The Point n Click Adventure Game genre is one that I have cherished my entire life. From playing early titles such as Monkey Island, Broken Sword, Grim Fandango and Day Of The Tentacle, there’s always been something about this genre that has always appealed to me. For one these games were often hilarious, something I find is missing as a genre in video games as a whole. I also enjoy the quiet contemplation involved, taking your time trying to solve a particularly tricky puzzle. When Point n Click games get it right, they become less frustrating and more a chance to spend time in creative and enjoyable worlds with characters that you love.
In recent years the genre has had something of a renaissance, with remasters of many classic titles and also new Point n Click titles being created. However, none have had me as excited in anticipation than Thimbleweed Park. Created by Ron Gilbert, creator of the Monkey Island series and Maniac Mansion, considered by many to be the godfather of the genre, has made a return to the genre with Thimbleweed Park, opting to go full retro with 16 Bit graphics and old school controls. For fans like myself this was definitely a title to be excited for in 2017, but did it live up to the hype?
The game starts off with the discovery of a body on the outskirts of Thimbleweed Park, a quirky rural town that one could compare with Twin Peaks. Detectives Ray and Reyes, two strangers investigating the same crime, work together to solve the murder and unearth a potential conspiracy within the town. From the opening scenes of the game you can see that Ron Gilbert and developers Terrible Toybox are able to create a powerful sense of atmosphere through the visuals, the music and the dialogue. One can definitely find comparisons with classic detective television such as True Detective, Twin Peaks and The X Files, particularly the latter two with the game’s more bizarre and surreal moments. The world that has been created is so rich, enjoyable and unique that this alone is strong reason to play the game.
As gameplay goes however there is very little innovation in Thimbleweed Park. The intention of the creators was to bring players a game that felt like it was made in the early 90s during the genre’s heyday, and as such the controls are minimalistic and easy to use. As the genre suggests, you simply point and click to move the character and also action commands which are found at the bottom of the screen as verbs. Here one can ‘pick up’, ‘open’, ‘talk to’ and all manner of other actions with items that you pick up within the game. And if you’re anything like myself, you’ll likely be doing all of these actions with every item in your inventory when you eventually hit a bump in the puzzle solving road.
Where this game does excel is in its humour, story and dialogue. I can safely say that playing Thimbleweed Park I found several genuine laugh out loud moments through witty dialogue or interaction between the characters and the town. Dialogue has always played a vital role in this genre, as it is often there to advance the story and help players to solve puzzles, but it is great to see it used to such great effect here as the basis for the entertainment players can find within the game. Rather than wooing players with flashy graphics or action sequences this game grabs you through the spoken word which is something that should be cherished in video games. As well as being hilarious though, Thimbleweed Park can boast a genuinely intriguing story and murder mystery that’ll keep you guessing throughout. Looking back it is a wonder that murder mysteries hadn’t been more prevalent in the Point n Click genre, as they seem to go so well together. It’s the perfect style of game to compliment the moments of deep thought and contemplation within games of this genre, and I can definitely say that I was hooked throughout the game.
The game also has a fantastic array of characters that are as quirky and enjoyable as the town itself. Although I found both Ray and Reyes to be a bit less developed than I would have liked for the two leads, I found the characters within the town to be unique in design, voice acting and personality. You are also able to play as more characters as you progress through the game, who further the plot and increase the expanse of the overall narrative nicely. From a foul-mouthed clown to pigeon costume wearing repairmen, Thimbleweed Park is definitely not guilty of being unoriginal when it comes to its characters.
I appreciate that there may be some bias from myself for this game, being a fan of the genre and some of the creative people involved in its creation, but I can definitely say that this is one of the most enjoyable playing experiences I’ve had for some time. For players new to the genre, the relaxed pace, overly retro style and simplistic controls may put you off this title or indeed any Point n Click game. However for its strong sense of atmosphere and character, engaging story and genuinely hilarious writing I strongly recommend players look into this game. Thimbleweed Park may not be giving players anything new or innovative, but it never claims to be doing so. Instead the creators have given players a game that they can engage with at an enjoyable and comfortable pace, something that I’ve been sorely missing from video games of late.