Juho Rutila
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The hint system in Return to Monkey Isla ...

The hint system in Return to Monkey Island is (almost) perfect

Sep 27, 2022

Unless you have been living under a rock you probably know of the release of Return to Monkey Island, the highly anticipated sequel for the popular Monkey Island series. The game does a really good job and the story is good. I have to mention the intuitive control system that finally works with gamepads. Great job! But in this blog post, I would like to delve more deeply into the built-in hint system the game provides.

Nice Game Hints is a website that provides gradual low-spoiler hints for adventure games, just like Return to Monkey Island. During the two years, that I have been building the site, I have written gradual hints for tens of games (there are over 40 games already featured!) so I have developed quite a good grip on what good hints look like.

I have encountered many games with built-in hint systems before. And still, with those in place, there was a need to write NGH hints for the game. Either the hint system lacked some puzzles or the hints were too vague. Of course, even a vague help system is better than no built-in hints at all.

I was excited about Return to Monkey Island. Not just because, well, it was Return to Monkey Island. I was also eager to write hints for the players so that they won't get stuck and don't have to read spoiling walkthroughs. But I was pleasantly surprised that the game had built-in hints! As a game of this level of development should have. When I played the game it came to me that the hints were done right. There was no need to write hints in NGH. Let me break up why the hints are done right.

The hints are easily accessible in the game. You don't have to do extra hurdles, just open the book you get very early in the game. If it is faster to open the hint system in the game than a browser on your mobile you got the player hooked.

The hints are immersive. The book you get from the Voodoo Lady goes with the universe of Monkey Island. It looks so like it belongs to the world.

The hints are gradual. There are at least three hints per puzzle and each hint contains enough new information to give the player a new idea to try. And the final hint tells exactly what to do. Yes, you need to have that spoiling hint in the end, as sometimes even the directest hint is not enough. That way the player stays in the game.

The hints are dynamic. This is the biggest perk of having the hints in the game. The game knows exactly what the player has already done. Which items do they have in their inventory, who they have talked to, what solutions they have already tried, etc... And the hints in this game do this very well. The hints might say that you actually have an item in your inventory that could help. Or the hints might say try to that one thing from a little different angle, referring to my previous attempt solving a puzzle.

If there is something that the hints lack, compared to hints in NGH, is the linking and search functionalities. Yes, the hints are linked so that the hints know that to do A you need first to do B and C. But sometimes you have to browse through the A and you cannot directly search hints to puzzle B. The menu would grow too big if you would render all the options without sub-menus. In NGH you can search for hints with a free text or read a solution to a puzzle without knowing what other puzzle it relates to. But these are minor things. Every new game out there should look at how the hints are done in Return to Monkey Island.

If you are a game developer and think about having a built-in hint system in your game have a chat with me. I have gathered experience with puzzles and writing hints on them. A cheap option is to write the hints in NGH as that doesn't require any extra implementation and hosting the hints doesn't cost anything. I even have an idea of integrating the status of the game (dynamic hints) into NGH so that the player could get the same feeling that the hints in Return to Monkey Island provide: immersive, gradual, and dynamic hints.

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