Thimbleweed Park’s developers are going the other way, reverting to vintage pixels and a command system with verbs, straight from the late 1980s and Maniac Mansion, in an era with hundreds of remasters and refreshes of various series from years ago.
The independent production was created by the genre’s masters, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, and their studio, Terrible Toybox. The seasoned team has worked on significant products for Lucasfilm Games and LucasArts, including Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and many others. It appears that games of this sort have little chance of capturing the attention of current audiences, yet striving for historical standards and, above all, an intriguing, amusing, and well-written plot translate into one of the most interesting adventure games in recent years. The emphasis on the old verb system is the fundamental innovation in mechanics. We pick “open”, “give”, “lift”, “close” and other options from the list at the bottom of the screen. We engage with the environment by pointing to an action and then clicking on an object on the screen. The fact that the right mouse button always shows a simple contextual action, like as chatting to a character, opening a door, or seeing an object, makes this easy.
Such a traditional strategy has problems that haven’t altered in almost 40 years. We must be quite explicit with directives at times. For example, a notice hung on a particular stairway in the house slowed my progress for a long period. It was essential for me to remove it by pulling it rather than just lifting it up. Also, the requirement to provide the command to use every time slows down the inevitable attempt to connect everything to everything in Thimbleweed Park. You may carry a large number of goods in your inventory since there are several fakes that, while you can pick them up, are eventually useless. But we discover it too late. The command structure is absolutely unneeded, but it is a fundamental component of the basic assumptions about creating an adventure game that exactly matches the atmosphere and execution of the previous production. We don’t have to play at 480p, thankfully, because the pixel visuals adapt well to contemporary screens. Furthermore, the sites are beautiful and full with intriguing features, tidbits, and recommendations.
The narrative begins with a strange murder and a body discovered beneath a bridge in the namesake town. Agents Angela Ray and Antonio Reyes arrive on the scene, but it quickly becomes clear that the local sheriff is not very friendly, and the entire case has a second, third, and even fourth meaning, most frequently related to a burned-down pillow factory and a recently deceased industrialist and inventor – complex owner. We control five characters in total, with the option to freely swap between them most of the time. The ensemble of characters is interesting and diverse. In addition to the agents, we have a cursed and vulgar clown; a wealthy heiress who chose to start making games; and the unfortunate brother of the aforementioned industrialist, whom we also lead as a ghost – which smartly and inventively transforms the range of potential verbs. The narrative is multi-layered, and as we advance, we learn more about the cast’s underlying intentions. Most significantly, following the happenings is really engrossing, and completing each challenge that advances the action is quite fulfilling. Of course, not all five were on the same level, and the ghost’s escapades at the hotel may be particularly unpleasant, but the plot is a really strong component of Thimbleweed Park – and this is a fundamental element of any adventure game. The finale merits recognition as well, for the effective closure of strands and the injection of emotions.
The direct transition from Mass Effect: Andromeda also reminds us how enjoyable it is to play a high-level scenario. The discussions are enjoyable to read, and the NPCs are colorful and endowed with their own personalities and character, which is lacking in the newest BioWare game for 70 hours. It’s also amusing. Thimbleweed Park works well as a parody of the television shows “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files.” This isn’t obnoxious or crude comedy, but rather old-school adventure games with amusing sayings, situations, and retorts. Not every joke is great, but there are plenty good moments and pieces of speech. Puzzles are another essential component of every adventure game. Fortunately, Terrible Toybox’s creation does not make great use of the past, as most of the riddles are solved logically, albeit frequently after much thought. There is no shortage of less reasonable ideas, but subtle clues embedded in dialogues or item descriptions are excellent. There is also a to-do list and a journal.
The latter is especially handy after a few hours of introduction, when the game’s structure opens up and we may use many characters to explore the entire city, which has many more or less weird spots – there are numerous attractions. Even if we become stuck on one mission, we always have a number of other objectives to achieve, so simply move to another character and attempt something new.
Thimbleweed Park is an excellent choice for fans of adventure games, both old and young. The verb system takes some getting used to, but it won’t stop you from uncovering a great tale, meeting interesting characters, experiencing unique locales, and solving intriguing riddles.