its inherently wacky nature. Is everything after 1997 forfeit?
Is this Monkey Island 2.5?
The infamous ending of Monkey Island 2 was largely written around for comedic effect by the time Curse of Monkey Island rolled around — reinventing the graphical style of the series as drastically as it outran the awkward explanations required to get Guybrush free of the sticky situation he ended that second game in.
Is Return to Monkey Island the game that explains the way Guybrush gets from one title to the other — an interquel, in other words? This would be a great way to leave the lineage of the series intact, while also letting Mr Gilbert have his creative cake and eat it in indulging in the true secret of Monkey Island itself.
Not that we expect he’d be so straightforward as to spill the secret in the course of one game, of course. Which begs the question…
Is this a revival of Monkey Island as a series, or a swansong?
That’s… a bit of a scary question, isn’t it?
Was it always supposed to be a trilogy — and if so, is Return the defintive final say in the Monkey Island story? Is everything set to reach a gratifying denouement and break the, let’s be honest, series’ tradition for slightly odd and unerwhelming endings?
Or are we going the other way and opening the floodgates?
Will this lead to more titles in the series under Mr Gilbert’s stewardship? Will this persuade Disney to stop letting it wither away in their legendarily stingy ‘vault’? Will Guybrush be able to become more than just references and cameos in other games at long bloody last?
And perhaps more importantly… can we overwrite what supposedly happened to him in the end accordingly to Un-bloody-charted 4 in that case, please?
Threeps deserved better!