Thimbleweed Park recaptures the charm of the games from which it draws inspiration, presenting a worthwhile experience for those who've been playing them since the beginning.
Thimbleweed Park, a point-and-click adventure by famed ex-LucasArts duo Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, rides a thin line between nostalgia and reinvention, balancing its remembrances for the time-honored genre with a sliver of modern sensibilities.
It’s a picturesque window into the past that’s more than it appears to be. But at the same time, its adherence to the genre’s long-held tenets is a firm reminder why adventure games alienated even their most diehard fans in the late ’90s. Despite this, Thimbleweed Park is a journey well worth taking for experienced adventure game fans eager to solve its myriad puzzles and uncover its secrets.
What’s the story?
The story begins with a murder in the small town of Thimbleweed Park, and two FBI detectives, Antonio Reyes and Angela Ray, are tasked with investigating the killing. The trail to the culprit leads them down a path of intrigue that has them unearthing dark secrets concerning the town’s history and inhabitants.
Thimbleweed Park’s premise screams Twin Peaks, though its quirky tone and hammy dialogue drive it more towards supernatural comedy than surreal, psychological thriller. It constantly breaks the fourth wall by reminding players of its pixelated art style and its idiosyncrasies as a point-and-click adventure–there’s even a character whose primary motivation is to get a job making text adventures for a company analogous to LucasArts.
These stylistic and charming touches enrich the narrative, giving the storytelling an air of lighthearted self-awareness that rides through up until its cataclysmic conclusion.
The puzzles are good
The game’s puzzles accommodate a wide range of logic and observation skill levels, rarely requiring too much stretching of the imagination to solve.
Thimbleweed Park is less restricted than its linear contemporaries and predecessors, as it contains a fair number of puzzles and locations you can freely discover and tackle in any order you please. You start as Reyes and Ray, and can switch between them at will. But as you advance, you eventually control five characters, each with their own unique motivations and puzzles to solve.
If you run into a bind with one protagonist, you’re free to switch to another to try to make progress elsewhere. The high number of playable characters offers a welcome diversity to the experience that remedies the slog of figuring out what to do next.
However, some are marred by design issues and contextual inconsistencies. While the game’s open design is one of its strongest qualities, it sometimes impedes your ability to solve puzzles effectively–the freedom you have to solve them in different orders often results in confusion.
It’s still a charming game
In the face of its issues, Thimbleweed Park still manages to retain the charm of the era it evokes. Yes, it inevitably falls into the standard genre structure of adventuring to and fro, picking up items, and interacting with the environment to solve a bevy of problems that require highly specific solutions.
And as you’d expect, the moments spent in between trying to figure out everything are just as irritating and demoralizing as you remember. It’s unapologetic in how it caters to its niche audience more than anyone else.
Its amusing open world is packed with infectious personalities and clever puzzles that magnify the joy of its experiences. And its efforts to shift beyond the template of its predecessors and contemporaries make it surprisingly affecting, especially if you’re a longtime devotee of point-and-click adventures. The game’s reverence for the past and its eventual conclusion could very well fly over the heads of the uninitiated.
But make no mistake, Thimbleweed Park recaptures the charm of the games from which it draws inspiration, presenting a worthwhile experience for those who’ve been playing them since the beginning.Get Thimbleweed Park on App Store | $19.99