Thimbleweed Park – Review

Updated 25/09

We wanted to update our review to reflect our impressions of the Nintendo Switch version, arguably the definitive version of Thimbleweed Park.

I say that because the marriage of touch and physical controls works marvellously here. It’s responsive, fluid, runs seamlessly, and works effortlessly. It’s almost as if this seemingly dated design was born to work in harmony with taps and swipes.

The physical controls are just as effective though, with the left stick speeding the cursor from one side of the screen to the other and the right used for better precision. Alternatively, you can flick between points of interest by tapping the shoulder buttons and even hold your finger down on the screen to see every interactive hotspot at a glance.

Wherever you choose to play Thimbleweed Park, you’re guaranteed an epic adventure with plenty to laugh about. But in our view, the wonder of adventure game portability and a control scheme to suit all tastes makes Switch the most natural home for this 1980’s delight. Maybe even a natural home for every recent and remastered adventure game of the last few years.

Right, Daedalic and Double Fine?

Original Review 01/04

Ron Gilbert changed the course of adventure gaming forever.

His work is so influential that it has shaped, sculpted, and set the foundation for many of the great games you know and love today.

And Thimbleweed Park is a celebration of the very best the genre has ever had to offer. Actually, i’d argue there hasn’t been a better traditional point and click adventure game since the LEC days. Gilbert fully understands the pacing needed to make these games great. He has an unmistakable wit which gives these characters unforgettable identity and has depicted a setting full of suspense and intrigue that you’ll find yourself unable to put the game down.

Thimbleweed is loaded with references to his past work, as well as the work of others in the genre. Sometimes it feels like the writing team are trying to reference too much with nods to Bernard from DOTT, Chuck the Plant of SCUMM fame, and calling up Mancomb Seagood from the phonebook. But then you remember just how much was packed into the likes of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island and you’ll soon feel right at home.

Both central characters – Agent Ray and Agent Reyes – have a great back and forth relationship. They’re both suspicious of each other’s involvement in the murder case and generally seem to be uneasy around one another, but likewise throw back some playful insults as the story moves forward. There’s some great humour in their interactions which provides a solid backbone throughout the Thimbleweed experience.

But it’s not just them you’ll be controlling. Within the games’ first few hours, there are several different characters introduced to you, each with their own backstories and potential motives within the wider mystery. Ransome is a cussing clown who is in desperate need of cumuppence, Delores is desperate to be a games designer but is actually heir to a pillow factory, and Franklin is a ghost trapped in a hotel with further family ties.

It’s all very Ron Gilbert, but the cast are an enriching and interesting bunch – who are extremely well voice acted – each bringing the appropriate measure of quirkiness which rivals just about any you’ll see in any AAA game on the shelf right now.

While the shifting of perspectives means the action stays fresh, and the community feel and expanded universe of Thimbleweed is explored to the full, unfortunately the plot occasionally does get a bit muddied and convoluted.

Still, there’s nice progression in the puzzles. They start out fairly lightly, introducing players to the idea of sharing inventories, changing characters, and indeed, multiple solutions in some situations. The difficulty does start to amplify a few hours in, though all outcomes do make sense and you won’t find some of the outrageous and unorthodox possibilities some LEC games were reprimanded for years back.

No doubt about it, Ron Gilbert has still got it and has not only created a lively and fun cast, this is also one of the finest adventure games in years. For so long, the genre has felt forced and desperate, but Thimbleweed feels natural and even evolutionary at times. It’s just such a treat and yet another absolutely fantastic release in the legendary month of March 2017.

Thimbleweed Park is an extraterrestrial joy. It’s all very X-Files, with a dash of Stranger Things and Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure, and the reinvigoration the genre has desperately needed. Yet another key reminder that we truly are in a golden age of gaming.

+ Fantastically written characters
+ Classic Adventure Gaming
+ A reinvigoration of a genre

– Some plot padding

Thimbleweed Park

8.5 out of 10

Original review tested on PC (based on v1)
Updated review tested on Nintendo Switch

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