RPS At E3: Returns To Monkey Island

They now look the same in close up as they do in the main game.

Even a week after the announcement, the news that there’s to be more Monkey Island still seems hard to believe. LucasArts, once an adored development house, has become known in recent years for little other than churning out Star Wars themed products of varying quality. Attempts at new licences during president Jim Ward’s realm failed (possibly in no small part because they very were attempts to create new IP, rather than just damned fine solo games), seeing the company once more fall back into the space flick’s safety net. Last year saw Ward step down, and in April he was replaced by Darrell Rodriguez. A man who, if the murmurs I heard at E3 are true, is genuinely trying to see the company rediscover its roots. Then there’s the news that Telltale are to be making brand new episodic Monkey Island games, with original LucasArts developers on the project. Reimagining the original Monkey Island is an important act for a number of reasons.

Compare and contrast.

It’s an experiment. LucasArts have clearly been far too terrified to touch an adventure game in almost a decade, with occasional rumoured projects getting shitcanned before anything concrete can prove itself. Taking the original Secret Of Monkey Island, updating its interface and graphics (while keeping them hand-painted and 2D), and releasing it digitally (this will be the first game LucasArts have released that won’t have any boxed presence) is a cautious toe in the water. Should it prove successful, my sniffing around suggests there are many within the company who are dying to leap into action.

That’s the other reason it’s important. LucasArts is currently employing a generation of developers who grew up playing LucasArts games. Of course these included X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter and Dark Forces, but they were alongside games like Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones & The Fate Of Atlantis, and of course, Monkey Island. Three LucasArts employees I spoke to, including web producer Brooks Brown, cite the adventure as the reason they fell in love with games, let alone why they got jobs at the studio. There’s people with passion wanting this to work.

The new look is obviously going to be a matter of personal taste, and die-hard fans of the original may well be upset at the changes. But there’s little cause for complaint, since one of the more splendid features I was shown was the ability to switch back and forth between the modern and classic version at any point, at the press of a button. The fullscreen presentation of the new design pulls back into the windowed old style, with the verb options appearing at the bottom of the screen.

It couldn't be much more faithful.

Being developed for PC and Xbox Live, the controls have received an overhaul such that they’ll work naturally on a 360 controller. This does, horror of horrors, mean the SCUMM verb table isn’t on screen. It can be pulled up, as mentioned, and gamepad buttons default to the more obvious options.

Also new is the recorded dialogue. Obviously getting anyone to deliver Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert’s well known words was going to be a risky business, but once again the was a task given to lifelong fans of the game, who hired as many of the Curse Of Monkey Island’s cast as they could to ensure consistency. This means Dominic Armato will once again be Guybrush. And they all sound damned good to my ears.

The overriding philosophy seems to have been a desire to preserve the original in a way that’s approachable and playable for a new audience, without falling into any of the traps that have hindered modern adventuring – clumsy 3D interfaces, over-simplified controls, and a lack of minute detail. In fact, all the original jokes are in place, including a couple of restored close-ups that were lost from the original version due to a lack of space. While the new hint system is designed to help the wary, those in the know will still be able to delight at jokes like the pirate wearing the LOOM badge that will only mystify the sickeningly young.

It's less offensively 3D than the actually rather good Return To Monkey Island

Then perhaps even more surprising is the news that Telltale are making the brand new Tales Of Monkey Island games. Following their episodic tradition, five episodes released monthly, the new games are in 3D, but it’s the familiar style they’ve used in all their games so far, sort of a 2.5D. Again, the new look will piss off as many as it pleases, but to my eyes it seemed a reasonable compromise between the classic look and a modern world. Unfortunately it will be using Telltale’s woefully poor cursor system, meaning you’ll have the elaborate choice between clicking on something, or not clicking on it. It’s unfathomable to me why they won’t upgrade to the rotating cursors that proved far more effective, involving, and entertaining during the late ’90s. The potential for jokes, puzzles, and challenge for the player that removing this loses makes my soul sad.

However, the splendid news is that former LucasArts adventure veteran Dave Grossman is overseeing the project (he worked on the original MI in 1990), and the first episode is being written by the best adventure writer in the business, Mike Stemmle. Rather than stand-alone episodes, Tales Of Monkey Island will be one story broken into five parts, potentially allowing for a bit more depth in the narrative.

