Thimbleweed Park Review

Point and Click Returns!

Modern-day adventure games don’t get more old-school than Thimbleweed Park. This point-and-click game was helmed by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, two of the biggest minds behind classic LucasArts games like Maniac Mansion and the Monkey Island series. The game brings players back into a world filled with ridiculous characters, hilarious dialogue trees, absurd logic puzzles, and lots of pixels. And for adventure game fans like me, this is a glorious revival of the genre.

Check out the Video Version for a closer look at the gameplay and spoiler-free clips!

The story opens in 1987 in the quaint town of Thimbleweed Park, where a murder has taken place, prompting two FBI agents to investigate. The premise, with its X-Files and Twin Peaks vibes, is intriguing, but it’s the strong writing that carries the entire game. The dialogue is filled to the brim with witty banter, self-referential humor, and outright parodies of the adventure genre.

Thimbleweed Park Review Agents.png
Agents Mulder and Scully…I mean, Agents Reyes and Ray.

Likewise, the characters exhibit a special charm. Your playable FBI agents, the seemingly foolish Reyes and sarcastic no-nonsense Ray, are fun characters that bounce well off of each other. And once the plot’s scope ambitiously extends to an overarching mystery behind the town, more zany playable characters share the limelight. These additional protagonists – which include an insult clown who swears so much that he talks in beeps, a timid ghost of a pillow salesman, and an aspiring adventure game developer (again, self-referential) – all have their own storylines that are ingeniously introduced via playable flashback sequences. I was so enamored by them – even the beephole clown – that I missed them and their cheeky dialogue after the credits rolled.

Thimbleweed Park Review Coroner Mystery.png
Welcome to the futuristic year of 1987!

If you’ve played any LucasArts adventure game, you should instantly recognize the old-school interface. The bottom area of the screen contains a menu of verbs and an inventory. To interact with the environment, you must first click on one of the nine verbs, for instance “Pick up,” “Look at,” or “Use,” and then point to whatever or whomever you want to interact with. Though hardcore adventure game enthusiasts will embrace this point-and-click tribute, the system is admittedly archaic and unintuitive to navigate at first. As a small compensation, the game allows you to perform the default command (opening doors, for instance) with the press of a button. As much as I love the classic verbs, I would have appreciated an option to use a modernized interface, similarly to the one in Day of the Tentacle Remastered, which let you click on an object and then ask you how you wanted to interact with it.

Most of your pointing and clicking is used to solve puzzles. Again, you have to look at these puzzles from a retro adventure game perspective to appreciate them. Otherwise, you’ll likely get frustrated trying to understand this game’s obtuse logic. In this fictional game world, simple actions like starting a fire and obtaining a nickel can only be achieved in specific ways, and you have to pay close attention to discover exactly how the game wants you to proceed. As a fan of the genre, I ate it all up. The puzzles are fun to wrap your mind around, and it’s gratifying to put two and two together and emerge with the solution.

Thimbleweed Park Review Ransome Electric.png
Now, now. I’m sure this is perfectly logical.

Still, it’s hard to blame you if you can’t keep up with nonsensical video game logic. To the game’s credit, there are some options in place to prevent anyone from truly getting stuck. The least intrusive feature is a handy to-do list to keep you on track. For those who need a bit more assistance, there is an in-game hint line you can call at any time for puzzle clues. The best part is that these hints are offered incrementally: your first clue for any given puzzle vaguely nudges you in the right direction, but ask for more hints and the system will pony up more information before finally giving you a step-by-step solution. I applaud this ideal way of handling the issue of in-game logic and wish it had been more common in the early days of point-and-clicks. You could also play through Casual mode, which removes the bulk of confusing puzzles. It’s a great idea in theory to make the game more accessible, but it feels like a watered-down version of the standard Hard mode, and it’s simply not as satisfying.

