Thimbleweed Park review for Mac/PC: Ron Gilbert’s latest point and click game is an engaging, hilarious and surprisingly dark and twisted adventure that will please long-term fans as well as any gamers after a cerebral experience.
What is Thimbleweed Park?
Thimbleweed Park is an old-school point and click adventure game from Ron Gilbert, the guy behind Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island and many of the best adventures ever conceived. Boasting retro graphics and even a classic point and click interface, Thimbleweed Park is a nostalgia trip for veteran gamers. But the surprisingly dark mystery should appeal to adventure fans of all ages, as should the often hilarious dialogue.
Thimbleweed Park Review: Is this game a classic Gilbert adventure?
It’s kind of hard to discuss Thimbleweed Park without mentioning TV classic Twin Peaks, which this game bears more than a passing resemblance to. My one word synopsis of this adventure would read: Two agents arrive in a compact, out-of-the-way American town to investigate a murder and encounter all kinds of bizarre locals, many of whom clearly have some kind of twisted or tragic backstory. Not too dissimilar to David Lynch’s masterpiece.
Of course, to call Thimbleweed Park a simple homage would be to do it a great disservice. Gilbert’s game features a gripping plot that intrigues throughout and occasionally even shocks, as dots are connected and revelations pour forth. Even the two agents at the heart of the story have their own agendas (something made clear from the start of the game; no spoilers here).
You initially take control of Reyes and Ray, the two agents sent to investigate the murder of a John Doe at the edge of Thimbleweed Park. After a brief introduction from the town sheriff, who also appears to be the coroner and the hotel manager, you’re left to your own devices. Time to chat to some local people and hunt for clues.
Immediately a sense of foreboding doom creeps in. Most of the businesses and homes are boarded up, the residents few and far between. Those who do remain – a foul-mouthed clown, a mysterious gypsy, the multi-tasking sheriff with the unusual speech habits – are clearly two scoops short of a sundae. Clearly there’s more going on than the simple premature death of an out-of-towner.
One of Thimbleweed Park’s strongest assets is its rich and deeply contrasting atmosphere. Like Twin Peaks, this point n’ click adventure is alternately hilarious and horrifying. For every guffaw there’s a moment of repulsion or some seriously dark humour, mostly courtesy of the aforementioned clown. This is also an extremely self-referential, meta-rific title. Adventure game tropes are battered with great big glowing baseball bats, including those frustrating dead-ends and deaths prevalent in early titles. One of the characters even designs video games for a living (or ‘murder simulators’ as her family derides).
Despite sending up the genre, Gilbert still clearly has a lot of love for adventure games. Thimbleweed Park is an old-school thinker at heart, even adopting the traditional user interface of Maniac Mansion and other classics. Your inventory items are on display in a window at the bottom of the screen, along with a series of commands that you can choose from: open, push, use and so on. Clicking on a comination of the commands, inventory items and any on-screen objects will accomplish everything you need.
About two to three hours into the game, Thimbleweed Park suddenly opens up to a surprising degree. Without spoiling anything, you gain control of a number of characters who you can switch between at any time. At this point things can get a little confusing, as each character has a laundry list of objectives to accomplish (handily contained within their individual journals). And of course, some characters’ tasks can’t be ticked off until another character accomplishes something first.
This somewhat disrupts the leanness of the first part of the game, but a little patience is all that’s needed. Thankfully Thimbleweed Park isn’t as unforgiving as older titles like Monkey Island, and I only had to refer to a walkthrough a couple of times in order to complete it. Most puzzles can be tackled logically, so there’s very little ‘combine duck with pencil’ randomness involved. In all I was playing for a dozen hours, with not much time spent scratching my head or desperately clicking on everything in sight.
There is of course a fair bit of pixel hunting involved, but I almost never missed anything the first time around. However, be prepared for a lot of searching if you plan on finding every ‘speck of dust’ in the game.
When is Thimbleweed Park being released on PC, Mac, Xbox One, iOS and Android?
Thimbleweed Park will be available to download for Mac and PC from March 30, 2017. You can buy a copy from Steam and GOG. PC owners will also be able to grab a copy from the Windows 10 store, but you’ll have to wait a few more weeks for that option.
From March 30, Xbox One owners will also be able to grab a copy of the game from Microsoft’s online store. And yes, Thimbleweed Park supports Xbox Play Anywhere.
Mobile fans still have a bit of a wait on their hands, sadly. The iOS and Android version of Thimbleweed Park will release later in 2017, although we have no idea when exactly.