All the familiar characters will make appearances.

Following tradition, Guybrush will begin the games as a successful mighty pirate, awash in wealth and power. Which he of course immediately loses, along with Elaine, in a failed attempt to defeat a once more resurrected ghost pirate LeChuck. Along the way his hand becomes infected by a voodoo curse (Evil Dead 2?), and he’s stranded on Flotsam Island, a place which despite a strong pirate population has grown to fear and loathe piracy. Guybrush is trying to bring the noble tradition back to the island, while working out how to once more defeat his arch nemesis.

Not much was shown beyond a short gameplay video, but we saw glimpses of traditional jokes appearing. A building was named “Blowmedown Glassworks”, which sounds like a joke bad enough to have appeared in the earlier games. And despite the crappy cursor, the regular Telltale inventory has been improved, finally offering the ability to combine objects, and thus improving the potential for depth for puzzles. (In a couple more years they may have caught up with 1998 completely!) With Stemmle writing the opening episode’s puzzles, there’s good cause for hope in a risky project.

Edit: For those explaining how Guybrush “should” look, I’ve put together this handy guide:

So hush.


  1. Jayteh says:

    I really hope they make a new one, and I hope it fun. Is that too much to ask?

  2. Sinnerman says:

    Why don’t they put two difficulty options in Adventure games? One for mentally exhausted people who are too beaten by society to solve puzzles and another for weird losers who don’t mind thinking for a few minutes in their free time. I think that Monkey Island 2 actually had this option.

  3. Gotem says:

    will they add achievements?
    ‘I found the treasure of Mêlée Island and all I got was this stupid achievement’

  4. Markoff Chaney says:

    I’m grateful these are coming out. Having loved adventure games since King’s Quest on my 8088 in glorious 4 color CGA with sound emanating from a singular speaker mounted in the case of my beloved and moving on to the rest of Sierra and LucasArt’s catalog from there, this is welcome. I am grateful that the smaller devs have been working to continue adventure games, but it always saddened me that the progenitors of the genre decided to leave them by the side of the superhighway.

    I think a lot of it was the pixel hunting and insane non-sequitur merging of items in “puzzles” that the games turned into that killed it. This began, you have to remember, back in the days of no ubiquitous internet. If you wanted to solve that puzzle that was stumping you on Space Quest 2, you had to call a Sierra Hint line, and pay per minute, or have a friend on a BBS that had beaten it who could share some hints with you. This was ok, but I was, back then, ok with taking months to finish a game and let my brain percolate on it. Such glee can rarely be found by guessing the name of annoying NPC by spelling Rumplestiltskin backwards and thinking of it all by yourself.

    However, that’s not really viable in much of today’s instant gratification, get stumped for 10 seconds and run to GameFAQs mindset that seems to have inhabited most gamers these days. Having hints and having the game automagically point out the path of least resistance is actually considered a PRO in many reviews these days. While I may lament the loss of complexity, I can be grateful for the accessibility that is offered. I never would have thought my god sons, aged 9 and 11, would ever play adventure games, but they frothed at the mouth for SBCGFAP and loved every episode. I found the game too easy, but they loved it.

    Personally, I wish we could have some kind of difficulty slider in the Telltale games whereupon I could play with a cursor pointer with verb modifiers (SCUMM or KQ4 and beyond Sierra style, both work, but I always liked SCUMM more since there were more options and greater jokes) and have more puzzles built in but someone else could play with a single function cursor and a more simplistic puzzle set. This way, those of us who have been enjoying adventure games for 20 years can continue to get the fiendishly difficult puzzles and not have the lowest common denominator be all I have to choose from.

    I will purchase the remake, even though I’ve bought it at least twice before. This is to tell LucasArts I love their adventure games and want them to go back to making them. I will probably play her old school the first time, but that’s what I remember and fell in love with. Then I’ll check out the remix. I’m planning on holding off on the Telltale ones until I’ve played a demo or two and read some mindthinks of those I trust.

