Thimbleweed Park Review: Wrapped in pixels
Ray and Reyes to the rescue?
Thimbleweed Park is like a damn fine cup of coffee.
Started as a Kickstarter project looking to recreate the magic of LucasArts’ classic adventure titles, and heavily influenced by the likes of The X-Files and Twin Peaks (great timing, by the way), Thimbleweed Park opens with a pair of FBI agents assigned to solve a mysterious murder in a small town. Before long, you run into human-sized pigeons (okay, just humans dressed as pigeons) who can’t stop talking about “the signals”, breaking the fourth wall as they do so. The tone of the title is apparent from the start; you’ll know about two minutes in if it’s your jam.
Those who fondly look back at the likes of Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island will appreciate this newfound hit of nostalgia. Full of quirky humour and classic adventure-style puzzles, you’re (eventually) in control of five unique characters, able to switch between them at will. A series of action words litter the bottom left of screen, allowing you to interact with in-world objects and characters. If you’re like me, you’ll spend far too long using every verb with each on-screen item, just to see what each character will offer up when you do so.
Your five protagonists are as different as can be; the two special agents, Ray and Reyes, are certainly hiding something, whilst Ransome the *Beeping* Clown does his best to be the worst human being ever. Aspiring game developer Delores is perhaps the most identifiable for us gaming types, and finally, Franklin’s a ghost. ‘Cause why not, eh?
With the exceptions of the agents, the characters really have no reason to work together. They will, though, as you’ll need to switch back and forth between them to progress, at times using the Give command to swap items between characters. Each character has his or her own flavour alongside a To Do list to remind you of your current objective. That last item is quite important; I often lost track of the plot because I was too busy just messing around.
NPCs are just as weird as your protagonists; the aforementioned human pigeons are joined by a Coroner-slash-Sherriff (a-who) and many others. They’re just as fun to interact with as random objects. A great variety of locations – from the derelict town of Thimbleweed Park itself, to a Pillow Factory or vacuum tube store – only add to the zaniness of proceedings. The pixelated world fits the genre perfectly, and current tech means the characters’ animation match their voice overs — it’s a small touch, but one that’s appreciated.
For those unaccustomed to adventure games, Thimbleweed Park is good at guiding players without hand-holding. There’s only one real fail state found in the game – and it’s sign-posted and easily avoidable – and objects can only be discarded in a trash bin when they’re no longer useful. The To Do lists give enough direction without going full-blown Nintendo SuperGuide, though I occasionally wanted to use the wrong verb to accomplish a task and went into a mental block rather than trying a different action word. Some of those verbs are hardly used, and I wonder why they were even included in the action list.
Thimbleweed Park is a stellar mix of mystery and humour, letting players delve into a case that requires plenty of thought… and, sadly, a lot of backtracking. A fast-travel map mitigates the latter issue quite a bit, but one elevator will make you rip your hair out, forcing you to take characters up and down one person at a time.
Altogether, it’s an immensely enjoyable experience that’s definitely worth jumping into. Thimbleweed Park is available on Windows PC, Mac, Xbox One and PS4.
Thimbleweed Park was reviewed using a retail code on PC, though a promotional code on Xbox One was also used later. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.