Next up from the minds behind some of the most iconic adventure games ever made.
Thimbleweed Park looks like a sublime throwback to Ron Gilbert and Lucasarts titles of the past. The old-school feel is intentional, with this pixelart adventure set back in 1987. This was the very same year that Maniac Mansion was released, which the game makes reference to with its deserted villa in the small village inhabited by crazy people. In this respect, fans of Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick get exactly what they want. Anything less and it would probably trigger a revolution anyway. Regardless, it would be one of the most courteous revolutions you could experience, because the Lucasarts adventure fans are a special breed.
The adventure plays out with five characters who you must switch between in order to solve puzzles. In one early scene, for example, you witness two FBI agents, Angela Ray and her young counterpart Reyes, taking a picture of a murdered man at a crime scene and obtaining a photo as proof. They do this with a Polaroid camera, but of course the film is missing. Fortunately, one of the agents holds the film while the other has the camera. A few simple "pick up" and "use" commands later and the picture is taken; the snappy comments come free of charge. Fans will be surprised initially to learn that there are now proper (and rather wonderfully acted) voices. However, the written text is still there as before, another act that will no doubt help avoid a revolt.
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The game transitions rather slowly from scene to scene. While the framework feels old-school, it's clear the technology behind it is modern. The real-time lighting, complex parallaxing, crisp 1080p pixel graphics, and fully featured voice acting make this clear. The composition of the parallaxing scenes is surprisingly complicated, as it consists of up to eleven layers which scroll simultaneously and feature subtle lighting effects. Ron Gilbert told us that he had intentionally tried to make Thimbleweed Park reminiscent of a production from 1987, yet modernised. It's clear that the game uses its simplistic art style as a camouflage in that sense, as there is much more going on behind the scenes.
Each scene consists of a piece of art you can explore for clues with elements to interact with, which in turn can lead to some humorous outcomes. Laughter is practically guaranteed. The game features two modes. In casual mode, many of the puzzles are made easier and are sometimes partially solved. For example, when playing on casual you don't have to find printer ink to help Delores print an application for her job as a video game programmer, you can simply advance without it. In the expert mode (of course, it's called "normal" here), you are required to obtain the ink to progress. Ron Gilbert has integrated the casual mode to give players with less time or skill an enjoyable experience without missing out on the puzzles.
The narrative revolves around a mysterious murder and can be experienced from the perspective of five different characters. The game will have subtle differences depending on the character you're playing as, but the story itself remains largely unchanged. The characters cross paths multiple times during the play-through and help each other, which can result in subtle changes. For example, the perspective of the constantly cursing clown, Ransome, develops somewhat differently depending on the character selected and decisions made. At the start of the game the narrator promises that there are no wrong choices or dead ends, although we're afraid this may be just another one of those jokes...
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Thimbleweed Park is a beautiful adventure which plays like a classic point-and-click, controlled using a mouse, a cursor and some old school commands. However, the gameplay feels modernised. For example, controls are fine-tuned and demonstrate finesse, allowing you to run through scenes at a faster pace. The gloomy yet satirical story is also a step forward. Fans can look forward to countless references which will take you back to your childhood. There are Billy Idol posters, funny cameo appearances of well-known people, and aliens as spectators during a circus performance; exactly the type of humour you'd expect in a game from Ron Gilbert. The telephone book allows you to listen to thousands of messages that crowdfunding backers have left on their virtual answering machines, which are now immortalised in the game. The library also features fictional work made by fans.
We don't want to spoil any more of the small details or jokes, as everyone should explore the game for themselves. Thimbleweed Park will soon be released for PC, Mac, Linux and Xbox One, and after three months of console exclusivity, a PlayStation 4 port will see release. Beyond that there's a Nintendo Switch version is being considered for the future (as Gilbert told us, they're talking to Nintendo and will port it as soon as they can). Android and iOS ports are also due to be submitted later on this year, meaning old school adventure fans will be able to enjoy this quirky adventure regardless of which platform they're on.