    Anyway, I can’t really see a bad part of this, except for the simplicity of the puzzles in this current generation of non indy adventure games. I’ll accept that as market share attempts to build, however. Especially if it means LucasArts starts making adventure games again. Now if only Sierra would come back too, with parsers and everything, I could have the best of both worlds.

  5. Pags says:

    Have to disagree John, I quite like Telltale’s simplified cursor; sure it means that you lose the opportunity to make a lot of “I don’t indiscriminately use people, except Max” jokes but it also means a whole lot less frustration before realising you needed to ‘talk’ to that hose sticking out the fuel tank to suck on it and get the gas flowing (I’ve been playing Full Throttle recently and forgot about this part of the puzzle) and other similar sorts of situations.

  6. Meat Circus says:

    The Stemmle/Grossman names are enough to make me pre-order Tales.

    Stemmle’s work with the Brothers Chaps on SBCG4AP was top notch.

  7. Robin says:

    The redrawn sprites look charmless and show up the limited number of animation frames very, very badly, especially as objects now inexplicably glide around like something out of a PowerPoint presentation. Guybrush looks like he’s iceskating.

    Still buying it though.

  8. Bobsy says:

    @Sinnerman: MI3 had two modes: Regular and MEGA MONKEY. In practice, it meant that Regular cut out some of the game’s content and made it shorter and less awesome.

  9. Santiago says:

    All is good but new Guybrush’s body slightly leaning forward instead of back totally destroys his implicit “not really taking all this seriously” stance.
    The new GT resembles more a young and naive but decidedly involved guy trying to make it right, sort of Orlando Bloom in PotC. I miss Tim.

  10. RLacey says:

    I remember playing the Mega Monkey mode a while after playing the Regular one. I was staggered by all the ‘new’ sections of the game that had appeared!

  11. Demikaze says:


    That’s just become one of those things that I’m going to notice every single time I play the thing now… Good observation!

  12. Serondal says:

    I had a crazy dream I Was playing x-wing VS Tie Fighter last night O.o Hope they remake those next. Would love a up graphic direct update of Tie Fighter leaving everything else the exact same way.

    Did anyone else get stuck trying to get out of the space mall in Space Quest : The Timer rippers one ? O.o

  13. Stahlwerk says:

    As far as I’m concerned, this is what Guybrush looks like, so I was kind of excited when I heard Steve Purcell was on board for this (these?) project(s).

    Don’t like the new styles. Don’t like them at all. They’re an extrapolation of all that was wrong with CMI & EMI.

    Wouldn’t it have been infinitely more bad-ass had they done a high-def redraw of the characters à la street fighter HD remix?

  14. Sinnerman says:

    @Bobsy; Some people want a shorter less awesome game. Less awesome if you count good puzzles as awesome, which I do. They can’t say that then complain that they get a longer and more awesome game free with their less awesome game that they don’t have time to play. Actually, I suppose they could, that’s exactly the sort of thing that people do complain about.

  15. Pijama says:

    We must support this.


    Grim Fandango.

  16. Jad says:

    I find it interesting to see so many people commenting on Guybrush’s changed look, given how that’s something I always took as a standard feature of the series. I mean, Guybrush changes his appearance in every single game. First he was a young, large-headed kid, then he was a short bearded older man, then he was a tall, long-faced young man, then he was a wide-faced 3D crazy-haired teenager. Now in the new one he’s a bearded, long-faced, 3D, crazy-haired young man. That even the remake changes his hair and look seems less of an mistake and more of a continuation of a long-running Monkey Island joke. I will admit that this “joke” is not a particularly funny one, but its certainly in the spirit of the what were very, very silly games.

    My bigger problem with the first screenshot comparing old to new is the skeleton first mate. In the original, he’s a scared-looking wimp. In the remake he looks like a standard “scary” skeleton. Not a really important character, but a bit worrying.

  17. Psychopomp says:

    Other than how weird Guybrush looks in both the remake, and the episodic stuff, SQUUUUEEEEEEE

  18. Smurfy says:

    What’s a “rotating cursor”?

  19. RLacey says:

    I had to think about that terminology for a second. I believe they mean a cursor which cycles between various options when you right-click the mouse (eg. walk, look, talk, use). As is seen in later Sierra games, or the original Sam & Max game.

  20. Pags says:

    @Smurfy: a cursor where you can flip between talk/use/pickup/etc.

