Thimbleweed Park is an old-school point-and-click adventure. It was developed by Terrible Toybox, which is the current home of a few former LucasArts stalwarts, including Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, and David Fox, who helped to create Loom, Maniac Mansion, Secret of Monkey Island, and Zak McKracken — and that was just during their LucasArts Days. The game was crowdfunded — easily — and it’s just another example of people showing that they loved the adventures of yesteryear and want to see more of them (the upcoming remastering of Full Throttle is another example).
Thimbleweed Parks takes place in… Thimbleweed Park (population 81) circa 1987. You start out playing an investor named Boris, but before you can do much more than figure out the interface, he gets killed, and you switch over to the two FBI agents who have been tasked with solving his murder. Soon thereafter, you add three of the town’s residents to your collection, including a scene-stealing insult clown, for a grand total of five characters to control. With this ragtag crew, you have to solve Boris’ murder, figure out what happened at the local PillowTronics factory ten years ago, and of course collect 75 specs of dust.
The interface for Thimbleweed Park was designed to mimic the interfaces from the old LucasArts adventures. So you get a box of nine verbs (including “look,” “take” and “talk”) in the lower left-hand corner, a box of inventory objects in the lower right-hand corner, and the playing area at the top of the screen. Then to control your current character, you just left click where you want to move, or you left click on a verb and then left click on a hotspot or an inventory item to do something. You can also right click to perform a default action (usually “look”). This is easy but a little cumbersome.
Most of the puzzles in Thimbleweed Park are inventory-based, where you have to pick up items and then use them in the right place. These puzzles are generally straightforward, but because you have a large town to explore, five characters to control, dozens of inventory objects available, and numerous puzzles open at any one time, it’s not always obvious what you should be doing and why — which is great. Too many modern adventures limit what you can do and where you can go to such an extent that you can solve all of their puzzles through trial and error if you don’t just figure them out right away, but that’s not the case with Thimbleweed Park. I got stuck more than a few times, and I even had to consult a walkthrough twice, which is a rarity these days.
Some of the puzzles also require you to have your characters work together. This might mean having one character distract somebody while another character makes off with a precious inventory object, or it might just mean trying things out with different characters. The characters have their quirks — some are afraid of the dark while others are afraid of heights, and all of them get different responses from the people they talk to — so if you get stuck, it’s beneficial to re-cover some ground with a different character to see if you can get something new to happen. Unfortunately, exploring locations multiple times isn’t always exciting, but if that’s the price to pay for an adventure to be challenging, then so be it.
While the puzzles are good, by far the best part of Thimbleweed Park is the humor. The first thing the feds notice when they examine Boris’ corpse is that it’s already started to “pixelate.” Then when they see a character dressed as a giant pigeon, they ponder if this might not be a good time to save the game — which leads to a conversation about dying in adventure games, and if it’s productive. There are a bunch of funny puzzles and conversations, there are loads of references to adventure games and to the 80’s, and the fourth wall isn’t much of a boundary. I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed Thimbleweed Park even if it had just been an interactive movie rather than a game.
And so I have nothing but good things to say about Thimbleweed Park. It’s funny, it’s challenging, and it brings back lots of good memories from a bygone era. Better yet, if you weren’t alive 30 years ago, and if you don’t know anything about LucasArts or their adventuring heyday, then Thimbleweed Park works as an introduction to that era without even requiring you to go through DOS. Thimbleweed Park is the best adventure I’ve played in years, and it’s easily worth its $20 price.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Terrible Toybox
This review is based on a digital copy of Thimbleweed Park for the PC provided by Terrible Toybox.