Did you grow up with games like Monkey Island? Does the name Fred Edison conjure fond memories? Do you often wonder whether Zak McKracken was underrated or just not very good? Thimbleweed Park is probably the video game for you.
Designed by Maniac Mansion creators and OG LucasArts employees Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, Thimbleweed Park is a point-n-click adventure that uses a verb-based interaction system, just like all those old favourites. Check it out:
Push! Look at! Use! Don’t worry, though — Thimbleweed Park removes some of the antiquated bullshit by A) automatically highlighting the best verb when your cursor hovers over an object and B) letting you right-click to use that verb without having to tediously drag your mouse down to the bottom of the screen every time. It feels more modern than you might expect. Looks gorgeous, too.
From what I’ve played of Thimbleweed Park, which programmer Jenn Sandercock demoed for me as we sat on the floor across from the press room during E3 last week — indie style! — I’m optimistic that it will deliver on its Kickstarted promises. It’s a funny, beautiful adventure game that has a lot of potential and an interface straight out of 1993. I’m psyched to play the final thing.
The premise: Two FBI agents are sent to a little town called Thimbleweed Park after a corpse is discovered inside the city limits. As they investigate, they discover other mysteries — it’s got a “Twin Peaks vibe,” Sandercock said — and meet the eccentric residents who populate Thimbleweed Park. Among those citizens are Sandy and Dave from Maniac Mansion, who now run a diner and might be poisoning the town for some reason? TBD.
Sandercock says there are five playable characters, and the demo showcased two of them. First up was the FBI agent, Angela Ray, who could poke around and take pictures of the corpse she and her partner were trying to investigate. “You can tell by the pixelation around the nose and neck” that the victim was 40, the game says. Pixel jokes!
After a bit of exploration and some fun conversations, I got to play as the second character, a bitter clown named Ransome who was just about to get on stage for a big performance. In true adventure game fashion, Ransome needed a few things first — his makeup, his nose, his joke book — so I had to run around the circus collecting objects and solving rudimentary puzzles to get him in shape for his show. One of the carny game operators had taken his joke book, for example, so I had to track him down and figure out how to get it back. The puzzles were fairly easy — examine some items here, piece together a safe combo there — but Sandercock assured me that things will grow more complex as the game goes on.
Once I had guided Ransome to his show, I got to help him perform, which meant going through the audience one by one and insulting them all. Eventually we picked the wrong target, an elderly gypsy woman, and she placed a curse on Ransome: He would no longer be able to take off his makeup or leave the circus. Shouldn’t have been such a jerk!
It was a tantalising short look at what seems like it will be a clever, multifaceted story, and I’m excited to spend a lot more time poking around in Thimbleweed Park and figuring out just what the hell is going on there.