  21. Lucas says:

    I don’t agree with the simpler-is-stupider argument presented here. The simplicity of the interaction in Telltale games is their greatest strength. It doesn’t detract from the game, but it avoids many of the frustrating side-effects of having a bunch of verbs and items to try out.

    Firstly, the Telltale games aren’t one-click. In Strong Bad, clicking on an item/character with which the player can interact in more than one way brings up a little menu with the actions available.

    This system fits right in with the LucasArts tradition: it is a lot like Full Throttle, and more complicated than Grim Fandango. So it’s unfair to complain that it has dumbed down the interaction.

    Secondly, the Telltale system removes much of the challenge from combining things—that awful slog of pixel hunting and trying all possible combinations of verbs and inventory items that discouraged players from playing on.

    Telltale isn’t making adventures from 1998—and that’s a good thing. They’ve learnt from those games, and have been making games that keep the feel, fun, and challenge, while working to reduce the needless frustration and complication from the game.

  22. Ginger Yellow says:

    What Jad and Lucas said, although I do think Telltale sometimes err a bit too much on the easy side. Possibly it only seems that way because the individual episodes are so short – you can easily blow through them in a couple of hours, even clicking on everything and everyone to see what they say. But the simplicity of the interface isn’t the problem.

  23. John Walker says:

    As a helpful guide to all those complaining they’ve gotten Guybrush’s look wrong, I’ve edited in an image at the bottom of the post.


  24. Lambchops says:

    I might be in the minority of Grim Fandango fans here; but personally I’d rather not see anything more from Grim Fandango. It’s one of my favourite ever games but its story has been told, I reckon a sequel is uneccessary. Not that I wouldn’t get excited about it if it was announced!

    As for Monkey Island I’m a bit more excited about the remake but I’m sure Telltale are going to do a good job with their new series., The Sam and Max episodes were enjoyable and I see no reason for the MI games to disappoint.

  25. Sunjammer says:

    My simple problem with Guybrush’s look is that he looks like one of those god damn Legend of kyrandia characters now. There is simply nothing lucasartsy about him. MI 1,2,3 and even 4 at least appeared to be by the same people. This is like saying you’re drawing Obama and just put big ears on a black man. If all you’re looking for is a scrawny white kid with a dumb haircut, well, all glory to you.

    As far as that collage is indicative of anything, it’s that Telltale know whats going on (that’s readily identifiable as Guybrush, a prat who wants to be a pirate), and whoever is directing the art for the remake has little if any.

    Besides any opinion of whatever Guybrush looks like, what it really comes down to is that there’s more to it than just Guybrush. The whole look of that game is part of what made it exciting and fresh, and what they’ve done is, ironically, reduce the fidelity a whole bunch. It’s all vaseline smear now, which coupled with that stilted animation simply doesn’t work.

    Enormous floating cartoon thumb pointing exaggeratedly downwards.

  26. Psychopomp says:

    Touche Mr.Walker


  27. Nick says:

    Nice try John, but he doesn’t look like any form of Guybrush.. and his hair looks like a hat.

  28. Grey_Ghost says:

    Papa needs a update of “The Dig”

  29. DSX says:

    Not too excited for a monkey remake, but damn, I’d drool all over a Xwing vs Tie with modern graphics and stuff.

  30. CakeAddict says:

    I’m certainly going to buy it, I wish this kind of thing would be done more.

  31. Wulf says:

    Sunjammer’s got it right.

    Tales of Monkey Island: An evolution based off of previous Monkey Island games, actually more of the first two games than anything, as in Curse of Monkey Island Guybrush seemed to undergo reverse-aging and loss of knowledge, also losing the sense of style he’d picked up by the second game. Thus becoming a twit dressed like a flooring inspector again. The Tales look takes the growth of Guybrush in MI2 and builds on it, and takes some of the better stylistic choices of CMI and EMI and drops them in too, but only where they fit. In other words, a huge step forward and in the right direction.


    Thank goodness for Telltale. <3 Telltale. Those guys don’t have their heads up their arses, unlike some other companies I could mention.

