A kid's review of Thimbleweed Park

My sister came to visit recently with her husband and 11 year-old son, Dante.

One fine morning, while drinking my coffee, Dante caught me playing Thimbleweed Park and seemed intrigued. I explained it was a new very cool game made by a famous designer of older games from when I was his age.

However, it didn’t matter what I was saying, he seemed enthralled by the game itself, so I asked… would you like to give it a go? His eyes lit up and he nodded wildly a resounding “yes.”

From then on, I lost access to the computer, for Dante played furiously and excitedly for hours during his brief stay. He didn’t get to finish, though. Alas, he and his parents left for home just as he reached the Pillow Factory.

Nonetheless, he said he can’t wait for the iOS version to come out so that he can play it on his iPad and finish it.

A few days after he left, my wife and I were chatting about how much the game appealed to children, and amidst our conversation, I received the following brief but insightful review from Dante. Apparently, he wrote it during his eight-hour drive home.

I thought I’d share it with you. :slight_smile:

Reveiw on thimblweed

By Dante

I liked it very much and would like to tell you a few things.

My favorite character was franklin be cause he is a ghost and he can do weird things.

My second favorite character is Delores. I like her because of her story ties to chuck.

My least favorite character is ransom the clown. He doesn’t have anything special in his story.

Delores has chuck as her uncle, Franklin turns into a ghost, agent reyes’s father was a guard at the old pillow factory and agent rey is working for national securty. But ransom the clown has no ties to the factory and has no powers.

I never got to finish the game so I can’t wait for the game to come out for iOS so I can finish it all and find out the ending.

Thank you uncle for the oppurtunity to play the game.

Thank you Dante.


My heart is warmed. My eyes lit up reading this tale, perhaps especially because I can remember my own similar experience, but also because it’s heartening to see that this game can capture the imagination of the generations who will follow us.


Did he play in easy mode?

Great story! I find his observations about Ransom interesting, even though I find him hilarious, his lack of connections with the rest of the story are true.

I look forward to another review once he gets to finish it on iOS.

The story of a dead body - perhaps - but that’s not the story of the game. He had to get into the Pillow Factory for prototypes, before that he wanted to make a deal with Franklin and he had beef with Chuck. Ray is the one without a good connection to TWP.

Yes, he played in “Casual” mode. I thought it would be good to introduce him to the genre and the mechanics. Plus, he was only staying for a few days.

At each major puzzle he solved, as he felt so gratified, I would comment about how much more rich and complex the puzzle would have been in “Hard” mode. He seemed impressed and excited. :slight_smile:


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You play Agent Ray from the beginning, so it feels very much connected. In contrast, the connections between Ransome and the rest of the story come later and are more tenuous.

I don’t think Dante really “got” the motivations of Ransome. He played the Flashback and then there was very little need to use him again – at least in “Casual” mode, where the complex, multi-character puzzles are toned down.


One observation I’ll make is that Dante didn’t abuse the Hint Line. He called once, when he was stuck, but reading the options of hints available (“find a location,” “find an item,” etc.) we’re enough to spark the solution in his head, so he hung up.

After that, he got stuck one or two times more and I helped him, not by giving him hints, but by guiding him to reason through the solution.

It may seem obvious to us, but he didn’t seem to really understand how to solve puzzles at first, other than doing the specific actions mentioned in the “to-do” list, such as “talk to xxx” or “find yyy.”

Eventually he got the hang of it and became quite proficient at figuring out the puzzle logic.


I’ve seen this as well, not just with kids, but players who don’t play a lot of games (or only casual games on their phone). To solve this, the beginning of the game would have to redesigned to teach some very basic concepts. It’s something I’m going to keep in mind for future games.


lol, he believed her story about the NSA. He’s as gullible as Reyes.

Here’s another observation, one that goes to something you have mentioned before.

At some point during the beginning, Dante had to repeat an action multiple times because he was trying different things. Every time he performed the action, he would have to go through the same dialog sequence.

He then complained, “awww, I can’t skip it,” to which I replied (to my everlasting regret), “there is a way…” And showed him how.

From then on, he skipped every single dialog! I kept asking not to do it, that he will miss something, that the details and story are revealed through the dialog. To this, he responded “I’m good, I can read.”. This was not quite good, because he skipped dialog much too fast, sometimes as it popped up.

So what I did was disable the speech bubble text. That forced him to have to listen to the full dialog – or at least it seemed to deter him from skipping it.

