Adventure Games are some of the most complex titles available on the market. Their design and intricacy are something to marvel at. They’re also surprisingly hard to get made.
Telltale have taken the traditional point-and-click and really ran with it, resulting in more simplified, cinematic titles like The Wolf Among Us, with a limited focus on puzzle design, and an ardent focus on moral choices and narrative.
This has created a fresh, exciting genre that has produced excellent games. But, as a fan of old-school adventure games like Monkey Island and Pajama Sam, I’m always on the lookout for an Adventure Game that is true to the genre’s gorgeous roots.
Thimbleweed Park is the brainchild of veteran developers Ron Gilbert and Gary Winick, with credits on genre cornerstones Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island. Gilbert was also the man behind most of Humongous Entertainments earlier titles like Pajama Sam and Putt-Putt.
It’d be fair to say we’re in safe hands here.
Thimbleweed Park says no to most of the modern innovations other adventure-evocative titles have opted for. Verb wheels and hidden inventory bars seen in games like Double Fine’s Broken Age and Her Majesty’s Spiffing are gone here.
Thimbleweed Park is the brainchild of veteran developers Ron Gilbert and Gary Winick, with credits on genre cornerstones Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island
What you’re left with is the old-school experience. Welcome back the old school SCUMM bar, with each of the verbs written out and ready for you to click. Your inventory takes up a fair proportion of the screen too, obfuscating the gorgeous pixelated vistas your characters stand in.
This is one of the main things Thimbleweed Park absolutely nails. As nostalgia goes, and as an homage, this game absolutely succeeds. But I feel it would be patronising to call it an homage, as Thimbleweed Park comfortably stands shoulder to shoulder with the greats.
It has all of the hallmarks of the originals with the better innovations of the modern era. The game runs like butter and the animations and voice acting are absolutely wonderful.
Each main character has depth, and even the minor characters are fun and intriguing.Leonard the Quickie Pal clerk was a highlight for me, as well as the aptly titled ‘Annoying Kid’ in the hotel lobby. I won’t go in depth as to not spoil some of the game’s most engaging and hilarious moments.
As an homage, this game absolutely succeeds. But I feel it would be patronising to call it an homage, as Thimbleweed Park comfortably stands shoulder to shoulder with the greats.
As can be expected, the writing is also top-notch. Each encounter has a joke waiting either in the eclectic environment or the dialogue choices, and there are a multitude of both.
Of course, Thimbleweed Park wouldn’t be complete with fourth wall jokes and genre-defining references to the history of Adventure Games. One of the main characters in the game is an underpaid game designer aspiring to work at famous adventure game developers MmucasFlem.
The intuitive writing never makes the schtick sickly, and you’ll struggle to keep the smile from your face as you encounter these hilarious pockets of old-school fun. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, you can’t knock the comedy in the game. It stands on its own two feet as a necessary experience for any gamer.
You’ll be pleased to know that the puzzles follow suit, and they’re situated in that lovely Adventure Game sweet spot. Thimbleweed Park’s puzzles aren’t patronising but they also don’t require moon logic. I enjoyed the difficulty escalating as I progressed through the games 9 acts, too.
The intuitive writing never makes the schtick sickly, and you’ll struggle to keep the smile from your face as you encounter these hilarious pockets of old-school fun
As can be expected from nine acts, the game is also full of content. Don’t try to master this adventure in one sitting. This is going to take a number contained sessions and perhaps a few notebooks if you want to reach its rambunctious ending.
At the start I was worried about the dual-character system, as I did end up having one character do all the work, leaving the other as a lackey.
Gladly, Thimbleweed Park fleshes this out quickly with puzzles that involve multiple characters, and purposefully adds backstory to each one, giving them personal goals and quirks that apply to each section in a different manner.
This is going to take a number contained sessions and perhaps a few notebooks if you want to reach its rambunctious ending.
This is just one of the many innovations that define Thimbleweed Park, and sometimes it made sense to sit back and indulge in the iterative design on display.
No charm is lost, and with so much added to the genre, this game quickly becomes an essential recommendation for Adventure Game fans but also the extended spectrum of gamers by proxy.
The art style, whilst purposefully a throwback is still some of the most appealing pixel art I’ve ever seen. You will visit an abandoned circus, a bodacious mansion, sewers, and a traditional American diner. Each locale oozes inviting charm, and the game world becomes a wondrous place to explore.
Thinking back, I can remember when I was captivated with the game’s immediate structure, happy with the rudimentary ‘collect x items’ for a number of machines to solve a mystery.
At that point, I had no idea what was in store for me after that, but I was still incredibly happy with the execution. The game turns out to be so much more than the sum of its parts, with excitement to be found around each beautifully designed corner.
If you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into that will make your brain tick and your belly laugh, Thimbleweed Park is a healthy dose of nostalgic medicine with a lollipop waiting at the end of your appointment. Get stuck in.
This copy of Thimbleweed Park was purchased on Steam for £14.99 by our Editor In Chief Jordan Oloman. He spent 20 hours becoming a mighty Pir- I mean Private Investigator.