  32. Richard says:

    I might be in the minority of Grim Fandango fans here; but personally I’d rather not see anything more from Grim Fandango. It’s one of my favourite ever games but its story has been told, I reckon a sequel is uneccessary.

    I agree. Apart from the keyboard controls (I’d have rather a point and click 3d interface) the game was absolutely perfect.

    A remake would be awful (unless Tim S. was highly involved), although secretely I’d like to have an animated (al la Corpse Bride) film in order to introduce non-gamers to this fabulous universe.

    However I am firmly non sequel… Firmly… right up to the point where Tim Shafer was involed. He knows sopoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much more that I do….

  33. pilouuuu says:

    Oh, that dumbass Jim Ward kept Lucasarts stuck during years, to the point of making me hate the company.

    Thankfully we had these nice surprises exactly when I was losing all hope to have a new Monkey Island.

    We must all make the games be ultra successful, so they realise that adventures are commercially viable and will make they recover from the bad reputation they obtained in recent years.

    I expect this to mean that we won’t be getting so many crappy Star Wars games. I wouldn’t mind good SW games like a new Jedi Knight, a new X-Wing or… what about a SW adventure game? I always thought that would be an amazing idea even if KOTOR gave us quite a lot of adventuring in SW universe.

    I also would like that Lucasarts recovers all the work they had for Freelance Police and somehow puts it all in Sam and Max Season 3, but I think they must have sent all that to the garbage which would be a complete shame, especially because it was almost complete.

    I also can’t wait for remakes for Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, Loom and LeChuck’s Revenge!

    Welcome back Guybrush!

  34. Psychopomp says:


    But I *liked* Twitbrush Janitorwood!

  35. Pags says:

    Sort of old news but people might be interested to know that Steve Purcell is contributing artwork to the special edition of Tales of Monkey Island:

    link to spudvisionblog.blogspot.com

  36. Ziv says:

    i don’t get it… there’s a remake AND a new game? the remake is episodic?! is it for the first game only?
    the old game uses a new 2d engine and the new game uses the telltale engine?

  37. Subject 706 says:

    Considering that the cost of making an adventure game should be peanuts compared to say, The Force Unleashed, I can’t really understand what LucasArts are so afraid of. Might it just be the usual publisher fear of not catering to the lowest common denominator?

    Er, and yay to new Monkey Island games!

  38. jalf says:

    @Ziv: There is a remake, and it is a remake. Nothing fancy, sticking strictly to the original game in terms of gamplay, plot, dialogue and everything. It is being made by LucasArts. It’s still 2d, but with new, higher-resolution art (which a lot of people think is ugly as hell)

    And there is a season of episodic games being made by TellTale. All new stuff. All in 3D, using their usual engine.

  39. Original Preferrer says:

    the original looks good, the remake looks lite complete garbage.

  40. Wulf says:


    I actually didn’t like the SoMI version, he never seemed to really learn anything from his experiences, the MI2:LR version was a breath of fresh air compared to that.

    Look at it like Princess Bride. The SoMI version is like the original stable-hand Wesley, a dork, didn’t really say anything really intelligent, and he was relatively incapable of forming proper sentences around the woman he loved.

    The MI2 version was like the progression of Princess Bride, Guybrush had grown up, much like Wesley had, because he’d been exposed to the World of pirates for a time. He picked up wit, a sense of flair, and understanding of the dangers involved, and the rather cavalier attitude that intelligent pirates have.

    This was perfect evolution.

    Then in CMI, they regressed the age of Guybrush and took all the things he learned away from him, he was SoMI Guybrush again. That would be like having the Princess Bride II set at a time when Wesley was a dorky stable-hand, and it wouldn’t really be very interesting at all. Just like CMI really wasn’t really interesting at all, to me at least.

    I found the CMI Guybrush to be a stunningly dull and uninteresting protagonist. There, I’ve said it, I feel better.

    The Tales of Monkey Island Guybrush is like the one of Monkey Island 2. He has his flair, his wit, his cavalier attitude in the face of danger (and doesn’t become a snivelling manbaby when onfronted by Lechuck, a la CMI), and he feels more like a character that’s grown, rather than one that’s become stuck in time, and unable to progress.

