Thimbleweed Park Review

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Ron Gilbert and Garry Winnick were not kidding when they said in their Kickstarter campaign that they wanted to make a classic point-and-click adventure, just like they used to be. Not an update of the genre, not a fresh wind that would shake up the old-fashioned gameplay, but a game exactly like their earlier creations, such as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. As if they secretly made a LucasArts game in the late 1980s that we only now discover. And they succeeded wonderfully.

We even go so far back in the history of the genre that you see the familiar nine verbs with which you can give your characters clues while playing in the lower left corner of the screen. ‘Walk’ is still automatic, but if you want to talk to someone, click ‘Talk to’ and then on the person you want to converse with. One of your first assignments is to take a photo: you first click on ‘Use’, then on the film of the camera, and then on the camera itself to put the film in it. If this already sounds hopelessly archaic, then this game is certainly not for you, but for real fans, the nostalgic jitters will crawl over their bodies.

Thimbleweed Peaks

The game starts with a murder in the quiet village of Thimbleweed Park. A businessman is dead in the water under the bridge and two FBI agents have travelled to the countryside to solve the case. However, they both have a hidden motive to want to be in Thimbleweed, and the three other playable characters – a ghost, a computer nerd and an abusive clown (yes, that’s as funny as it sounds) – have their own motives. In fact, the mystery surrounding the burned pillow factory in the village and the disappearance of the brothers who were there at the head is much more interesting than the murder that does not seem to matter to many people.

It all reminds a bit of Twin Peaks, but don’t worry: this game retains all the comedy you would expect from the legendary developers. Those who like to invest themselves heavily in the story should make sure to speak to all the different characters because you end up in the most hilarious conversations. For example, keep asking the robot about the meaning of life or the last number of pi, or ask the postman time and time again for a super-blue postal joke. Moreover, the game constantly refers to itself and to classic adventures of yesteryear. In the first 5 minutes you can have a discussion with a plumber dressed as a pigeon about why LucasArts adventures have the best structure since you cannot permanently die like in Sierra games.

A very niche game

While the game is very funny, its structure makes for an extremely small audience. Without Kickstarter, this game might never have been released because all those referring jokes are only fun for people who have played the games they refer to. In that respect, commercially it is probably not a good decision to make a game for fans of a genre that has been dying for years, however, Thimbleweed Park has had great success since its release.

The old-school approach gives the game a wonderfully nostalgic vibe, but it also shows how old-fashioned the genre actually is. And with that, the biggest advantage of the game is its biggest downside: some aspects do not stand the test of time as well as others. Take for example the constant back and forth between the different locations, desperate for a solution of a puzzle. Or that you keep breaking your head over a puzzle that you can not solve at that moment because you will not get the required object until later. Regularly you are too stuck too long because you just missed an object in the background of a location. And however much they have tried to prevent it, it can still be a reoccurring issue.

Fortunately, most of the assignments are well organized and you often feel really smart when you get one step further. You can get back to work with an inventory full of nonsensical objects: a chainsaw, a teddy bear that turns into a pillow, a hamburger, you name it. It is up to you to combine those with objects in the environment, with people, or with each other. Especially the puzzles in which you need multiple characters, for example to distract someone while stealing his stuff, are worthwhile.

Laugh out loud

But the real star is, in the end, the funny script that makes you laugh out loud. The murder gradually gives way to a much more interesting mystery and the story gets really bizarre at the end. Unfortunately, there are gigantic plot holes and interesting storylines are suggested but then suddenly disappear again.

However, the biggest lack of logic comes from the five characters themselves: why do they work together at all? They have nothing to do with each other, but after you meet the scolding clown you can suddenly control him and help the FBI agents, without having to change a word. And it is also illogical that if one character has seen a secret code, all other characters will also know this code.

Anyway, if you look at things like that, then you have nothing to look for in a comical adventure that does not take itself too seriously. Chances are that if you were born after the ’80s or do not know what a Purple Tentacle is many of the jokes will fly over your head. Perhaps Thimbleweed Park leans a bit too much on references to old games instead of being able to stand on their own feet, but I admit it: it’s just incredibly funny.

Thimbleweed Park is now available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android. This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game.

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Android
Price: €19.99
Publisher: Terrible Toybox
Developer: Terrible Toybox
Release Date: 30 March, 2017
Age Rating: PEGI 12+