We find ourselves at an unexpected point. If you'd told me in 2004 – or 2001, or even 2009 – that LucasArts had just released a remake of Monkey Island 2 that did, for the most part, live up to the original game, I wouldn't have believed you. This wasn't part of the accepted future of LucasArts.
Neither was Lucidity, for that matter, which I didn't play. But it was an important game for them to make, because LucasArts are a powerhouse studio – there's no doubt about this; they’ve put out some of the most well-funded and technically accomplished games of all time, as far as such things can be measured. And whilst Lucidity doesn't fall into that category, it's significant because it wasn't set on Tatooine.
But that's cool, there's a give and take, we get that. When LucasArts weren't allowed to make games based on Star Wars they were forced to be creative and get experimental, but if it weren't for the films there'd be no LucasArts at all. Now they have (unlimited) access to the license it's only fair that they should use it; give and take. Of course, they don't owe us anything – they never have. They're running a business, just like everyone else, and if they could have the game that scores 1/10 on Metacritics but makes $100 million, they'd take it over the 10/10 classic that only makes $100 thousand.
But that's the past. We've all been over it enough: you didn't need me to explain why this is an unexpected point in time. The question is, where next?
One theory is that Ron Gilbert will return to LucasArts to make the 'real' Monkey Island 3. And why not? He very suddenly and unusually left his position at Hothead Games, mere weeks before the release of his first big game in years, Deathspank.
And the Monkey Island Revival team at LucasArts want to flex their own creative muscle now, we know this too. They've been unable to tamper with the two special editions in any real sense, which was a wise design choice, but perhaps creatively frustrating. Craig Derrick has said these remakes were made primarily for newcomers to Monkey Island, and for those people the ending of Monkey Island 2 is a real cliffhanger. The natural progression for them would be to make a third Monkey Island game – but an entirely new one. I like this idea.
The project would be fraught with danger, of course. With no classic version to switch to, the game would be immune to nostalgia critics – but by wildly laying down new track in front of the franchise train, they would be toying with everything we know and love about Monkey Island. They would, essentially, be trying to tell us The Secret of Monkey Island™. And some of us – some of us – like the ambiguity of the second game's ending.
“It's as extreme as I can make it without losing my mind. Would we enjoy this?”
For example, let's indulge a plot theory. Let's say LeChuck doesn't lie to Guybrush at the end of Monkey Island 2 – he really is going to send him to a dimension of infinite pain. Some alternate dimension, perhaps, where Guybrush isn't even a pirate, but a child. Somehow, LeChuck binds Guybrush into this form, and joins him, taking over the parallel dimension as Guybrush's brother, Chuckie. It's a good move for LeChuck: his spirit form has been destroyed and his mortal form is badly decomposing. By displacing his consciousness to that of a child he is effectively free to live his life again.
Don't forget, at the end of Monkey Island 2 Guybrush takes an elevator ride to the Melee Island alleyway. This is the only safe place, the only place where LeChuck can't come after him - the most logical place to construct the doll. The sign blocking access to the rest of the island says that the alley itself is under construction, which implies that this is the past. Implies, perhaps, that Guybrush has returned to his own past – the place he first met LeChuck, in fact, all those years ago – but it is now altered, somehow. It is as though it is merely an amusement park.
That fits, for some parts. Other bits of it don't quite work, and I'm certainly not proposing it as The Secret of Monkey Island™. But let's pretend that it is: imagine if that was what Ron Gilbert actually wanted to do. Wouldn't that make a third Monkey Island game take place in the 'real' world? A child Guybrush, his nemesis LeChuck now his creepy older brother Chuckie, parents alive... house in the suburbs, school, etc.? It's as extreme as I can make it without losing my mind. Would we enjoy this?
No, it's too radical. For us to accept it, the game would have to be, in a word, 'piratey.' This would mean some extremely inventive explanations for the ending of the second game. They could cop out of it completely – or, they could blow our minds. But we're way off the edge of the map now.
What's more likely is they'll revisit another classic. It would have to be one of the pre-talkie ones, because there's not a whole lot they can do to the adventures from Day of the Tentacle onwards. That leaves us with Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken (assuming that Last Crusade and Loom are nixed by their current availability on Steam.)
But another straight remake? Really boss? More copying pixelated artwork from the dark ages of video games? *sigh*
Given some of the interview quotes we've seen, it might be the case that a remake of Maniac Mansion or Zak McKracken could involve some alterations. A 're-imagining' as it were. You lift up the doormat outside the house, and the key is not there. The game is trying to be difficult all over again.
I would welcome that too. If the Gilbert-returns-to-Lucas angle turns out to be right, then maybe it's to blindside us with a remake of his very first game: Maniac Mansion. With Gilbert involved, the team would be free to change as much as they felt like without it being called blasphemy (although, it would be called blasphemy, of course. The sad fact is, I wouldn't really care, with Maniac Mansion. For those of you who would, this would be painful – so perhaps the original version would need to be included too? It's a debate that will split the community, I'm sure.) They could put a Gilbert commentary on there explaining all the changes made and why, and it would probably be fascinating – albeit in a strange way.
Hell, Doublefine are making four small games right now. LucasArts already went to Telltale and gave them the keys to Monkey Island - why not go to Tim and offer him similar goodies? Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango? Would he want those licenses? Would he like to revisit them?
I'm in even wilder territory now, so I'm going to stop. I'm just milking the experience of being excited by LucasArts’ next announcement, because I haven't felt this for a loooooong time. Sure, I'll probably get shot down when the new Prez announces that Handsome Halibut is the codename for Pipe Dreams 2, but I can take that.
That, I am used to.
Tumbling Through a Thousand Centuries: