By Henry Badilla / April 24th, 2017
|Release Date||March 30, 2017|
|Genre||Point and Click Adventure|
|Platform||Mac, Windows, Linux, Xbox One, iOS, Android|
I’m walking a strange road, trees surrounding me and only the moonlight lets me see what lies ahead. I’m trying to get to Thimbleweed Park to start my investigation. I keep walking until I see a truck, parked on the side of the road, when two strange figures emerge from it. “The signals, the signals are strong tonight” says the first one, wearing a pigeon suit; “very strong”, says the second person, also dressed as a pigeon. I just figure this is going to be a very long night…
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much videogames have advanced as a medium. Back in the 70’s text adventure games were one of the most popular genres. With just text on screen you had to imagine the scenario. It was closer to a “choose your own adventure” book than what we consider videogames today. It wasn’t until mid 80’s that games started to use graphics (what a novel concept!) to represent the scenarios and characters, which lead us to the point and click adventure genre as we know it today.
The genre was strong for a while, but then faded as newer technologies emerged. The consumer moved to first person or third person games, and became more action oriented. Most developers assumed this genre was dead, until 2012 when Double Fine launched one of the most well funded kickstarter campaigns at the time. People noticed that there was still an audience for this type of game.
I’m bringing up all this history because Thimbleweed Park is an adventure game, created by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, two of the biggest names in the genre, but it also pays tribute to these type of games, giving us a refined and up to date version of what a point and click adventure can be in 2017. Except the game takes place in 1987.
The premise is simple, there has been a murder in Thimbleweed Park, and two federal agents show up in the scene to investigate the crime. But as the game progresses it’s clear that there is a bigger mystery going on in Thimbleweed Park. As with other games in the same genre, Day of the Tentacle or Broken Age for example, Thimbleweed Park doesn’t like to take itself seriously. Both our protagonists and the NPCs that live in this world like to joke around about their own life, the town they live in, and videogames (apparently Adventure games are pretty popular around town).
During the adventure you can control 5 different characters. Ray and Reyes are the two federal agents mentioned above. Ray is the veteran, used to working these types of crime. He’s sarcastic and uses every chance he gets to joke at the expense of Reyes, who is the rookie of the pair. Reyes always asks all the questions by the book, is very well mannered and curious of everyone in town, and oddly interested in a fire which occurred a couple of years ago in town. Delores is an aspiring game developer, huge fan of MMUCAS Flems Games (that sounds familiar) and niece of the late Chuck Edmund, the owner of the biggest factory in town. Delores constantly struggles with following her dream of becoming a developer, or continuing the legacy of her uncle at the helm of the pillow factory. Then we have Ransome the Insult Clown, a famous comedian whose specialty is insulting people (his whole career is based on it). He was going to be rich and famous, until he had a show in Thimbleweed Park a couple of years ago and his life took a turn for the worst. Now he is hated by everyone in town and lives alone by the circus. The last member of our team is Franklin, Delores’ Father and now a ghost. While we are not sure exactly how he died, he now resides in the Hotel in town, and his only wish is to be able to say goodbye to his daughter.
The beginning of the game is focused on solving the murder. Small tidbits of what’s really happening in town start to emerge and how this death is connected in an unusual way with the rest of the cast. All this while trying to help each character on their own personal quest.
As expected of a “point and click adventure” we use a pointer to direct our characters, which is done with the mouse on PC or the left analog stick on consoles. On the bottom left corner we will have a list of verbs that we can use (Use, Open, Pickup, etc) and to the right are items that can be picked up and used. I have always felt that there may be a better way to handle the actions and items on adventure games, but this has been the classic way to do so in several games now, and being this is a throwback to classic games, there’s really no better way to do so.
One of the most common complaints in this kind of game is that the player ends up clicking everywhere on the screen to find what to do next (called Pixel hunting). Thankfully this is not a problem here, as most of the items are clear on the screen, and also when hovering on an important item or character the pointer will indicate the default option. In addition by pressing the Tab key (or back buttons on a controller) we can see all usable items on screen, a really nice addition to keep the game moving forward. Another feature which I loved was the Map item, which acts like the fast travel option of the game. While the different areas are not particularly big, there’s a lot of backtracking required.
The game offers you two difficulty modes, Casual and Hard. Casual removes a couple of areas from the game, eliminating or simplifying some of the puzzles, and as a result the game becomes shorter and easier, but it’s a great option to those not used to this genre. While Adventure games are not particularly replayable, some of the answers can vary in some puzzles; for instance, there are several parts of the game when we have to call someone, and the number can change on different sessions. There are a couple of achievements that require different playthroughs, so this helps the game feel a bit fresh.
While I did enjoy my time with Thimbleweed Park there are a couple of details that I didn’t like as much. The game uses Pixel art, which is really well done, but many of the characters look very much the same. While this could be intentional, it’s something I couldn’t help but notice.
The voice acting is good; all of the characters are voiced in the game, but some of Delores’ lines sounded uninspiring. Ransome on the other hand tends to steal the show. The music is very good. You are not going to find the “epic battle theme” that is common in action oriented games, but it’s really relaxing and works as intended, as background music that helps you concentrate as you try to figure out the answer to the next puzzle.
In conclusion, Thimbleweed Park manages to capture the tone and mechanics of the classics, while adding its own flavor to the formula. Fans of the genre will appreciate the references and cameos to previous games in the genre while also providing enough new content for it to stand on its own. If you have ever been curious of this type of game, I would really recommend it. The casual mode really acts as an introduction to the genre while the Hard mode accomplishes the promise of playing a classic adventure game today. Of all the things of the 80’s that are coming back today, the point and click games are one of the few I’m glad to be able to experience today.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
androidGary WinnickMicrosoft Xbox Onepoint and clickRon GilbertTerrible ToyboxThimbleweed ParkWindows