Back to Monkey Island Director Explains Why Pixel Art ‘Wasn’t Good’

Return to Monkey Island director Ron Gilbert says the game contains no pixel art because he didn’t want it to be considered a return – and he responded to those who criticized the new look of the long-awaited sequel.

In a blog post, Gilbert commented on fan criticism of the Return to Monkey Island art style for not matching the art of the first two games, which are a direct sequel.

But Gilbert said this sequel wouldn’t have looked like the first two games even if he had developed it in the early ’90s, because the point was not to have pixel art, but to use the latest and greatest technology instead.

Back to Monkey Island – first screenshots

“Monkey Island 1 and 2 were not pixel art games. They were games that used state-of-the-art technology and art,” he said. “If I had stayed and made Monkey Island 3, I wouldn’t have looked like Monkey Island 2. We would keep pushing forward, and Day of the Tentacle is a good example of that.”

Return to Monkey Island was written by Gilbert and Dave Grossman, two of the three writers of the original play (the third is Time Schafer of Double Fine, who is not returning) and they argued early and rejected the use of pixel art because “it didn’t feel good.” “Back to Monkey Island may not be the art style you wanted or expected, but it’s the art style I wanted,” Gilbert explained.

Gilbert continued, “We didn’t want to make a retro game. You can’t read an article about it [Gilbert’s 2017 pixel art game] Thimbleweed Park, not to be called a ‘throwback game’. I didn’t want Return to Monkey Island to be just a return game, I wanted to keep moving Monkey Island forward because it’s interesting, fun and exciting. This is what the Monkey Island games have always done.

“I wanted the art in Return to Monkey Island to be provocative, shocking, not what everyone expected,” he said. “It’s ironic that people who don’t want me to make the game I want to make are some of the die-hard Monkey Island fans.”

Gilbert concluded, “Returning to Monkey Island is an amazing rollercoaster. Board and have fun or get out of the amusement park because it’s not exactly the rollercoaster you wanted. I hope you’ll jump in with the rest of us.”

The sequel was announced in April, and Gilbert and the team at Terrible Toybox provided information before its release later this year.

Although he announced some gameplay details, such as the inclusion of a simple mode and hint system, Gilbert mostly talked about the long and unexpected timeline that eventually led to the creation of Return to Monkey Island.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers tweeting @thelastdinsdale. He’ll be talking about The Witcher all day.

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