I especially enjoyed the point when the game opened up, allowing you to explore the entire county with five different characters. Each playable protagonist has their own unique strengths, such as game developer Delores’ programming smarts and Franklin the ghost’s mystical powers to zap and freeze objects. Many puzzles link together, and some even require you to control multiple characters at once, giving a unifying sense of teamwork that I rarely see in adventure titles. The only gripe I had with the multi-character system was the item management. The inventory builds up fast, and one character must travel to another’s location in order to exchange items. Fast traveling eased the task, but over time, having to manually mix and match inventories grew tedious.

Thimbleweed Park Review Delores Franklin Hotel.png
I liked when characters’ paths crossed.

My biggest issue was with the ending, which is a big deal for a story-driven game. Without spoilers, the game’s ultimate direction left something to be desired. The journey was still worth it, but the end makes it hard for me to replay. Luckily, the game is long enough, offering at least 12 hours of playtime, which is much longer than I usually spend on other point-and-clicks. It can, of course, last longer depending on how long it takes to solve puzzles. And that’s not even including the wealth of time you could spend exploring every nook, cranny, and pixel.

Thimbleweed Park Review Delores Letter.png
A true maniac in her mansion, Delores is one of my favorite characters.

Speaking of pixels, Thimbleweed Park looks wonderfully retro, adopting a pseudo 8-bit style that is more beautiful than anything that could have been produced in the heyday of adventure games. The diverse backgrounds are eye-catching, including colorful circus grounds and a certain mansion that may feel familiar to LucasArts fans. The music fits well, resembling what you might hear in a gritty crime drama. Most importantly, the voice acting is well-done. The actors’ deliveries are spot-on, whether telling jokes or breaking the fourth wall. And to my joy, every single line is voiced. The town of Thimbleweed truly feels alive.

Thimbleweed Park Review Ray Vista.png
What secrets lie in the bizarre world of Thimbleweed Park?

Conclusion

Thimbleweed Park succeeds as a modern point-and-click game by adopting old-school mechanics. Although I didn’t like the ending, I couldn’t help but feel enchanted by every humorous conversation and puzzle along the way. Not everyone will appreciate the game, and those without a penchant for adventure games will likely be lost in the absurd in-game logic and archaic interface. A fully functional hint line and Casual mode help make the game more approachable for newcomers to the genre. But make no mistake, this is a game for adventure game fans, Kickstarted by the very people who wanted to see this classic style revived. And for those fans, Thimbleweed Park is a resounding success.

Score: 9/10

A review copy of the PS4 version was provided by the publisher for this article. This game is also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Mac, Windows, and Linux.

What are your thoughts on Thimbleweed Park or other adventure games like it? What are your favorite adventure games, visual novels, or point-and-click games? What makes a great adventure game for you? Please share any thoughts and questions you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “Thimbleweed Park Review

  1. An awesome-a-reno review! I like adventure games, though I haven’t played many old-school retro ones that Thimbleweed Park pays homage to. This was fun, though! I’m a huge fan of the Ace Attorney series myself, which I’d consider my favorite visual novel adventure game. I enjoyed the puzzles of Thimbleweed Park and some required thinking outside the box (like breathing fire into a fireplace–who woulda thunk?). The hint line was very helpful when I felt lost, though the games makes it point early on that you can’t get permanently stuck. I also appreciated all the 4th wall-breaking humor, as well as the ability to switch between characters. It’s a shame that the game didn’t have a more satisfying conclusion. But it was a fun time-a-reno!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always-a-who! Ace Attorney is also my favorite visual novel type of adventure game, too, of course! Though I’m also a big fan of Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle as far as point and click games go. That’s why I was so excited about this one. Glad you enjoyed playing together. Adventure games like this where we can sit down and watch the other play are the best-a-reno! :D

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always my friend! You would definitely enjoy the humor of this game. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, and self-referential. It’s goofy, and I love that in adventure games. Glad you enjoyed the “not ending” footage. I make it a point to prevent showing spoilers especially in a story-driven game, especially one with puzzles to solve. 😉

      Like

    1. You’d love it as a fan of point-and-click adventures! I remember you enjoyed games like Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle Remastered, so this would be perfect for you! Luckily, it’s not just on PS4. Thimbleweed Park is also on Switch, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. So hopefully you have at least one of those platforms to play it on? I’d hate for you to miss it!

