In recent years the classic point and click adventure has had a bit of a revival. We’ve had very welcome remasters of Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango and new properties such as Broken Age. This along with the rise of rise of the various Telltale Games series’, The Longest Journey’s long awaited third episode and Broken Sword 5 shows the genre is certainly back on the map.
Thimbleweed Park is perhaps the highest profile throwback to the idea of old school point and click games to appear in many a year. Whereas many of the other games have embraced new systems or at least worked on the systems from the later era Lucas Arts games, Thimbleweed harks way back to the early output of the aforementioned company with a system closer to that of Maniac Mansion - Only this time it’s designed to be far more user friendly.
The game initially follows two FBI agents who are drawn to the small town of Thimbleweed to investigate a murder. As the adventure progresses you are placed in control of a further three characters who are introduced via flashbacks. All five have their own motivations and goals as well as inevitably coming together as the plot thickens about the strange goings on in the town. The whole thing is presented in an older pixel style and carries a heavy Twin Peaks/X Files kind of vibe that works well with the odd-ball inhabitants and feeling of the town.
For the uninitiated, Thimbleweed follows the tried and test point and click adventure model. As you explore the town you will come across items which you collect. These items are then normally combined with other items or used in order to solve puzzles. For instance, at the very start of the game you need to find a stone to smash a light so you can move forward unseen. Moving your character is done by dragging a cursor around the screen and clicking or holding down one of the buttons to direct your character to wherever the cursor is moving. You also have a list of commands such as ‘Give’ or ‘Pick Up’ which can be accessed via button pushes or the cursor which need to be combined to complete certain actions. For instance, you would click ‘Pick up the rock’ then click ‘Use the rock on the light’ to smash it.
The puzzles themselves are fairly logical once you get your head around the way the game wants you to think. There’s certainly nothing here as bizarre and crazy as seen in many other games such as Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. For those new to the genre there is also a casual mode which removes a lot of the puzzles (and even some locations), while still allowing you to experience the story. If you want the full experience but still get stuck there is an in game help line that can be called from the phones dotted around town that will keep you on track. It helps keep things moving but some may find the temptation too much when they find themselves facing a frustrating puzzle. If there is one major criticism, it’s that there is a little bit of overreliance on using the towns phonebook to solve problems by calling up specified numbers.
The characters are for the most part fairly standard fair but there are a few that leave a lasting impression such as the town Sheriff and the five main characters themselves. The plot holds up well for the most part providing an interesting tale and one that always hints at something more just beneath the surface. It’s hard to say much without giving it away but the whole thing goes a bit too meta for our personal taste towards the end and a few too many questions are left unanswered but it’s certainly a game we’ll return to in the future.
Overall, we found Thimbleweed park to be an enjoyable throwback to the days and style of early point and click adventures. We really like the fact it has gone down the Manic Mansion route as it sets itself apart both visually and in tone from the many other new games in the genre. The story kept us entertained (even if we were a bit disappointed by the conclusion), and the characters are fun to mess around with. There have also been just enough concessions made in terms of hints and moving around the place to keep things low on frustration. Thimbleweed succeeds at being both a love letter to games from the past and something relevant for gamers today and is certainly a game not likely to be forgotten by any who play it.