In Thimbleweed Park a dead body is the least of your problems. Ron Gilbert is back and takes us back to 1987 with his unique style in a game which doesn’t takes itself that serious.
The year of our lord 1987
Thimbleweed Park (TP in short) it’s a small town in America where nothing important ever happens until a German visitor loses his life in the first 5 minutes of the game.
In order to solve the crime, the cynical secret agent Ray along with the good willing agent Reyes whose favorite hobby is to get in her way, are called into action. Along the way their paths will entangle with Ransome, a foul mouthed clown whose big mouth got him a curse from a witch and ruined his life along with his rising (till then career) and Lenore, an ambitious girl whose dream is to become an adventure game designer, against the will of the benefactor of Thimbleweed and her loving uncle, Chuck. The latter is the owner of a pillow factory whose experiments led to the destruction of a part of it from a large fire. Lenore’s dad and Chuck’s brother insists that the family business should change its direction, something that causes backlash with tremendous results.
That’s how the world of TP introduces itself and as we progress further we see that something is terribly wrong.
Graphics / Sound
The graphics of TP are pixelated (no surprise here) with beautiful designed locations and it reminds Day of the Tentacle and Maniac Mansion. The characters are big and sharply designed, without any particular details due to their pixelated nature. The game is emitting a retro aesthetic and not feeling old fashioned at the same time.
The sound is as expected good, with atmospheric speeches (particularly the “whatever” agent Ray says you understand her annoyance in the fullest) but a forgettable music which I guess that was the intention of the creators. The music is without any excess, elevator or super market music something not necessarily bad as it allows the player to focus on the action.
as we progress further we see that something is terribly wrong.
In the gameplay part the above 30 players will find the familiar point n click system introduced to the Lucas Arts adventure games. In the lower part of the screen we have the inventory where the object the players pick up goes there as well as the verbs through which the game actions are performed. Every action is executed with the choice of a verb and then choice of the item or the target eg. Talk to Leonard or Give map to Lenore. Worth noticing is for the verbs are hotkeys (good ol’ Lucas Arts!!) and the dialogs can be skipped (although I wouldn’t suggest it) with the “.”.
In the steps of its ancestors TP allows to use 5 characters, which may scare some players but personally gave me the liberty that I miss in this kind of games. The lack of linearity allowed me to search thoroughly the world of TP and enjoy in the fullest the well written texts, the jokes and the familiar names on the telephone catalogue along with the funny messages on the answering machine and the creative titles on Lenore’s home library.
The game isn’t short on references on technologies and significant facts of the time, which is something I would expect from Ron Gilbert along with the breaking of the fourth wall and the criticism on the Sierra’s adventures. All these pull together an adventure that the only thing certain is that it doesn’t prepare the player for the game finale. With the humorous way is revealed why all those crazy things we found in the game are just to be, which I find perfect.
The lack of linearity allowed me to search thoroughly the world of TP and enjoy in the fullest the well written texts, the jokes and the familiar names on the telephone catalogue
Watching the ending credits of TP, I see that Ron Gilbert urges us to tell our friends about TP so that they can keep making games and they don’t have to find normal jobs. Something tells me that neither normal jobs want Gilbert whose natural environment is among pixels, whimsical jokes and little nostalgia dose in his digital projects.
PS. Really important for me, was the day 1 game release in Linux without a single bug (when in the Windows edition has been a few mentions) which made me quite happy.