Thimbleweed Park Review

Thimbleweed Park is a classic point-and-click action adventure, with neo-noir stylings. It was developed and published by Terrible Toybox, reuniting creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick from games such as Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, which it acts as an almost spiritual successor to.

The story is the centre focus in Thimbleweed and focuses at first, around a murder that has taken place within the small town of Thimbleweed Park. As expected the case isn’t a simple open-and-shut, and the player is faced with many obstacles and puzzles to solve along the way. The story also delves into a local mystery surrounding a factory within the town, adding more layers to an already deep mystery.

The player initially has control over 2 agents investigating the murder, and a short but wonderful little tutorial takes place when first encountering them. Adding a tutorial to a point-and-click game is always a gamble, but I think it was an essential addition for newcomers and was a very clever way to introduce the mechanics of the game and button shortcuts. Over the course of the game, the player is put into the shoes of more characters, including a crude clown and a hopeful video game developer (one of the many, many meta-jokes throughout). Each character interacts with the world and break the fourth wall in their own way, and are all essential to solving the mysteries of Thimbleweed Park.

The humour plays a large part in the game, including the story. The player, game developers and other point-and-click clichés are often mocked, but it somehow never gets old. The humour is always at a high standard, and I was pleasantly surprised at the fact I was regularly laughing even hours into the game. There is a ridiculous amount of throwbacks and easter eggs from previous games as well, and although newcomers to the genre or the creator’s previous games will probably not understand a lot of it, previously fans will absolutely adore the amount of details added.  As a lot of the story is delivered humorously when there are more serious tones, they really do pack a punch, and these moments are present. There is an ominous and mysterious tone laced throughout the game, and the player is often left doubting their actions or characters motives.

Tasks and puzzles are completed via a menu of verbs and actions, which can be combined and used to make selections, which is very similar to the ‘SCUMM’ system used in classic LucasArts games. This can range from giving another character an item to combine, to deciding to drink out of a water fountain. The usually tedious task of selecting from a menu on a PC port is eliminated here with some very intuitive button shortcuts, allowing quick access to the menu and desired selections. There are also no death and start over situations in Thimbleweed, a feature the game boasts about on a few occasions, and with good reason. It can be a huge frustration starting over after many minutes of problem-solving, so not having to worry about this, makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.

The puzzles are consistently intelligent, very well thought out and executed well. However, there are a few pacing issues at around the halfway mark, where a few of the puzzles are dragged out or lack as many hints or instruction clues as the other puzzles. This created a slightly bogged down feeling. Without venturing into spoilers, there was a large stint of gameplay trying to gain access to an area of the map, that did become a little tedious. The game does snap back into the funny and well-paced puzzles towards the end of the game, though. Adventuring around the town trying to solve a string of clues was a delight, as well as the incredibly well-designed characters, the town is equally well designed. The town and its inhabitants work together to create a very lived in and believable world

Graphically the game is a mix of neo-noir, 80s and pixellated art, which creates a very strong nostalgic tie back to similar games from the point-and-click genre. Each character is designed brilliantly, with their own unique quirks, styles and silhouettes, with the clown being particularly distinctive. The animations also perfectly compliment the pixellated style, with a slight jitter in the walking animations of the characters and their movements.

The audio of the game yet again fit the neo-noir, pixellated styles throughout. The ambient music creates a mysterious tone, whilst some of the more upbeat songs create a real 80s fun vibe. All of the voice acting was spectacular, from the dry sarcastic tones of Angela to the youthful hopefulness of Delores, each character is acted superbly, along with all NPC’s.

Thimbleweed Park is a fantastic homage, and dive back into the point-and-click genre, with fantastic humour, a great visual style, and some solid gameplay to back it all up. It may get a little unfocused in the middle, but the game quickly steers back on track to finish the story off strongly. For fans of classic games like Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, this is a must play, and a true love letter to these games of the past. For newcomers to the genre, this game is still a fun twist on a neo-noir murder tale, and the humour throughout is sure to keep even point-and-click novices hooked.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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