I don’t remember the last time there was as much hype and anticipation for a point-and-click adventure game as there has been for Thimbleweed Park. This murder-mystery has been years in the making and is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign–a success which is unsurprising, given it was developed by industry legends Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, the creative minds behind some of the greatest adventure games made to date. Games like Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo were almost formative for me as a kid, and my love of the genre can definitely be traced back to my time helping Guybrush Threepwood win love on Monkey Island (albeit through frequently questionable methods). Modern graphics are nice and I’m as excited by an open and expansive world as the next person, but neither of those features can make me smile like a witty and well-written dialogue option or an intuitive inventory puzzle. If Thimbleweed Park could deliver half of the things I was expecting from it, it was always going to be something special–and thank god I wasn’t disappointed.

Sensible

That’s how I feel about this whole game, honestly. I could just skip the review and just post this screenshot.

The story begins with a murder, as all the best ones do. Who is this murdered man? Why was he killed? That’s only the focus of the game until the next big mystery comes along – and from there they just pile up. This murder does, however, prompt the arrival of federal agents Ray and Reyes – Mulder and Scully look-a-likes tasked with solving this mysterious crime and perhaps learning a little about the old-fashioned small town of Thimbleweed Park along the way. These tasks require the help of the (often-reluctant) locals, and of course nothing comes easy when you’re an adventure game protagonist. Or, two adventure game protagonists who have to swap things between them. Or, as it turns out, five separate protagonists, all of whom you’re introduced to through flashbacks that give you a real sense of who they are and where they’re coming from.

Women

Yep, definitely up to something. (This might be my favourite line in the whole game.)

There’s Ransome the ‘Beeping’ Clown, a washed-up performer and all-around horrible guy with the mouth of a sailor whose vocabulary contains only profanities. There’s Delores, a young woman who dreams of becoming a game designer but whose family legacy might force her to follow a different path. Lastly, there’s Franklin, a timid ghost who just wants to explain what happened to him, and to talk to his daughter one last time. These three very unique characters join the agents one by one, and as each becomes more tangled up in the events that are unfolding, it becomes clearer that nothing is as it seems. Well, except Ransome. He’s pretty clear on how he feels about everyone and everything – really, he doesn’t hold back.

Books

Every single one of those books has a unique title. Such dedication.

As you’d expect, each character comes with their own unique expertise, even if it sometimes takes time to identify which one of them has the necessary skills or equipment to get the job done. Items must occasionally be traded between characters or combined, and sometimes solving a puzzle will require the effort of more than one of our unwilling heroes (and Ransome, whatever he is) but every solution somehow makes sense, no matter how outrageous it may seem. It was through the puzzles that the expertise of the developers really showed itself – everything just worked. Nothing felt easy, but it didn’t feel impossible either. No matter what hurdle came my way, I instinctively trusted that I’d been given (or would be given, when the time was right) everything I needed to overcome it. Sure, that meant that sometimes I had to try to bend my way of thinking and consider the absurd, but to me that’s the sign of a good adventure game.

Children

Yes… children…

The writers know it, too. Above everything else, Thimbleweed Park is a game that is clearly self-aware – it brings attention to all those quirks of the genre and gently but affectionately mocks them through quips and comments that could only come from years of experience. The narrative is fresh and constantly engaging, and the dialogue reminded me of why I will always love point-and-click adventures more than any other genre. There’s an almost awkward, self-deprecating humour to this game that wouldn’t quite fit with any other style. Even though it all feels new, it also feels comfortable and familiar, and achieving that balance is no easy feat. I wanted to take screenshots during every single conversation, I was that amused by the dialogue in this game. It’s just clever writing.

Map

This map reminded me so much of the map of Monkey Island. I know I’m talking about Monkey Island a lot, but… really.

That quality of balance can be seen in every aspect of this title. The characters, dialogue and puzzles are the true heart of Thimbleweed Park, but that doesn’t mean that the more technical parts aren’t exemplary too. The pixel art graphics are a throwback to the classics, but they also perfectly complement the tone of the game, and the deliberateness of that choice only becomes clearer the further you move through the story. Plus, there’s a beauty in the simplicity that just can’t be ignored. Sure, they’re just pixels, but they’re damn fine looking pixels. The same can be said about the soundtrack, and the fully voice-acted dialogue – it all just fits. Everything about this game, in essence, just feels right.

Ransome

Ransome is the worst, but at least he knows it.

So yes, I went into Thimbleweed Park with high expectations, but I wasn’t wrong to do so. This game is a love letter to the genre, and there are tons of references scattered throughout that should please any longtime fans of the developers’ titles. I’d recommend this to anyone for its perfect puzzles and genuinely unique characters, but if you like point-and-clicks then I can’t stress how important it is that you give this one a go. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here, replaying the entire Monkey Island series. God, this game hit me right in the nostalgia feels.

10/10

Masterpiece

About The Author

Jess is a psychology researcher by day and is determined to find a way to merge her gaming and professional lives. She loves point-and-click adventures, games with strong narratives, and her love of puzzles in all forms has actually caused her to use the phrase “that reminds me of a puzzle” whilst in a furniture store. She can generally be found on Twitter @zammitjess talking about games, feelings, and her life as an anxious mess.