    This is kind of why I’m hoping LucasArts won’t tamper with Lechuck’s Revenge, and that Telltale will continue making series with that Guybrush, because that, for me, is the iconic Guybrush. The Guybrush we should’ve had in both CMI and EMI. I’d love to see a revisionist history that throws CMI andEMI out the window, to be frank.

    I’m appreciative of Telltale seeing what I see anyway, and giving Guybrush a future, instead of leaving him stranded in the past as some bizarre form of fan-service.

  41. Cindy says:

    Why is Guybrush getting uglier and uglier? I refuse to play repulsive character.

  42. M. P. says:

    I loved the compilation of Guybrush’s different looks :)

    There’s a hugely-inflated scan of the MI2 box art here: link to mojoart.mixnmojo.com

    Telltale’s new look for the kid is growing at me. It harks back to what he was in MI2: a kid trying to pass for a grown up. Just look at the tiny goatee, how he heroically juts out his weak chin, the “fearsome” frown and “stern” look in his eyes! By comparison, the Guybrush of MI4&5 looked like a permanently-surprised minor character from the Garfield comic strip.

  43. AbyssUK says:

    Wouldn’t the world be a great place if they get sued by Disney for copyright on Pirates of the Caribbean.. you know its going to happen. Everybody get ready for a massive face palm

  44. Helm says:

    Stretching the limits of usefulness, I did a slightly quick mouse edit of guybrush from the top image to give him more human proportions. I stress I do not think that is ‘more correct’ as hyper-stylization is up to the aesthetic imperative of the given artist. Was an interesting momentarily diversion though. I don’t think most people mind the big wave hair, I think they mind the hugely elongated brown and neck more.

    link to img79.imageshack.us

  45. mihor_fego says:

    As I first played the MI along with LOOM on an old Amiga500, I’m pretty happy LucasArts is trying to reconnect with older brands. I missed the whole of the late 90’s and didn’t get to see what the 3rd and 4th titles of the series were like, but the 2nd was far better than the original. It was huge, funny and the character had actually evolved.

    I don’t mind the graphics, as I recently replayed LOOM on my PC and absolutely enjoyed it. The thing is, being a graphic designer I pay much attention to a game’s aesthetics and keeping the graphics of the remake old-style just for the sake of older fans is sad. The main issue in all adventure games is the story, followed by the puzzles, and these games excelled in that area. Keeping the same story but creating a whole new interface, 3d or not, remaking some of the puzzles or changing some would still make it great.

    Most would disagree but, as many mentioned, Grim Fandango is my favorite game (yeah, of all time) and I’d long dreamed of it being remade. Its interface had nothing to do with SCUMM, the arrow keys moved the character rather awkwardly, but the story and setting was brilliant. I wouldn’t mind if a remake had the same camera angles, actually I’d prefer it not to. Nor would they have to keep the same dialogue word for word; that’s hardly a remake.

    Think of movie remakes; they usually fail, either by attempting to be true top the original or going too far off. Fans of the original always get frustrated, whatever approach the director had to the remake.

    If Lucasarts plans to treat this game as a test for future remakes, I’m afraid they’ll continue with the lazy approach of what they did here. Especially since there are people in the development team that were fans of the original, I’d expect them to approach this remake with a bolder vision.

    The character’s hairstyle is totally irrelevant to how the game stands in comparison with its predecessor. If any of us who played the original games as children or youngsters try to compare them, it’s rather unfair. Everything we experience at such young ages is bound to evoke a feeling of nostalgia now we’re older. Anyone understands then that such comparisons are always unfair.

    I’d like to see this as an opportunity for younger gamers to try this genre. Before the sterile, dead worlds of BAD Myst rip-offs killed it (I’m a Myst fan, but it’s been done too many times). Grim Fandango, The Monkey Island Series, Loom, Legend of Kyrandia, Obsidian, even Myst; these games had great stories, character (not characters) and new concepts for their times. Does this old-school remake sell it to a new audience or was a redesign necessary?

  46. Elman says:

    @Helm : Really nice. He looks a lot better that way… (Sadly)

    I want to support this, and I’ll probably buy it if the price’s good enough, since I still get to play it with old graphics and voices… But the new graphics are terrible compared to the original.

    I like the 3D one’s artstyle, though. Much better than MI4 or even MI3’s.