Adventure games have been around since the dawn of the video game era, starting off with simple text based stories like Zork and the aptly named Adventure, before growing into basic point and click games that followed the same structure, but this time with graphics like in Mystery House. LucasArts joined in on the action in 1987 with Maniac Mansion, made using their SCUMM game engine, followed by The Secret of Monkey Island, both critically acclaimed titles. Thimbleweed Park is a spiritual successor to Maniac Mansion that retains its charm and comedic value, but upgrades the tried and tested formula in ways that make it clear that it's not your standard point and click adventure in 2017: it's so much more.
Thimbleweed Park places you in the shoes of two protagonists; Agents Ray and Reyes, two detectives investigating the murder of an unknown businessman in the small town of Thimbleweed Park. You swiftly discover that not everything is as it seems, however, with the sheriff seemingly out to prevent you from fulfilling your duties as detectives. Three more characters, suspects, become playable, reliving parts of their lives via flashbacks: Ransome the Clown, Delores, and Franklin. The story feels like it's Gilbert and Winnick's interpretation of a cheesy crime show where you must eliminate potential suspects by asking the citizens of the town probing questions which subtly become more so as the agents are cluing on to what the town is trying to hide.
It wouldn't be a Gilbert/Winnick game without an abundance of puzzles, and that's exactly what you get with Thimbleweed Park. There's plenty of ways to go about things; it's fairly non-linear in terms of the order puzzles need to be solved in, and none of them are particularly illogical. Sure, you need to essentially leave your brain outside of the box and try to think of some truly obscure solutions, but you're never left feeling cheated that a solution was too nonsensical. As per the older SCUMM games, everything you do revolves around the nine verbs like "Use", "Talk To" and "Pick Up". Combine items by using one with the other, put them in your inventory by picking them up. In terms of the mechanics, they're as simple as they come.
There were a few times we thought that we were truly stuck or had essentially 'snookered' ourselves by doing something wrong and having to reload an earlier save, but we soon learned that's one of the aspects that Thimbleweed Park truly excels at; you cannot get stuck, the solution will always be available to you if you keep searching and trying different combinations. Some items require an eagle eye to spot and there's no hint system like in the Monkey Island remasters, but taking a break then revisiting the game often provides the fresh mind you need to figure out the answer. There's also two separate modes which is new for Ron Gilbert's adventures; casual and hard. On casual, the characters drop much more blatant hints for what to do next, along with easier and fewer puzzles overall. If you ever forget where you are, each playable character carries a handy notebook or to-do list that can be referred to at any point, and is checked off as you complete different tasks.