In a surprise to many in the gaming community, Return To Monkey Island was announced last month. It may come as an even bigger surprise to some fans of the long-standing franchise that creator Ron Gilbert isn’t in fact a huge fan of the earlier games’ graphic and art style.
In a post recently shared on his Grumpy Gamer blog, Gilbert has revealed that the pixel art style graphics used in Thimbleweed Park are the only ones he’s ever used as he’s not really that keen on the retro art style. He also explains a bit more about the rationale behind leaving Lucasfilm to work in a different art direction on the next Monkey Island game.
Monkey Island 1 and 2 weren’t pixel art games. They were games using state-of-the-art tech and art. Monkey Island 1 was 16 color EGA and we jumped at the chance to upgrade it to 256 colors. Monkey Island 2 featured the magical wizardry of scanned art by Peter Chan and Steve Purcell and we lusted to keep pushing everything forward. If I had stayed and done Monkey Island 3 it wouldn’t have looked like Monkey Island 2. We would have kept pushing forward, and Day of the Tentacle is a good example of that. I never liked the art in DotT. Technically and artistically it was fantastic, but I never liked the wacky Chuck Jones style.Ron Gilbert
Gilbert also elaborates on the move toward a more “provocative” and “shocking” style of art in Return To Monkey Island, which is being spearheaded by Little Big Planet‘s Rex Crowle. He acknowledged that it may not be what some more hardcore fans of the earlier games were expecting, but unfortunately, they’re just going to have to deal with it.
When Dave (Grossman) and I first started brainstorming Return to Monkey Island we talked about pixel art, but it didn’t feel right. We didn’t want to make a retro game. You can’t read an article about Thimbleweed Park without it being called a “throwback game”. I didn’t want Return to Monkey Island to be just a throwback game, I wanted to keep moving Monkey Island forward because it’s interesting, fun, and exciting. It’s what the Monkey Island games have always done.Ron Gilbert
Ultimately, Return To Monkey Island may be getting a makeover in terms of its visuals, but it’s clear that Gilbert and his team are very much planning on making the game they want to create. “Return to Monkey Island may not be the art style you wanted or were expecting,” he explains in the post, “but it’s the art style I wanted”. Retro fans may just have to learn to deal with a modern style of graphics when Return To Monkey Island is ready for release at some point this year.