Thimbleweed Park is as delightfully retro as adventure games get.
Over the past decade, there have been a few attempts to revive adventure gaming to its glory days. Doublefine’s Broken Age and various LucasArts remasters have stood side by side with the narrative fiction subgenre, but no one has gone as far as Thimbleweed Park from Ron Gilbert, the creator of Monkey Island. Want old school? This is as old school as it gets.
A true point-and-click adventure, Thimbleweed Park revives the old SCUMM interface complete with commands and inventory. On a console, it gets clunky, but that’s somewhat expected given the genre and goal of the game.
It’s hard to rate the graphics in Thimbleweed Park as the style choice is clearly retro. With that in mind, you get pixels similar to 1990s PC titles. What’s presented is done lovingly with a clear intention to take the best of what came before. Sprites and colours are gorgeous despite their limitations; just don’t expect any realism here.
LucasArts broke ground by providing voice acting for some of itsr CD-ROM games (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis featured a remarkable Harrison Ford soundalike) so the voice cast for Thimbleweed doesn’t break the nostalgia trip here. All roles are performed with solid delivery, though some of the supporting characters can be a bit over the top or underwhelming.
You’re either going to love or hate Thimbleweed Park. It’s a point-and-click adventure with some obtuse inventory puzzles that require taking notes and working through them. For some people, that will be fantastic. For others, it’s frustrating and rage inducing.
If you’re on board, prepare for 20 hours or so of The X-Files meets Maniac Mansion. Though not as zany as Monkey Island, there is a humour in the unfolding mystery — it’s clearly a Ron Gilbert game. At the same time, a few modern conventions have been implemented.
First, there’s a task log, which any adventure game veteran will tell you is a welcome addition, particularly when you’re wandering around trying to remember what to do. There’s also a bit of fast travel, which will help moving between screens and eliminates the need to wander from side to side for screens on end.
Like Maniac Mansion, the game unfolds across multiple characters, though there is some flexibility in how you play it out. At certain points, you’ll need to switch in real time to get characters to solve a puzzle together.
Puzzles range from humorous to obtuse, though the game’s hint system and difficulty settings will help you move it along. Most importantly, this is a true retro experience despite some modern tweaks. It’s exactly what you expect.
Although it’s not for everyone, Thimbleweed Park is a well executed throwback game with lasting play value. Now, let’s get Gilbert to do a proper Monkey Island sequel.