Thimbleweed Park is a modern throwback to a classic era of adventure games. That isn’t a surprise considering the big names that are behind the title, Ron Gibert and Gary Winnick, are credited with classics like Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Day of the Tentacle. In a way that puts a bit of pressure on Thimbleweed Park to live up to the standards set by those games, and for the most part it lives up to them.
Right off the bat, it’s clear that Thimbleweed Park revels in its excellent sense of humour, pointing out inconsistencies and breaking the fourth wall. Each of the five playable characters has been written to have their own style of humour, ranging from sarcasm to straight up vulgarity. Fittingly it is Ransome the Clown who is the funniest character of the bunch, and will provide the most laughs throughout Thimbleweed Park.
When it comes to the writing in general, Thimbleweed Park’s script is generally very strong, with various changes in the course of the story. You’re never quite sure where the plot will go next or what kind of characters you’ll run into. Each new character that you run into is memorable in their own way, which helps when you get stuck on a puzzle and are trying to think of who exactly may be able to help you.
Of course the main part of Thimbleweed Park’s gameplay lies in the puzzles and you have a choice of how to approach the game before you start. You can choose to play the Casual Mode which will make things easier and remove some puzzles, while Hard Mode is the full experience with all puzzles intact. For the purpose of this review I opted for Hard Mode to see just how tough the game can be.
There’s definitely some very challenging puzzles in the game, should you choose similarly, and they can require some experimentation and out of the box thinking to solve problems. What may appear logically to you may not necessarily gel with the logic of the game itself, which can be a little frustrating at times, but paying attention to everything that characters say and everything you read helps, as clues on how to progress are buried beneath those words. These clues may tell you what you need to do next to progress the story, but it may not give you any real hints on how to do it.
Thimbleweed Park is split into chapters, but they don’t really bookend the game itself with items you’ve picked up carrying over. An item you got early in the game may not come into play until much, much later in proceedings. There are a number of commands that you can give to characters when interacting with the environment and items, like opening, closing, looking at, or using them. In classic point & click adventure style, pays to try and use these on everything because it may result in finding one of the more obscure puzzle answers.
You will get stuck at points in Thimbleweed Park which really halts proceedings, and at these points I did feel like giving up and taking a break, because the game lost its sense of fun during those lulls. It goes back to some of the puzzles having solutions that don’t match up to your own logic, to the point that you’re not even sure what Thimbleweed Park requires of you, but when it does finally click there is always that sense of achievement.
As a visual piece, Thimbleweed Park wears its inspirations on its sleeves, with a strong vibe of Maniac Mansion and the other SCUMM engine games coming into play. Of course there has been evolution on several fronts with better animations and busier environments. The voice work is also very well done with each character having a distinct voice that stands out, and lines are generally well delivered. Agent Ray is one character that grated a little due to the air of disinterest that seems to accompany her words, making her feel like the weakest character of the cast.
Thimbleweed Park is a game that will resonate strongly with those who enjoy adventure games, and especially fans of some of the older games in the genre. It is a labour of love and that’s something that shines through the game. There are points though where some puzzles can feel a bit too obtuse in relation to their end goals, leading to a bit of frustration, though that can be countered with the casual mode. Thimbleweed is a strong entry to the adventure genre from the minds of those who helped cement it, though it can be tough at times.
Version tested: PC