I’m often caught in a heady haze of remembering games. So many new games remind me of other games it’s almost head-spinningly painful. Thimbleweed Park could be forgiven for reminding me of classic titles such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island & Manic Mansion. There is, of course, a reason for this, which will be revealed later.
Thimbleweed Park is a point and click adventure game where you’re tasked with, initially, investigating a murder. There’s a corpse under local bridge and two FBI agents have been dispatched separately to investigate and bring the perpetrator to justice. The pixelating corpse is the least of your worries though. The town of Thimbleweed Park is chock-full of odd-ball characters and each one of them has a story to tell.
So, you start off getting used to the controls as you track the last moments of the rapidly upcoming corpse. Like many of the classic point and click adventures the lower quarter of the screen is given over to your inventory and the trigger words you can use to interact with your surroundings. You’re given an area to interact with and once you’re finished doing whatever you need to do there, you’ll get a cut-scene to advance on to something else.
After the corpse has been, well, corpsed, you’re introduced to Agent Ray and Junior Agent Reyes. This is where Thimbleweed differs slightly from other point and click games as you can control both, allowing them to do the one thing you should never do in a horror film or any episode of Scooby Doo and split up to cover more ground. This is handy, up to a point, and to prevent any spoilers, I’m not going to mention why. So there.
In the course of investigating the crime, Agent Ray and Junior Agent Reyes will wander around the run-down town and find inhabitants to interview. You’ll come across an array of personalities along this journey with some triggering a playable flashback sequence, like the potty-mouthed Ransome the Clown or Delores Edmund. Throughout the game you’ll find that the story revolves around five characters, with some others thrown in along the way. Agent Ray, Junior Agent Reyes, Delores Edmund, Ransome the Clown and Franklin the ghost are the main protagonists. Each one has questions to answer regarding their actions, although there are other odd characters, like the Pigeon Brothers Plumbing, who are dressed and pigeons and are sisters.
This serves to explain the humourous theme running through the narrative and indeed, the story, while involved, is well constructed and genuinely funny. There are other mysteries to solve with the main story, such as the cause of the Pillow Factory fire. The Coroner, the Sheriff (who both look extremely similar), the Pigeon Brothers (sisters), Sandy and Dave at the Diner and more are all interactive parts of the smorgasbord that make up ThimbleWeed Park’s story.
This story is presented in glorious Lucas-Arts-esque visuals that take anyone of a certain age or home-computer persuasion back to some other classic games. They’re a visual treat, painted in a 16-bit palette and I love them. Everything that needs to be animated is done so beautifully and smoothly. Sometimes the dialogue gets lost in this amazing background but that’s not too much of a problem if you’ve got sound turned up, as the voice-acting is top-notch.
Each of the main characters is fully voiced as are the interaction characters you’ll encounter along the way and they’re accompanied by an unassuming incidental music track playing quietly in the background. How does the game play though?
Well, while it’s true that the cursor-driven point and click options are more suited to mouse control, developer Terrible Toybox have made a good fist of Joypad control to navigate around the playing screens and it doesn’t feel sluggish or hindered by the use of the Xbox Joypad. There’s a lot to play through as well. You’ll be looking at between four and unlimited hours of gameplay with the floundering around you’ll inevitably do trying to solve some of the devious puzzles. There’s replayability built right in as well with a couple of difficulty options offering a short or long playthrough. Some of the puzzles aren’t necessarily as logical as you might think and will take some non-lateral brain-work to solve. Stick at it though and you’ll be rewarded. This isn’t to say that Thimbleweed Park is perfect, as it’s a little way from it.
There are some randomised features in the game that make it annoying on different plays and some sections need persistence in order to complete, but if you’re a huge fan of the genre and of the developer, then Thimbleweed Park is quite honestly a game you must buy.
There are a few game developers that rightly hold legendary status in the gaming fraternity. Terrible Toybox’s Ron Gilbert is one such developer. Thimbleweed Park is the latest in a long line of point and click adventure titles from Ron that not only entertain, but challenge your mental processes with their non-linear puzzles. Thimbleweed Park is a glorious return to form and heaps piles of puzzle-solving nostalgia on your agency desk. If you love the Monkey Island series, Indiana Jones’ graphic adventures or Manic Mansion, you need Thimbleweed Park.