The stars align and I’m already rubbing my hands: Lucasfilm Games is not a resurrected LucasArts that returns with its original name – at least for now – but those invaluable licenses are back on the table. And what’s better: Ubisoft has already moved tab with Star Wars and Bethesda has plans with Indiana Jones. With that ahead, the question asks itself: When will a new Monkey Island?
It is no secret that one of the greatest strengths of the Lucasfilm Games original was his direct involvement in the expansion of his film sagas in video games. However, the original idea of George Lucas For his own video game division, it was not to create a company that limited itself to creating, licensing, controlling and promoting its own films in new formats: Lucas wanted to enter that emerging industry with their own ideas and titles.
In fact, as we saw in SamaGame, before the very free adaptation of the film Inside the Labyrinth by Jim Henson, LucasFilm Games launched Ballblazer in 1984 and not long after Rescue on Fractalus! Finally consolidating itself as one of the maximum references through the graphic adventure Maniac Mansion and, not long after, the legendary Monkey Island.
Successes that were born of the enormous talent that was internally, including geniuses of the caliber of Ron Gilbert, Brian Moriarty, Tim Schafer or Dave Grossman. Great figures in the industry to which we must add privileged partners and studies that, in most cases, have been especially inspired.
Now, practically a decade after announcing his change of roles in the video game industry (as a side effect of the Disney acquisition), LucasFilm Games return to the firing line.
And despite the fact that, as we already said, his current role is different from that of the much-missed LucasArts -or, rather, that of the original LucasFilm Games- we are one step closer to the return of Guybrush Treepwood than we have been in the last decade.
And the most interesting of all: a LucasFilm Games has no shortage of suitors when it comes to taking up the adventures of the pirate capable of holding up to ten minutes without breathing. Literally.
The rise of Monkey Island and its importance in adventure adventure games
No matter how many years pass, the original Maniac Mansion from 1987 does not age. In part, due to its exceptional balance between surreal humor, those cheeky nods to the B movies and puzzles that are as challenging as they are ingenious. And, of course, that game interface: the SCUMM system.
Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion (SCUMM) divided the screen in two and, in the same movement, endowed the creative and the player with infinite possibilities of interacting with the same image. And, in the specific case of Ron Gilbert, to overcome with a new and hilarious joke.
After the odd assignment, Gilbert gave shape to an idea he had been thinking about for a long time: a graphic adventure inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland so fun and with characters so crazy that it offered the player a kind of amusement park in the key of a video game. And wow he got it.
In The Secret of Monkey Island we are Guybrush Treepwood, an aspiring pirate with more motivation than experience who lands on the island of Melee to pass the tests and become a fearsome sea lion.
What Guybrush doesn’t know is that it will directly become the epicenter of a whole series of catastrophes involving lost treasures, ghost buccaneers, voodoo recipes and, ultimately, a mysterious island inhabited by cannibals and monkeys. An exotic paradise that hides an unexpected secret.
The impact of The Secret Monkey Island it was huge, serving as a new mold and quality standard for adventure adventure games for LucasArts and every other company. From that crazy academy of piracy will sprout other masterpieces such as the Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max and of course, Monkey Island 2. This being Gilbert’s last great success for Lucas’s company.
In 1992, and after setting the bar very high, Ron Gilbert left LucasArts along with Shelley Day to found Humongous entertainment. And although great graphic adventures continued to arrive by the creatives and designers of the house, the comparisons with Monkey Island they were still unavoidable.
Paradoxically, as the use of multimedia technology in video games became standardized, the genre of adventure games began to experience a curious commercial decline, not a creative one. Which didn’t stop Monkey Island from having a third installment. Monkey Island 3? Not quite.
Monkey Island’s legacy after the golden age of adventure games
LucasArts will release in 1997 The Curse of Monkey Island, retaining the same protagonists, renewing the interface and totally blurring the line that separated traditional animation from video games. That was a great adventure game, of course, but did not reach the excellence of the previous two, nor did it match its impact and sales.
In fact, if it weren’t for the success of graphic adventures in Europe – more specifically in Germany – we would not have received a fourth unnumbered installment: The Escape from Monkey Island. A total jump from the genre to 3D with an equal hooligan humor, of course, but that continued to lose compared to the comparisons.
And the truth is that, after the turn of the millennium, the point and click genre was in the doldrums. At least, until the arrival of Telltale Games.
