Our thoughts on Thimbleweed Park (Xbox One)
As somebody who grew up in the golden age of adventure games, most of my childhood was spent playing LucasArt’s Monkey Island games, the Discworld games and a few other noteworthy entries in the genre. For better or worse, Thimbleweed Park feels like it belongs in that era.
Thimbleweed Park’s plot is nonsensical and filled with the sort of illogical logic that you’d find in most adventure games from the 90s.
Early in the game you need to take a picture of a corpse. One character has a Polaroid camera but doesn’t have film for it. Why? I have no idea. In true adventure game fashion however, another character has the film cartridge you need so it’s up to you to pass that item over to the guy with the camera. If you’re a newbie, you can select the Easy mode (less puzzles) but purists will want to play Hard mode, which has more puzzles. Some of the puzzles on Hard mode are incredibly frustrating though.
It’s the same thing with the characters you encounter in the game. The Sheriff/ Coroner’s mannerisms and speech patterns aim to be kooky, but end up overly forced and annoying. Characters meant to the memorable sometimes feel as if they’re trying too hard to stand out. They do grow on you but the first impressions you get from them are rarely positive.
It’s weird playing an adventure game on a console. I’ve done it before with Broken Sword and Blazing Dragons on the PS1 but found the experience rather awkward having to move a cursor around the screen. That problem is compounded with Thimbleweed Park. If you’ve played Day of the Tentacle (or its HD remake) you’ll instantly know what I mean.
The screen’s divided into three horizontal slices. The top two slices shows the game, while the bottom third holds your inventory and in-game commands. With a touchscreen or a mouse, the interface is intuitive and effortless to use. With a cursor, it’s a whole other story as you’ll tediously have to go back and forth, click the commands and then whatever it is on-screen you want to associate the command with. Luckily, you can shortcut some commands with the context sensitive X button but some items and environmental interactions still require you to delve down and then back up again. With Thimbleweed’s lengthy story (about 8 – 10 hours if you take your time, the difficulty level chosen and how quickly you figure out the puzzles)), the constant struggle with interface wears you down the more you play, making an otherwise fun game into a bit of a chore.
Thimbleweed Park allows you to swap between characters at any one time too, which sounds alright in theory but ends up needing more work in practice. If you control a character, the one you don’t control waits where you left him or her. If you find out that you suddenly need that character (whether it’s for an item they’re carrying or another reason) be prepared to repeat your journey. There’s no button to instantly summon your partner, which would have made things a whole lot easier.
Along with its somewhat archaic gameplay, Thimbleweed Park also apes the 90s adventure games in one other way; visuals.
With pixel graphics and a 2D environment, the game looks like it could run on a Pentium 133 with no issues whatsoever. Animation is relatively smooth given the visuals although the screen scrolling can be jerky when you’re moving around. Whether that’s a ‘feature’ (likely considering the hardware the game is running on) or an issue, I’m not really sure but it’s an annoying one nonetheless. Even the sound harkens back to the 90s, with audio that sounds like it’s coming from a Sound Blaster 16 audio card.
In the end, the enjoyment you get out of Thimbleweed Park depends on whether you’re nostalgic for the good old days of adventure games. If you don’t have any memories of playing games from that era, Thimbleweed Park will feel like an awkward, archaic dinosaur. However, if you’re aching for a return to the glory days, Thimbleweed Park is exactly what you’re looking for, just be prepared for some niggling issues.