Upon finishing the game, it’s time for a new review.
Firstly, before getting into the meat and potatoes…
You should buy this game.
Thimbleweed Park is a modern game which uses (and improves upon) the tried and tested formulas of classic LucasArts point-and-click adventures from the 1980s and 1990s. In a sense, it feels like an anachronism and a relic carefully handled and newly enshrined in some dark corner of a videogame museum which only exists in the Elysium of a very distinctive and largely maligned videogame genre, yet it reminds us of just how immersive and rewarding those old formulas still are when they are executed with as much thought, care, flair and brilliance as has been captured by Terrible Toybox with this shining title.
The mastery of this title is manifold and all the individual points of excellence combine symphoniously to create an experience which is ultimately hugely rewarding – and this is a viewpoint largely agreed upon by those who have finished the game but for one huge sticking point which has been a buzzkill for many: the ending. Yet, how the game ends has been built to meticulously throughout the whole intertwining journey of the happenings in Thimbleweed County and the narratives and sympathies of the lead characters.
Taking place in a neo-noir setting in 1987, the clues constantly present themselves about the gnarly fate of Thimbleweed County, and the pacing of the unfolding of this grand tale – from a simple murder story transmogrifying surreptiously into musings on the meaning of life and determinism – is both exquisite and mysteriously undermining, leading to a climax which might best be described as being startingly harrowing, empty but yet purposeful.
The puzzle design is among the best and most consistent ever seen in a game of the genre, with every solution being well led to and well thought out and a total absence of what we call “moon logic” (completely irrational puzzle solutions). The nature of the puzzles and how they flow and interlink help move the story along at a very satisfying pace and the game continuously incentivises one to explore and truly listen to what characters in the game have to say. The ambience and mystery of the story is likely to stir the player, which is one of the big reasons why the ending is so divisive – the gamer becomes truly immersed in the world and is very invested in the “answers”. In this sense, the game has knocked it out the park and then into and out of orbit with its execution of interactive and dialogue driven gameplay.
All of this is achieved even in dealing with five different playable characters who each have their own purposes, problems and goals.The story pacing brings us to their plights and their journeys within the meta-world of an evil (or is he?) genius rather than just clinging onto the red herring of a simple murder mystery plot – one involving an individual who we are never told much about, nor meet people who sympathise toward him.
The visuals and sound certainly help to bolster the wholesome experience of the game, and though the music in the game isn’t as memorable or melodically tuneful as in many other games, it is completely apposite. The pixel art is truly a feast; especially with the use of multiple layers of parallax scrolling, which is something we simply didn’t see with the old classics from the 1990s.
The game is flooded with various in-jokes and references which fans of old classics will typically enjoy, and I’m no different. However, when playing it did occur to me that it can at times verge on being something which panders to an echochamber of the already converted, and I wonder if enough has been done to pull in a new audience to enjoy a genre of game which in the case of Thimbleweed Park has been mastered and even surpassed the old golden standard.
My main concern for this game is that the gem won’t be played by as many people as it should be. Forget that it relies fundamentally on old core values and specific execution and remember, rather, that it’s an outstanding game – period. At least, that’s what I’d like to convince people of, and especially those who have not delved into the world of point-and-click adventures who, if they’d just give it a shot, might be rewarded much more than they could’ve imagined.
+++++ The ending (others might give it a 5-minus score).
+++ Outstanding gameplay with nigh on flawless puzzle design and flow.
+++ Immersive and intriguing dialogue and story which links in seamlessly and intrinsically with the puzzle design.
++ Super production value all around, with very few negative quirks in the design.
++ Fantastic pixel art graphics and a memorable set of locations and scenes.
++ Tremendous details; most notably the huge library with more than a 1000 readable 2-page books in the Mansion Mansion.
- Excellent sound and very fun and appropriate voice acting – it doesn’t take itself too seriously and strikes a great balance.
- Casual mode is a very good introduction for those who are new to the genre who might be daunted by a very different way of thinking in gaming.
± Self referential nature (in an overarching point & click meta sense) of the game will likely be divisive and there’s a likely disconnect there for a newer audience.
± The ending has proven to be extremely divisive. It’s a brave ending which is balls to the wall, but certainly meticulously crafted and intended. Nonetheless, it has been jarring for many – and perhaps that just adds to the intrigue.
- The one big minus I would wager is the overall holistic view of the game, in that I’m not sure it’s ignited a new furore over the genre of point & click adventures that one might have hoped for.
- For all the puzzle brilliance, perhaps we could have more puzzles involving pushing and pulling things (where use specifically doesn’t work) given that the options are there.
You should buy this game.