Thimbleweed Park – A town, a mystery, and a pixelating body – Review

Dracolich – Thursday, March 30, 2017 6:00 PM
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The town of Thimbleweed Park is the perfect setting for a gripping story: we have a small population of 80, a murder, two federal agents coming in to investigate said murder, as well as a seemingly ever-present local sheriff who appears quite eager to stick his nose into everyone’s business. The premise appears by-the-book, yet as the plot is untangled, you soon realize that in Thimbleweed Park, not everything is as it seems at first glance...

Thimbleweed Park is a modern representative of a genre that once dominated the game industry. As such, it logically follows that the game itself takes us back to this world – to the world of Ron Gilbert and Gary Winick, all the way back to 1987. In fact, Delores – one of the playable characters – serves as a window into Gilbert’s early career, though not without a healthy dose of self-critical humor.

Puzzles, humor, references

Had I been as zealous about taking notes as Agent Reyes, writing this review would have no doubt been a much easier task, but Thimbleweed Park’s atmosphere was quite skillful at getting me thoroughly invested to the point where I had almost forgotten the original objective of my playthrough. Indeed, for geeks who grew up playing Monkey Island and similar LucasArts (uh, I mean, MMucasFlem) titles – or perhaps used them as a way to socialize – the genre needs little introduction: in their case, Thimbleweed Park will offer exactly what they expect from it.

Point & click titles like this mostly consist of conversing with non-player characters and picking up, looking for, and combing a variety of items in order to solve a myriad different problems that get thrown at us. In Thimbleweed Park, however, the formula becomes a tad more complex through the introduction of several playable characters we’re able to switch between.

The game also contains a number of references - some obvious, others more subtle - to now-classic LucasArts titles, the game development and gaming communities, and even sci-fi fans in general. All of this is brought to life through ample amounts of humor, as well as a cast of entertaining NPCs that seem to embody and lampoon a host of clichés - in one moment, we’ll be howling with laughter from their hysterical references, in another, we’ll be rolling our eyes at their inane jokes.

A uniquely point & click-style adventure, complete with dead ends and red herrings

My self-esteem wouldn’t allow me to rely on the provided walkthrough, and besides, getting stuck from time to time is all part of the quintessential point & click experience. At times like this, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to revisit old locations for the 28th time, looking for pesky pixels that might’ve escaped my eagle eyes, or simply amusing myself by repeatedly exhausting the given dialogue options of this or that character - because really, who wouldn’t want to listen to yet another delightfully cringe-worthy postman joke? Well, not me!

Thimbleweed Park also offers two difficulty levels to pick from, which affects the complexity of the puzzles throughout the game. On the easier (“casual”) mode, we could breeze through the adventure in ten or so hours while also exhausting several red herrings and numerous optional elements, such as taking a trip to the local Thimbleweed Park library to listen to our Editor-in-Chief’s audio recording, or leaf through the mini-novellas penned by our own editorial staff.

Endgame

As we get closer and closer to the game’s inevitable finale, we find ourselves going deeper down Ron Gilbert’s unique, 80s-styled rabbit-hole, not wanting to ever leave. Yet much like the characters in the game, we continue onwards, desperately trying to overcome the challenges thrown before us, just so we could progress with our lives. We continue to hunt pixels, trapped in our ever-aging bodies as we hope to salvage what remains of our younger selves with only the nostalgic memories of our past to help us on the way.

While Thimbleweed Park, by itself, is already a stellar homage to the Gilbert-style adventure game, I certainly hope we see more similar endeavors from the developers who will – through Thimbleweed Park’s success – no doubt never have to work normal jobs ever again. With that said, I must also thank Ron Gilbert and his team for preventing me from working my real job for two whole days.

— The End —

In the end, I felt such a connection with the game’s characters that I allowed them to quickly describe the game in their own words; but these lines should only be read after you’ve already beaten the game:

  • Antonio Reyes: I’m glad the game came out so well. Trust me, you won’t regret trying it.
  • Angela Ray: Great, I finally got what I came for. Too bad I happened to run into all these geeks along the way. Word of advice: never go to a post office ever again.
  • Delores: I’m so impressed by the game, I want to be a game developer myself!
  • Ransome: It’s a *bleeping* *bleep* game, guys, what the *bleep* is your *bleeping* problem?!
  • Dad: Eeehhh, uhhhh… It’s all my fault. I should never have hooked you on adventure games.
  • Me: No but seriously, who killed Boris Schultz?


Thimbleweed Park is available on Steam, GOG, Xbox One, and the Mac App Store.