Thimbleweed Park Review – Switch
+ Engaging story, characters, and dialog.
+ Great visuals that really play into the genre trappings.
- The ending falls a bit flat.
- There are still adventure game pitfalls to beware- not understanding puzzle logic, etc.
Thimbleweed Park is the Schrodinger’s cat of adventure games. It is both exactly what you expect it to be, and the opposite of what you expect at the same time. It changes depending on who is looking at it, and how they’re looking at it. In one sense, it’s very much what it appears to be on the surface; a classic adventure game made by those who helped define the genre through the 80’s and 90’s. In another sense, it’s a modern interpretation of classic adventure games. One which, in several ways, pushes the genre forward while maintaining what made it appealing in the first place. While the game may not be perfect, it’s one that should be experienced.
The game is pure satire, through and through. It’s the type of satire we don’t see much of these days across modern media. The best analogy I can use to describe the humor of Thimbleweed Park and Ron Gilbert is it’s the video game equivalent to Airplane and The Naked Gun. From the obvious “Not” Mulder and “Not” Scully main characters, to the constant 4th-wall breaking, to the town itself- filled with every single oddball stereotypical character possible, Thimbleweed is drenched in puns, quirk, and satire.
You control both special agents, sent to the odd town to solve a mysterious murder. There’s twists, turns, and several revelations that drive you forward through the narrative in a way I haven’t seen most “classic” adventure games pull off. With those games, the joy of playing was in the humor and puzzles themselves. This time around, the story is what compels you, and those other aspects almost feel secondary.
Game play is exactly what you’d expect from the genre. You interact with characters via conversation trees, explore the environment for objects and clues, and solve various logic puzzles to advance the plot. While there’s an initial tutorial section, the first act really serves as the main tutorial. You explore a small section of the town, and adjust to jumping back and forth between both characters, in addition to managing flashbacks.
Heading into act two, the game reveals itself… it’s an open-world adventure game. The entire town is open for you to explore, with multiple puzzles requiring multiple areas to be explored/utilized at the same time. It’s a clever design element- one that makes Thimbleweed slightly unlike any other adventure game you’ve played before.
The visuals of Thimbleweed Park both pay homage to classic pixel art, while modernizing it by adding interesting depth to various scenes. It makes each setting feel like it exists in space while still ultimately being a flat 2D image. The sound design is equally on point. While the dialog may seem at times to be odd and stilted, I can’t help but wonder if this is done on purpose. The weird pseudo-Canadian accents tossed around, and other odd choices in the voice casting, almost seem as if they’re designed to help make each character stand out in their own odd way.
Thimbleweed Park is mostly successful at what it sets out to accomplish. There are issues I have with the ending, and while I won’t go into spoilers, I will say I didn’t find that it stuck the landing. This ultimately isn’t enough to detract from the overall experience of having played it. I highly enjoyed my time with the game, and suggest you owe it to yourself to dive into it’s weird world.
The Switch version in particular is perfect for the genre, as point-and-click adventure games don’t always lend themselves to staring at a giant TV screen. Sometimes you’ll want to play in bed, and it’s also great for long road trips/commutes. Being able to go back and forth between the touch-screen and controls was a welcome way to play through the game.
There’s a lot that this game has going for it. While an appreciation for older adventure games is certainly suggested, it’s by no means a barrier to entry. If you’re looking for an oddball X-Files-ish parody, you can’t do much better.