Kickstarted video games has drawn criticism in recent years, often for good reason. However, in the case of Thimbleweed Park, successfully kickstarted in late 2014, crowdsourcing has provided the game creators an opportunity to create a unique experience in their genre of choice for an audience that equally cherishes the style of game. The result is a delightful LucasArts-style point-and-click adventure game that oozes the heart and soul only a passion project secretes.
In every facet of the game – in it’s narrative, presentation and gameplay – there’s a beautiful simplicity, of intuitiveness; it’s easy to jump into and quickly get lost in. Thimbleweek Park stays very true to their sources of reference, namely designer and writer Ron Gilbert’s previous works, Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island — two games referenced to numerously and to which Thimbleweed Park is very much a spiritual successor.
The art-style certainly is comparable to these classic games, but stands out in its own way. There is little to no empty space – especially important when the environment fills the majority of the screen at any given point – with vibrant colours making each scene pop. Similarly, the controls are unchanged; an array of actions in the form of verbs allow you to interact with the environment and your inventory, always visible in the lower third of the screen. Admittedly, this format works well on PC, really the home of point-and-click adventures, but suffers when played with analog sticks on a console.
The narrative starts simply; federal agents Ray and Reyes – heavily influenced by The X-Files’ Agents Scully and Mulder – investigate a murder in the small town of Thimbleweed Park. However, the mystery deepens as you discover more about the town, its eccentric residents and the ulterior intentions of the agents themselves. Subsequently, the plot twists and turns eventually delving into the wacky, wonderful and downright insane. It’s range is commendable; it breaks the fourth wall numerously, is incredibly self-referential and plays with the medium, injecting humour and zaniness between moments of mystery and suspense.
It’s easily digestible as well. Playing in the casual mode as I did, it’s difficult to veer off course, so long as you pay careful attention to the environment obviously. I felt there was a satisfying amount of game in my ten hour playthrough in casual – and I feel I missed a bunch too – but those up for more of a challenge can add greater complexity to the puzzles by selecting the harder difficulty, which potentially doubles the length of time it will take you to complete the game.
One of Thimbleweek Park‘s more interesting gameplay mechanics is the ability to switch between playable characters. Each character is introduced in a flashback or an aside, but becomes central to the game’s plot. It provides those awesome moments in puzzle-based adventure games where you physically have to keep a notepad on your coffee table or desk (wherever you’re playing) to jot down a code, password of clue for another character to use. Sadly, you’re asked to use multiple characters simultaneously or have them interact with each other occasionally. The mechanic was a tad under-utilised.
Similarly, you’re given a wide variety of verbs to use when interacting with the environment, including the ability to ‘push’ and ‘pull’ but I found I was able to simply ‘use’ most items and objects and achieve the same affect. The more advanced difficulty make better use of these mechanics, but I feel like they could have been put to use better in intuitive environmental puzzles in the lower difficulty. Perhaps the game would have benefited from a less binary difficulty setting, introducing a middle-ground between the casual and the hardcore.
Additionally, the game’s structure occasionally got in the way of itself. I often went exploring various avenues, trying to complete a task I thought I ought to complete only to discover it was an objective I was better pursuing in a later part of the game, after I’d triggered an unrelated event. Similarly – with the Thimbleweed Park‘s narrative segmented into parts – entering a new part could open new areas automatically, without any player input, which I wouldn’t realise until I began to retrace my steps. I would have preferred to have concentrated my efforts in solving the puzzle, rather than trying to determine what the puzzle was or where I could find it.
I understand some may consider that part of the challenge of point-and-click adventure games, but it detracted from my experience. Instead, where I felt the game shone was in the moments where I would have to have the characters cooperate, join forces and combines their inventories to work through the challenge before me.
Thimbleweed Park absolutely achieves what it sets out to, its unpredictable narrative contributing to a beautifully presented point-and-click adventure, worthy of being considered a true spiritual successor to the classics to which it pays homage. Bar a couple of design issues, Thimbleweed Park achieves something special, and longtime point-and-click fans should rejoice.
The Xbox One version of this game was played for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.