October 4, 2004 Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors Y Troy Molander, who had worked at LucasArts, ventured as Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer into their own video game company founding Telltale games. His priority was to create stories with a great narrative impact and his specialty, logically, graphic adventures.
In a way, Telltale Games revived point and click thanks to its successful adaptations and its very distinctive way of offering stories in an episodic way. Sometimes with great success, as with the first season of The Walking Dead, and others with not too much. Or, at least, not enough. And within this last group we can put Tales of Monkey Island.
After offering a model of distribution by chapters and building a reputation within adventure games, in 2009 Telltale Games will go to the big leagues within the genre by launching Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush’s highly anticipated return to video games. in collaboration with LucasArts.
Unfortunately, those new adventures of the intrepid – although not so feared – pirate did not sink well enough among new and veteran fans.
Is not that Tales of Monkey Island it was a bad graphic adventure. In fact, it was a commercial success. The problem is that it was far from the irreverence and ingenuity of past installments. It was completely in the shade. A missed chance? AbsolutelyGuybrush’s latest adventure to date might not be the best, but he was fully aware, from his first episode, of the weight of his own acronym.
After Tales of Monkey Island, LucasArts updated the two original installments, the most beloved, giving the possibility to alternate between the renewed and the classic look and giving fans the comments of those involved in its development between puzzle and puzzle.
The best way to preserve its legacy to this day: shortly after the reissue Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge Disney will buy George Lucas’s empire and cancel all LucasArts projects. This marked the end of an era. At least, until now.
Why Monkey Island Must Come Back
Despite the notable absence of the LucasArts pirates in the last decade, the adventure game genre has evolved in an interesting way without giving up the essence of the classics. Coexisting in very creative ways these two ways to challenge us to solve mysteries, puzzles and finish conversations with wit and humor.
On the one hand, Tim Schafer himself dressed up several of his best LucasArts hits through his current company: Double Fine. Thanks to these initiatives we have enjoyed remastered versions of great games like the Day of the tentacle, Full throttle or Grim fandango. All must-see quotes from fans of the genre.
For its part, Ron Gilbert it still retains that which filled us with laughter and entertainment. And proof of this is Thimbleweed Park, his latest graphic adventure and, at the same time, the definitive demonstration that the genre can still give us great surprises, joys and humor.
Logically, the narrative has evolved a lot and not everything follows the SCUMM model of LucasArts: there we have Life is Strange or the latest adventures of Telltale Games itself before its closure.
And although they had progressively lost the novelty factor, they also knew how to give us great joys like The Wolf Among Us and dare to adapt the impossible. From Minecraft to Batman.
The adventure game genre has never been nicheas its own playable approach welcomes any type of gamer and even those who are not specialized in video games. But make a good adventure game with clever puzzles and dialogues and generous doses of humor it is quite a challenge. After all, it is the least that can be asked of a future Monkey Island.
Fortunately, there are those who are more than willing to take that risk.
For years, Ron Gilbert himself has been really interested in making Monkey Island 3. Not only has he thrown very direct hints at Disney, but he’s been clear about what it would be for a long time the true third numbered installment of the saga.
It would be a title with a retro aesthetic that would take into account what happened The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2. It would do it in ‘improved low-res’. Retro art taking advantage of the hardware we currently have. No need 3D
In 2013, Gilbert himself explained in his blog the 15 points that would include his third installment of Monkey Island, which would be called Monkey Island 3a: for a reason: all games after Monkey Island 2 would not exist in this universe.
In fact, among the few details that have been able to get from Gilbert about what would happen in the game that never was, one stands out: poor Guybrush would end up in h**l. Literally.
However, there were two problems: the rights belong to Disney and, like all the great LucasArts sagas except Star Wars, the most famous mouse company in the world was little interested in using it, exploiting it or giving it up. At least, that was the outlook until 2021.
That Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Bethesda begin to share the LucasArts legacy opens the door to the return of Guybrush and gives hope to those who are passionate about adventure games. Above all, with a Tin S******r whose Double Fine no longer depends on croudfundings to carry out projects and a Ron Gilbert more than willing to meet more pirate stories.
Everything that needs to be aligned is in its proper place and the return of Monkey Island is too good an opportunity for the renewed LucasFilm Games to let it pass. Because if there is anyone capable of overshadowing Indy’s return to video games, it is a clumsy and jinx, but very determined, pirate named Guybrush Threepwood.