Thimbleweed Park

April 15, 2017 by Lucian Mogosanu

There appears to be a small hole in the back of the head, origins unknown...
The hole in the victim's head doesn't look like a gunshot,
more like a puncture from a sharp object...
Which is odd because the opening title sequence clearly showed a gunshot
with accompanying sound effect...

Thimbleweed Park is that nostalgic outcry of the old fart '80s computer programmer that he once made games and earned some money from it, so thirty years later he'd like to give it another shot. That, and an attempt to educate today's kids about how cool point-and-click verb-based adventure games used to be back in the day. That, and pretty clearly a hand extended towards Maniac Mansion fans, given that it's marketed as its spiritual successor.

From an artistic point of view, things look as follows. Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick took the late '80s-early '90s pop culture and tried to cram most of it, and a satire thereof, in a video game. It's 1987, you see. And a man is killed, you see. And there's not one, but two FBI agents (a chick and a guy, whaddaya know!) on the case. And the atmosphere throughout the entire setting -- Thimbleweed Park, a shadow of a former glory of the pillow-making industry -- is eerie, you see. Hard to comprehend if you haven't lived through those times' TV shows, but otherwise this is one of the rare cases where the utter lack of originality actually adds to the artistry.

Later on we find out that there are actually four, or about five, in-game player characters, all contributing to the story. We're not quite sure which one of them is the centerpiece of our game, but it doesn't matter, because this being a comedy, the story isn't supposed to make sense. Even so, the thick of the story is very interesting -- there's mystery, and there is a ton of humour of all kinds -- but unfortunately the conclusion is a fourth wall mess that satirizes itself. Or anyway, it seems that the writers didn't want to lead the storytelling anywhere than in a hollow. I don't know what to make of this.

From the point of view of game design, the game sits in the exact same place as Day of The Tentacle. It's like most of the puzzles were made on purpose to keep the player brute-forcing, which in my masochism I really enjoyed, not least because the game offers a lot of possibilities for exploring and discovering various trivia. I was expecting it to be more frustrating for the weekend gamer, but it's actually not.

The neo-pixelated '90s graphics style is absolutely gorgeous. The in-game disco music is a-musing, while the background music is pretty damn good, probably inspired from Twin Peaks. I've absolutely nothing to object on the technical side; whatever game engine they used, I hope it's used in other games, because the lack of a single bug in a post-2010 Linux game is quite the rarity.

I am somewhat inclined to compare Thimbleweed Park to Broken Age, not from any technical or artistic point of view, but rather from the point of view of the promises made to fans. I think Gilbert and Winnick have done much a better job than their ex-colleague Tim Schafer in getting a game out. They seem to have kept it simple, or at least simpler to a degree, in developing this game, and they haven't set the highest expectation possible for their Kickstarter backers, which in my opinion makes this a successful gamble. It's not like Thimbleweed shines in any way, not in the absolute and not in comparison to other adventure games, but I'd recommend this to anyone, while Broken Age... I don't know, I haven't even had the patience to bring it to a proper conclusion myself.

So, let it be known that I recommend Thimbleweed Park to anyone, be they hardcore gamers or weekend gamers or non-gamers. It's worth a weekend or two, and then another weekend or two after a couple of years... and then another one. Because, as the agents'-a-reno-a-who-a-boo saying goes:

-- I feel like we're getting close to cracking this case.
-- The only thing you're getting close to cracking is my patience with you.

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