Video game review: ‘Thimbleweed Park’ fulfills its nostalgic destiny

Todd Hailstone

Four stars

Thimbleweed Park Reviewed on PC. Also available for Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS, Androi, PlayStation 4. Xbox One.

Modern video games owe a lot to Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. That duo—under the LucasArts umbrella—is responsible for several of the most beloved and influential adventure games of all time, including The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion (the latter ranking as one of my absolute favorite games).

So I was excited when, in 2014, I heard of a Kickstarter campaign to fund Thimbleweed Park, a spiritual successor to their games of old. The game, which raised $626,250 to crush the original goal of $375,000, was proposed as a lost game from 1987 with similar graphics and gameplay. And that’s exactly what Gilbert and Winnick have delivered.

The retro, pixelated art in Thimbleweed Park perfectly recaptures the vibe of older games while using more advanced tools to make what the creators referred to as “8-bitish” art. Paired with an outstanding score and full voice acting, it creates a beautifully nostalgic aesthetic without alienating players who might not have been living in 1987.

The gameplay is classic point-and-click adventure. You control five characters through the town of Thimbleweed, picking up everything that isn’t nailed down and using it to solve puzzles, both straightforward and … counterintuitive. Many of the items are red herrings, and areas you’ve previously explored can react differently as the plot pushes forward. I found myself legitimately frustrated after backtracking and researching familiar areas hoping to advance the story, and more than once I realized I’d had a necessary item in one of my inventories all along but had been prevented from using it until solving an unconnected puzzle.

Still, the game is funny and well thought out. Gilbert and Winnick satire Twin Peaks and The X-Files in places, and though fourth wall-breaking references and winking nods to past adventure games can feel heavy handed at times, Thimbleweed Park gives its supporters exactly what it promised: an adventure game straight out of the past, packed with nostalgia and crafted with a lot of heart.

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