Retro-styled games are thankfully alive and well, with a massive high five and thanks to Kickstarter. The crowdfunding juggernaut continues to allow games developers to turn their creative spark into a finished product which would possibly never have seen the light of day. Kickstarter has given us some fantastic retro-influenced games, but if there was one genre which gamers were crying out for more than any other, then it would be the classic Point ‘n’ Click adventure games. Telltale have created a modern version of these games, but they feature a lot more action than the LucasArts adventure games of old, and gamers were desperate for a game in the style of the legendary The Secret of Monkey Island. Well, those dreams have come true, as Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert and designer Gary Winnick joined forces once more and, after a six-month Kickstarter campaign, obtained the funding to the spiritual successor to Monkey Island and those other Point ‘n’ Click games of old, Thimbleweed Park.
As soon as you start this 80s looking adventure, you know you are in for a nostalgic ride, but before you start exploring the town of Thimbleweed Park, there is an optional tutorial to quickly go through. This is a welcomed idea from the team at Terrible Toybox, as it allows newcomers to this genre of games to find out how everything works or acts as a gentle reminder for fans who haven’t played a Point ‘n’ Click since the days of Monkey Island. Newcomers, I do recommend you go through this tutorial. As simple as the premise is to a Point ‘n’ Click game, you may find yourself becoming frustrated.
Once that is out of the way, or if you jumped straight in, then it is time to start clicking away in Thimbleweed Park. This really does play like the LucasArts games of the past, with the nine verbs in the bottom left-hand side of the screen which allow you to interact with the world. Thanks to the well-worked controller shortcuts, playing Thimbleweed Park on the Xbox One is a joy. Highlighting an object will result in the most common verb needed also being highlighted, and then all you have to do is hit that good old X button. You can also use the bumper buttons to move around between the various trigger points on the screen, but to be honest, using the analogue sticks to move the cursor around the screen works just as well.
There are five playable characters to play as in Thimbleweed Park. The first two you meet are FBI Agents Angela Ray and Antonio Reyes, who are sent to this Twin Peaks-inspired town to investigate a murder. Agent Ray is a brilliantly cynical, no-nonsense character whose passive aggressive dialogue responses always left me chuckling. Agent Reyes, on the other hand, is a bit more of a generic rookie agent, but it is fun watching him become more weirded out as the investigation carries on. The other three playable characters all become available around a couple of hours into Thimbleweed Park. Delores, who as the aspiration to become an adventure game developer, her friendly and cordial father, Franklin, who, well, he’s a ghost, but just go with it, and last but by no means least, there is Ransome, an irritable and bitter insult comedy clown. All of the characters are fun to play as in their own way, and the voice acting for all of them, as well as the numerous weird and wonderful NPCs you’ll encounter, sound good most of the time, but with obvious budget restrictions, it isn’t the most professional sounding cast.
All five of the main characters are interchangeable, which is a mechanic needed to solve some of the puzzles scattered throughout Thimbleweed Park. The puzzles you will encounter are all generally fun and well thought out; however, there are some rather difficult ones that will leave you scratching your head for a while. If you’re thinking of using the verb shortcut as previously mentioned, then think again, as the highlighted word won’t always be the one needed to solve a puzzle. There is a much needed to do list for each character which really is a godsend, as there is a lot to do, but one thing missing from previous Point ‘n’ Click games is a hints system.
Thimbleweed Park will give you a choice on how hard the puzzles will be right at the start when you choose the game’s difficulty. Going for the hard option is playing how the game was intended for the audience, a bit like a director’s cut. Going for the casual option takes away some of Thimbleweed Park‘s harder puzzles. I imagine most of you will be going for the hard option, but it is great to have the choice if you just want a more chilled out adventure.
Once you do solve a puzzle, though, you are rewarded in some way, with the rewards ranging from just a “well done” from the character you’re controlling or unlocking a new area, which is the best reward of all, as exploring Thimbleweed Park is exceptionally entertaining thanks to how absolutely bonkers the place is. Here’s the best example of this: The first two NPCs you meet as either Agent Ray or Reyes are two fully grown women dressed as pigeons who work for ‘Pigeon Brothers Plumbing’. The best time I had in Thimbleweed Park was simply bumping into new NPCs and just listening to these kooky inhabitants of a town so weird it might make Twin Peaks seems a bit normal.
The comedic style of Thimbleweed Park can be a bit hit or miss, but mostly the gags work. There are a lot of ‘fourth wall’ jokes throughout the game, with the characters constantly insulting the games industry or you as the player, especially Ransome, that damn clown. If you are a complete newcomer to the Point ‘n’ Click genre, then some of the jokes you simply will not understand, but it doesn’t make Thimbleweed Park any less enjoyable.
Developer: Terrible Toybox
Publisher: Terrible Toybox
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 30th March 2017