Our fifth editor’s choice leading up to GAAD and the Diamond Award is Return to Monkey Island, chosen by Marijn.
When asked to contribute to the editor’s choices for 2022, my choice was immediately clear. Return to Monkey Island is a delightful return to the style and shenanigans of the original games, and includes great accessibility features.
Options are sparse, and they can be as most of the game’s accessibility is by design. However, in the case of controls they may be too sparse; it lacks remapping. Subtitles are good, with a few options to customize them. Other options include volume sliders and captions (sound effects subtitles in the options). Ship motion and distortion effects can be disabled as well. Enough to adjust what’s needed, and not much more.
Do you remember where we were?
On starting the game, players choose between casual and hard mode. Casual mode has less puzzles, and puzzles involving less steps. Beyond that it starts with an in-game prelude, playfully teaching the player the movement and puzzle mechanics. A scrapbook is available to get up to date with the story from previous games. Wonderful bits of onboarding for new and returning players alike.
Talking about returning players gets me to the recap feature. The game calls this “Previously On Feature”. Players experience the story from the perspective of Guybrush as he tells his son Boybrush about his adventure. Returning to the game after some time will start with both of them sitting on a bench. Guybrush asks “Do you remember where we were?” allowing the player to start a short recap. This recap summarizes the story so far, and includes what the objectives are. It even mentions how far the player has progressed in some tasks. It is an impressively feature to get a player back up to speed. Weirdly it can be turned off, which seems redundant as you can simply skip it.
Immersive cognitive accessibility
There are more features that improve the cognitive accessibility of Return to Monkey Island. The quest log in the form of a todo list in Guybrush’s inventory is a fitting diegetic element. It’s not out of place in the world, and fits the character of Guybrush perfectly. Dividing complicated quest elements into smaller ones, it makes tracking large and small objectives less taxing.
Similarly, the inventory contains a hint book. It provides hints on a chosen topic, and if the player remains stuck, they can request more detail. This allows players to get the guidance they need, without leaving the game.
A dialog history allows players to go back through the dialog in case they missed anything. Players can highlight interactable elements, which is helpful but a toggle could improve it. Both of these features would be more accessible with remapping.
The cognitive accessibility features and their immersive implementation is why Return to Monkey Island is my editor’s choice for 2022.