      Like

      1. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Just half an inch over Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island 2. Then Maniac Mansion, The Dig, King Quest, Beneath a Steel Sky…I think I’ve proper played at least 30 different adventures!…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh! 30? You’re a point and click aficionado! I’m going to have to check these all out someday. I’m having such a craving for graphic adventure games after playing through Thimbleweed Park. I especially want to play through Monkey Island 2. I’ve heard things about it., to say the least.

        Like

      3. It’s for sure one of the best! I like this more than the first, but maybe because the second is actually the first I’ve played. I didn’t like that much the third. I’m too fond of the “classic” graphic style. An interesting non-LucasArts adventure you should try if you haven’t done yet is Lure of the Temptress…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I will definitely look into getting some of those Monkey Island rereleases! And ooh, Lure of the Temptress, sounds alluring. Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll have to take note of all of them. I’m mostly used to LucasArts adventure games, but I’ve played some others like Telltale’s Strong Bad and new Monkey Island games, The Longest Journey, and stuff like Shadowgate for the NES. Do you have a preferred developer for graphic point-and-clicks? I always hear about the LucasArts/Sierra debates.

        Like

      5. Definitely LucasArts. As far as I’m concerned they were the top of the top! They released the best point and clicks ever and some of them are without any doubt some of the best games in general! Among their success there are to remember also Sam & Max Hit the Road and Zack McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders. Sierra is famous for its “Quest” series (King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest…) and they’re fun but nothing compares to LucasArts games. In my opinion their funniest game was Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of Lounge Lizards. I do have Shadowgate for NES but I still haven’t got time to play it properly…

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I certainly love the LucasArts style. The dialogue is usually so funny! I haven’t played the Leisure Suit Larry series, but I’ve heard a lot about it, for sure. I recently hear about Zack McKraken too, thanks to looking up references in Thimbleweed Park. By the way, I’m sure you’ll recognize all the LucasArts references! I think what scared me about the Quest games was how easy it seemed to die. I remember seeing all three of the quests you’ve mentioned played, and remember unfair deaths. Shadowgate’s great, but it’s very hard without help. Easy to get lost and die…

        Like

      7. Ok so I’ll most likely die in Shadowgate 😅 Yes, usually all the LucasArts adventures have a lot of cross references. For example in Day of the Tentacle there’s a puppet of Max from Dam & Max and a lot of references of Star Wars and in Indiana Jones in one of the dialogues, when someone ask him his name Indy can answer Guybrysh Threepwood from Monkey Island. It’s always fun to find all the references in the games! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Gotta love all those cross-references! There are so many in Thimbleweed Park that there’s an actual setting to turn “Annoying In-Jokes” off, which I found funny. There’s also an option to put toilet paper over the roll as opposed to under, so I knew by that point that the game was going to be hilarious. Ooh, this just makes me more excited to hear your thoughts since you love LucasArts titles so much!

        Like

    1. Oh yeah, Thimbleweed Park sounds like it’s for you then! I love point and clicks and mysteries and enjoyed it for the most part. And I agree about the hint system. I don’t think I could have ever beaten one of those old-school graphic adventures without guides. Too many large leaps in logic.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! 🙂 For sure, I honestly think anyone who even knows the name Ron Gilbert without having to look him up would feel right at home! Have you played all the old LucasArts graphic adventure classics?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! If you’re even at all interested in the point-and-click genre, this is an excellent one to try out. The hint line and Casual mode can help a lot, though I still recommend playing through Hard. Either way, the story and humor are excellent! I’d love to know what you think if you try it out sometime! Thanks again!!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s