Thimbleweed Park is a love letter to classic point-and-click adventures, there’s really no other way to describe it.
It’s full of odd character, strange situations, and more point-and-click logic than you can shake your fist at, and while it’s stewed in nostalgia of the LucasArts adventures of the 80’s, it offers up a number of interesting twists on a classic formula.
Please note this is a spoiler free review, though we do talk about all 5 characters introduced. No major plot points are spoiled.
Title: Thimbleweed Park
Developer: Terrible Toybox
Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Developer
Interface: Keyboard and Mouse
Available for $19.99 from Steam, GOG, Xbox One, and the App Store
A small town nestled in the shadow of an abandoned pillow factory. A corpse pixelating in the river. Two federal agents with ulterior motives. The case seems open and shut until you start peeling back the layers and realize that in a town like this, a dead body is the least of your problems.
This isn’t Thimbleweed Park’s first mysterious death. The sheriff, the foul-mouthed clown, the guy dressed up like a giant slice of pizza — everyone in town has something to hide, including all five(!) playable characters. How do you get to the bottom of a mystery this big? For starters, you’ll have to put on your thinking cap, because nothing in Thimbleweed Park is as simple as “use gas can on chainsaw.”.
Right from the very first moments of Thimbleweed Park, you feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of an 80’s LucasArts point-and-click Adventure. And really, you have. Thimbleweed Park is developed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, and is meant to be a spiritual successor to their game’s which you may just possibly have heard of: Manic Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island.
The game feels like a classic with a good polish and a fresh coat of paint. The Point and click solutions are just as zany, the dialogue is just as witty and the characters are just as memorable. If you’re a fan of the golden age of point-and-click adventures, Thimbleweed Park will not disappoint you.
That’s not to say that there aren’t changes. Thimbleweed Park has actually made so rather interesting and innovative changes to the typical formula of point-and-click adventure games that make the game feel fresh. The game is full voice acting, characters have interesting and emotional reactions to things and there’s a certain depth to the puzzles that I feel early point-and-clicks didn’t have.
You also have control of up to five characters, instead of just one. Agents Ray and Reyes are the two main characters of the game, and are nice foils of each other; Ray is grizzled, pessimistic and tough-as-nails lady, while Reyes is far more optimistic and naive younger man, though he clearly has some hidden motivations. I ended up playing through the game as Agent Ray more than anyone else, though it should be noted that you will have to switch between different character to solve certain puzzles. Certain people will interact differently with others, and sometimes you’ll need a friend to make a timely phone call on your behalf.
After a short time, you’ll also meet Ransome the *beeping* clown, a foul mouthed combination of Krusty the Clown and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Beyond his initial shock value, I think he’s the weakest character you have the opportunity to play as, and he’s still hilarious.
Delores was actually my favorite character, and is a stand in game developer, providing an enormous amount of the game’s self-referential and self-aware humor. She’s also the connection to the final character you have the opportunity to play as, Franklin, but I’ll leave his supernatural nature and introduction a mystery…
The most basic goal of Thimbleweed Park is the investigate the appearance of a body in the river outside of town, and solve the murder. This is accomplished through use of the town’s Crimetron 3000 series of machines, needing fingerprint, blood and facial evidence to determine the killer.
Of course, this being a point-and-click adventure style adventure from the likes of Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, things don’t stay that simple for long, but I enjoyed the straightforward and clear goal that the game started on. It seemed to ground the experience for me, and always gave me something to turn back to if I got frustrated with one particular pathway, something not all point-and-click adventures give you an option of.
Indeed, Thimbleweed Park is wonderfully open ended, and most of the game can be experienced in entirely different orders, by entirely different character, though some key moments do serve as points to re-orient the game. There’s also no real potential for failure in Thimbleweed Park, just different stories unfolding in different ways.
Thimbleweed Park is also hilariously self aware. There a tons of jokes about the nature of adventure games, game development, coding, and the mechanics of gaming like save points and the end of levels. It’s jarring at first, because it’s slightly unexpected, but as soon as you realize it’s self-aware, it’s just plain funny.
Thimbleweed Park also has it’s share of fault though. I found having to ope every door I went through with a separate action incredibly tedious; if the game simply automated this, I think it would have saved me a lot of frustration and kept me immersed in the moment far more effectively.
The game also struggles with the constant issue of point-and-click logic, namely that every problem only has one incredible specific answer relying on one path of thought. Thought of a different way to solve the puzzle in front of you? too bad, you have to solve it by combining the armadillo with the hockey stick and the tape…obviously.
Some people love point-and-click logic. Some people hate it. I found that the absurdity and self-awareness of Thimbleweed Park made it a lot easier to take, but I still ran into moment where I struggled to connect the dots. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the experience, but it is a reality of the game and genre you should be aware of before you dive in.
Thimbleweed Park is a point-and-click lovers dream, full of self referential and self aware humor, odd characters, strange puzzles and mysterious locations. Players of the classic Lucas Arts games of the 80’s will be hit with a massive wave of nostalgia, while also encountering some intriguing new innovations that make the game feel fresh and different.