I think with the speech bubble text it is very easy to fall in the trap of “I’m reading,” and feel comfortable skipping dialog sequences. It results in one skipping dialog without fully following the context.

Based on the way he struggled at times, I could tell that Dante had missed some details regarding puzzles and story. However, once the speech bubbles disappeared, he didn’t do it any more.

I don’t recall what is the default behaviour, but I would recommend having speech bubble text disabled by default.



Just to be clear, Dante would read through the dialog options (I could tell he was figuring which one to select carefully), but then, as soon as he selected one, he would get ready and skip the responses as they were spoken.

It seemed an automatic behaviour triggered by the speech bubbles being present. Without them, he didn’t seem compelled to skip at all.


That is the default, expect on iOS/Android. Too many people play mobile with audio turned all the way down. I worry about the text skipping on mobile, because it’s so easy to do (two finger swipe).

Yeah, the same thing happened with one of my boys. He skipped everything. Then he asked me what to do because he didn’t understand.
I wonder why I, and maybe even you, back then, wanted to read every single line, sometimes pouring the game in pause in order to not miss anything…

Can’t you just check if the headphones are plugged in and/or if the audio is turned on? If one of these two things is true, play only audio, in all other cases show only the text. You could show a little symbol after the the start of the game respectively after plugging in/pulling out the headphones to indicate if the games plays audio. The game should disable this automatic if the player changes one of the corresponding options in the options of the game.

If you don’t like this automatic: Show two symbols after the start of the game (one with a speaker and one with text) and let the player decide with a finger tip if he likes to hear the voice or to read text. So he can turn off the sound in the subway and on at home.

Hm… Could one understand what I would like to say? :slight_smile:

Doing stuff like this is very complicated. It would take several days of programmer and tester time, and there would be a ton of edge cases, plus it doesn’t really solve the main issues, which is players skipping dialog. PLus, players can lower the volume using the hardware buttons on a phone, and it’s hard to tell if they’ve done that, or just lowered the volume enough that they can’t hear it, but it’s not muted.

Skipping dialog and cut-scenes is an age old problem. Players can be their own worst enemies.

If you’re allowing people to skip stuff, they are going to miss stuff.

Yeah, true, but based on my observations, it’s the combination of the ability to skip and the on-screen text that invites players to skip, or makes them feel more comfortable doing so.

My theory is that seeing the text triggers a response as if they were reading the story, which prompts them to skip the voice-over; but the additional stimuli of the rest of the interface and active game-play impairs their ability to process it.

The result is that they think they read the text but they actually did not.

Then again, the problem of lacking sound is also important. There is no easy solution.

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Interestingly I recently played the game Downfall which started with the prompt “In order to keep the gaming experience more immersive we strongly suggest you play this game with the captions switched off!” followed by an option to do so.

My guess is that… casual players will skip that too. :laughing:

Hm… I haven’t insight in your engine and I’m not experienced in iOS programming, but a background thread should do the trick?

Anyway: The variant with the two buttons in the start screen isn’t complicated and should do the trick: Just make a new screen/room with two buttons. These buttons are just setting the corresponding options in the options. :slight_smile: If the player chose the symbol with the speaker, you just don’t show the text in the game. So in most cases the players will follow the complete spoken sentences.

And it should be enough to show these buttons after each start of the game, because in most cases the state won’t change while playing. For example, if the player plays the game in the subway with headphones, he will use the headphones until he left the subway (and thus end the game). If he has to react/respond to another person in the subway, he will take of the headphones or in the case of earphones pause the game - and not mute the game.

It’s enough to test if the audio is muted: If the phone is not muted, no text will appear. So the player has to adjust the volume to hear the voices - otherwise he can’t follow the game.

First: Don’t tell the player that he can skip cut-scenes and dialogs. Write it in the manual. Most players don’t read the manual, all others are knowing what they do (well, in most cases ;))

Second: If you let the player chose between audio and text after each start of the game and the player chooses the audio version, he will only get the voices. This has the same effect as DZ-Jay mentioned for Dante: The player will listen to each sentence.

Third: Don’t allow the players to skip the text lines and the cut scenes. Instead let them change only the text speed (like in old Lucasfilm games). For the cut scenes you can implement a “fast forward” function like in old VHS players: Let the cut scene play faster and speed up the voices too. Ok, this third suggestion comes too late for TWP but maybe it’s an option for your next game. :slight_smile: