Thimbleweed Park is a brand new point and click adventure from the minds who created Maniac Mansion including Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, and David Fox.
Thimbleweed Park starts with a simple tutorial which shows a mysterious murder, from there the player takes control of two characters, Agent Ray and Reyes. The two characters feel based on X-Files’ Scully and Mulder, and it’s hardly the only reference in the game.
Thimbleweed Park is based on the feeling of both X-files and Twin Peaks as our characters all explore a large and strange town. The writing though elevates what could be a simple point and click adventure into a wonderful journey through the looking glass.
The writing is what kept me coming back as there’s a lot of humor and clever puzzles that feel more like situational occurrences instead of “here’s a video game puzzle”. For instance, a character needs to send an application to a video game company and the process has her needing to get stamps as well as get a book on the programming language of that company.
Much of the game is reminiscent of classic Lucasarts titles in both the style and execution of the writing and humor. But that’s also a shortcoming of Thimbleweed Park. Thimbleweed Park isn’t created as a new entry point for point and click adventures, but rather a game made for fans of classic point and click adventure games. It’s for the person who grew up with Maniac Mansion or Monkey’s Island more than for someone wondering what the genre is about.
The difference is Thimbleweed Park will break the fourth wall and refer to classic games such as Maniac Mansion, Monkey’s Island, and old Sierra games. There’s an early scene with two characters known as the pigeon brothers, where they just shatter the fourth wall to talk about classic Sierra games, as well as inform the players that there are no dead ends in the game unlike those old Sierra games, a change that was made around the time of Monkey’s Island.
Some people are going to get annoyed by that interaction and others will laugh and enjoy the moment. However, there are a good amount of those fourth-wall breaking interactions that may hinder the enjoyment of new players.
After criticism about this, the developers have added the ability to take out “Annoying In-Jokes” post-launch, and have left the default to be “No annoying in-jokes.” But this leaves the game in a weird state where about half of the in-jokes remain as they couldn’t be removed. I think players should enable that option before starting the game.
However, the experience here is still intended to entertain fans of the genre. The art and animation are fantastic, and the characters in the game are interesting. There are five major characters, with the two agents being separate characters, allowing them to handle different parts of the game as necessary. There’s also an insult clown that swears at people, Delores, a hopeful video game programmer at MMucasFlem (wonder what’s referring too), and a ghostly apparition who has some very unique abilities.
Fans will likely have a good time with the puzzles included in Thimbleweed Park. There are only a couple specific points of pixel hunting in the game, and moon logic is kept to a minimum if any at all.
The premise of the puzzles can be outlandish, such as Ransom the Clown losing a page for his insult book, or needing to collect a bucket of popcorn for his hamster (which he keeps in the microwave… *wink wink*) but the solutions all will make sense once the player figures them out.
If a player gets stumped the game has an in-game helpline that they can use without penalty, as well as two difficulty options so fans of the stories of point and click Adventures who don’t enjoy the puzzles or gameplay can have a sanitized experience. The hint line is very useful, having multiple hints per puzzle.
I rarely had to use the hint line as the puzzles are well designed and interesting with many of them having clever solutions and only a few requiring multiple characters to solve them.
Though that does bring me to one of two complaints I have with the game. This one being many characters say the same thing. While every character is unique and has a purpose here, if three of the characters go to a very tall ladder, they each say the same version of “I won’t climb that”. It’s a shame because each character is a unique and interesting person, but oftentimes you hear the same response for the same action and it would have been so much fresher to see a different comment from each character, perhaps causing the player to try the same failed action with each character.
It’s just one of those things that the writer of a large ensemble cast of playable characters could have done to make the game feel more interesting. Granted it may have minimal value to the player but to see the same lines of dialogue for so many pieces of the game, especially when it’s expected that the player will see them multiple times, such as eating a gross hotdog with each of the four characters is a weak experience.
There’s one last issue with Thimbleweed Park, and it’s a big spoiler. I’ll try to say it like this. There are several mysteries in Thimbleweed Park and some of them are left open or unexplored, and then hand washed away by the ending. Without saying what that ending is, I will say that it’s a good ending but the game is not left in a state that those stories will likely continue. It’s almost as if the ending was intended to make players ignore these issues, but it does the opposite.
It feels like the game has a few purposefully weak points, and is left unexplained. Some of these are in-jokes from another game, such as a clone of a playable character is shown for no reason other than Maniac Mansion did something similar, but others of these just feel like they’re put in the game to be red herrings.
The ending of the game is satisfying but on reflection, the game itself was a little weak and left too much open. I wouldn’t have minded a more streamlined experience or some level of explanation prepared for players.
For what Thimbleweed Park is, I enjoyed the experience. It feels tailor-made for me, as a fan of both classic Sierra games and classic Lucasarts games, but at the same time, I also have to admit Thimbleweed Park could have been better.
I highly recommend this game for any fan of classic point and click adventure games, but yet when I look at an actual review score. I’m forced to give Thimbleweed Park a very arbitrary
Yet for me, I could even see bumping that by two points if you look at this style of game very fondly and know the previous work of the creators.
If you have enjoyed Thimbleweed park previously, you should check out Delores: A Thimbleweed Park Mini-Adventure which is a free followup to the game. It’s more intended to be a demo of a new game engine but is an enjoyable look at the world after the game. I caution players, as there are a lot of spoilers in Delores, so it is worth checking that out only after finishing the main game.
If you enjoyed this review and want to see more from me, including more in-depth reviews of select games, check out my youtube channel at youtube.com/c/KinglinkReviews.