Thimbleweed Park is another entry to the already over saturated point-and-click puzzle genre, only this game comes with some pedigree. Created by Monkey Island’s Ron Gilbert, Thimbleweed Park is an experience that’s not only set 30 years prior to our current time, but looks as though it could have actually have been plucked from the 80’s. Unlike the aforementioned Monkey Island, there’s very little humour to be found within, and any attempt at humour is typically lost due to poor voice acting, but that’s not to say that Thimbleweed Park is a bad game, far far from it.
The game presents itself as a murder mystery “whodunit” in which the leading detective characters are tasked with solving the killing. It’s clear from the get-go that these two Mulder and Scully like characters have their own goals and motivations, it’s also apparent that they don’t have a great fondness towards one another, with tenure and experience playing a large role as to who thinks they are the top-dog, as the saying goes. This lack of connection between the leading duo is something that’s worked upon throughout the entirety of play, and there’s a few moments throughout that really pushes forward this missing chemistry well. I wont dive too deeply into the story specifics, but for a simplistic looking adventure, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the whole story was slowly unravelled and ultimately delivered by the time I hit the conclusion.
It’s also a remarkably in-depth game, and the vast amount of conversations you can have with even just a singular character is fantastic. Furthermore, each of the several characters you can interact with tend to have their own stories and events that neatly tie up the overarching plot quite fittingly. There’s no denying that Thimbleweed Park knows how to get into your head, and at times, under your skin. The gameplay is as you would expect, you’ve got to seek out specific areas to hunt down suspects and interrogate them or have them inadvertently spill the beans until you have either the info you need or the item you’re looking for.
With this being an item-based puzzle game, there’s a lot of backtracking involved, but thanks to how great the game looks, and all of the little details you’ll get to enjoy, this never feels like a tedious trek. Easter egg hunters will be thrilled with the amount of Monkey Island and LucasArts references that have been littered all over the game, some are blatantly shoved under your nose, whereas others are subtly tucked away for eagle eyed players to seek out. Although the game barely holds your hand from beginning to end, there’s some helpful features within that you never really got gifted with from games of this type in the 80’s. A to-do list, for example. Each of the characters you get to take control of in Thimbleweed Park all come with a check-list, which really helps you to keep on track of what you’re doing or where you need to be.
This doesn’t exactly do much other than (at times) point you in the right direction, but it’s a welcome tool and one I relied on more than I thought I would. Point-and-click adventures tend to come with a generous hint system, such as those found in Artifex Mundi’s works, but here, you’ll need to rely on careful deduction and observations. It’s far too easy to get stuck in Thimbleweed Park, but nine times out of ten, I found re-talking to characters and re-checking my to-do list was sufficient enough to see me succeed. Don’t get me wrong, the puzzles aren’t always super tricky, but there is indeed a very comfortable difficulty curve as you slowly progress through the 15 hour experience, which is always an important factor for games of this type.
As previously alluded to, you can take control of more than one character, and for much of the game you can even quick swap between key characters at any given time. Hell, some of the puzzles even require multiple characters working in unity, it’s a well implemented feature to say the least. Each of these all come with their own inventory, and the option to trade items (so long as you’re close by) is also there. It might seem slightly overwhelming on paper, but it’s not, the developers have really worked on a good balance here and that pulls through magnificently.
Thimbleweed Park offers quite a vast amount of ground to cover, and as such, it’s not too long before you’re gifted with a map that can be doubled up as a fast travel system. There’s no denying that this game will be better suited on PC, though with that said, it also works quite well with the controller too. My only issue was that sometimes I would lead my character into a wall or completely send them in the opposite direction due to lack of mouse accuracy, but this doesn’t prove to be a nuisance all too often. Nevertheless, with the few faults to the side, this is easily one of the most intriguing point-and-click games available on Xbox One.
As a fan of both point-and-click and murder mysteries, this game sang to me from the moment it was unveiled. Sure, there’s some minor issues with the controls and the voice acting is shoddy, but everything else within is pitch perfect. The theme and the music go well together, there’s a huge collection of interesting characters to interact with, and countless conversation branches to pursue. Throw in countless well crafted puzzles and a story that’s surprisingly in-depth, and you’ve got every reason to enjoy this game for what it is. Does it have much replay value? No, but for a 15 hour story, it’s well worth your time.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.