Thimbleweed Park (PC) Review

By Adam Riley 01.04.2017

Review for Thimbleweed Park on PC

Revivals of classics are well and truly in trend, with various ports, remasters, and "homage" projects pouring forth on the gaming scene. Maniac Mansion is revered as one of the breakout point-and-click adventures from back in the LucasArts days, and its sequel, Tim Schafer's much-loved Day of the Tentacle, recently came back in revamped form, complete with Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnicks's original tucked away inside as an Easter Egg treat. Gilbert and Winnick have teamed up now, though, not to re-release their respected classic, but to create something in the same vein, yet slightly tweaked for the new generation. Welcome to Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park is a real mixed bag of emotions. It ticks the nostalgia boxes, sets up a 'more to it than meets the eye' tale, has some great puzzles, introduces a very handy 'hold the left-mouse button and move' to keep walking around rather than being the usual stop-start motion associated with pointing and clicking, and even has a few pretty amusing elements on the script side. There is definitely enough to grab the interest of long-term fans of the genre from the start, and gives great hope for the rest of the journey. However, there are parts where it lets itself down, as well. It loves to self-reference too much, for example, relying on breaking the fourth wall a touch too often, almost as if trying to keep players alert mainly by dropping references galore in there because the actual murder mystery story is not quite gripping as expected. There are also plenty of 'traipsing around puzzles' that grow tiring as the hours clock up and the map expands, to the point where by the end of it all there is more a sense of "Phew, done" rather than the initial "Ooh, exciting" that is present at first.

Screenshot for Thimbleweed Park on PC

Back when this was previewed there were mixed feelings about the use of the old school verb panel, rather than using the more intuitive context-sensitive pointer approach of modern day point-and-click titles. The old mechanic was ditched as the years went by for good reason, because most of the options could be rolled into one 'action' button - after all, is there really any need for Open and Close to be separate commands? The same goes for many of the other commands shoe-horned into the ever-present bar that resides at the bottom-left of the screen, next to a clunky inventory permanently wedged on the right-lower-side. Even Schafer and co. realised this archaic system was flawed, which is why there was an attempted adjustment to it for Day of the Tentacle Remastered. The fact that Winnick and Gilbert force it back in here is obviously just for the purpose of tickling the fond memories of older gamers, but it definitely hinders gameplay.

There is an attempt to streamline things, to be fair, but it seems very cursory and actually makes things even more awkward. The developers have made it so the game highlights on the action bar what it believes is the most appropriate verb for the situation, but the majority of the time it is completely wrong. The excuse behind it is that the team did not want to solve the problem for gamers, but that does not really wash. Most will end up becoming reliant on the pre-chosen verb, yet it becomes a highly frustrating experience since it will normally default to 'Look' rather than 'Use' or 'Talk,' for instance. Surely, logically, when you move the mouse cursor over a person, the most obvious choice would be 'Talk' rather than 'Look,' and with objects it would be 'Pick Up' rather than, again, 'Look.' There are nine options available on the verb bar: Open/Close/Give/Pick Up/Look At/Talk To/Push/Pull/Use and most could easily be lumped under the same action, which is what games do nowadays. It all proves to be too fiddly during play, and it gets even more ridiculous with the ghostly character that gets introduced later, with many actions being replaced by things like 'Moan' and 'Wail' that are used literally once for the duration of the escapade.

Screenshot for Thimbleweed Park on PC

As if that was not enough, the way Thimbleweed Park uses its five characters is very disappointing indeed, with no real connection between any of them. Even the two detectives that have randomly been thrown together at the start for the purposes of the murder case seem to have ulterior motives, with allusions right from the start that one may not even be a real detective. Nothing is explored between their terse working relationship, though - rather than willingly working together for the common goal of finding the murderer, they are constantly suspicious of each other, but without it going into why that is, and even when the story tries to shed light on some of this subject later on, by that point it is firstly too late to care, and secondly not exactly satisfactorily explained, either. In general, there is neither enough character development, nor gradual bonds forming between characters over the extent of the story. It is just a case of "here you go - five characters…crack on!" needing to accept the fact that they can all pass items to each other freely, but with no real purpose.

There are a handful of occasions where a federal agent cannot enter - one particular secret location springs to mind - but other than that, the majority of the time it will be a case of handing all of the key items to your character of preference (Delores or Agent Ray, definitely…) and working through with them unless really necessary. It is just a shame that whereas Resonance used the multi-character approach perfectly, tying things together smoothly and making great use of the party in puzzle solving, Thimbleweed Park barely uses the setup properly, and mainly feels like the character count was bumped up unnecessarily just to keep it in line with both the fact that the Maniac Mansion releases had several people to play as.

Screenshot for Thimbleweed Park on PC

Two detectives, one of whom has a poor voice actor; a young girl; a very annoying and unfunny clown; and a ghostly apparition that is underused and just leaves a yearning for a new WadjetEye-developed Blackwell outing - it suffices for the purposes of getting to the end of the moderately-intriguing-but-ultimately-lacking story, but the only really memorable one is Ransome the Clown, and sadly for all the wrong reasons. Agent Ray has a cool vibe, Agent Reyes comes across as whiny and annoying, Ransome the Clown just misses the mark with attempted humour so often that it is quite shocking (the constant beeping to cover unfunny profanity is also appalling), Delores is the perfect down-to-Earth and likeable character, whilst Franklin has great potential but is left rather untapped. Great untapped potential - that kind of sums up Thimbleweed Park. Make a game with Agent Ray, Delores and an expanded role for Franklin and you are onto a winner. Do not fluff things out without real reason, especially when, as mentioned, they have no meaningful impact on proceedings.

Screenshot for Thimbleweed Park on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Thimbleweed Park had so much going for it, and still delivers in many ways, with a delightful retro appearance, some really impressive puzzles throughout, and great voice acting. However, it also drags itself down with filler content, extra characters that do not really serve much purpose, a rather average story that tries to be a bit too clever for its own good, forced humour that more often than not misses the mark, and that old verb gameplay mechanic that should have been left in its grave. Give it a go, but head in with realistic expectations rather than expecting the classic some were banking on.

Developer

Terrible Toybox

Publisher

Terrible Toybox

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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