Adventure games were a huge part of my formative years and for my money nobody made em better than LucasArts. I played my share of Sierra titles as well, spending ample time in King’s Quest and Gabriel Knight games, but they were always more downtrodden and less fun than the stuff LucasArts was putting out. Now genre veterans Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick (perhaps best known as the minds behind Maniac Mansion) are returning to the genre they helped perfect with their new game Thimbleweed Park.
The demo for Thimbleweed Park was one of the longest I played at the show, even without getting stuck on any puzzles. The game promises to parody or poke fun of a number of great sources and you can immediately see a little infusion of Twin Peaks as the game opens on a water logged (and quickly pixellating) corpse along with two agents investigating its appearance. The game quickly introduces you to your ability to switch between characters, something you’ll need to do in order to leave the first section. After that you’re transported to a later stretch in the game where you’ll encounter a flashback and get the chance to take control of another of the game’s five playable protagonists.
This flashback puts you in control of Ransome, a gutter mouthed clown who terrorizes the town with his particularly nasty brand of insult comedy. The bulk of the puzzles revolved around getting Ransome ready for his big show where he’ll insult everyone from the aesthetically displeasing to the handicapped. It starts out simple enough, applying his make up and straightening his hair, but things get a little more complex as you interface with a fellow carney to win back your all important joke book.
Dialogue is as sharp and sarcastic as you might expect but the puzzles feel a little bit more down to earth than some of the other titles in the LucasArts archives. (I suspect difficulty is toned down because it’s a show floor demo, but even so it was paced nicely.) It’s a good balance and the game does a great job bringing back the retro sense of previous games while simultaneously feeling more mature and adult in its own right. For the most part Ransome’s colorful vocabulary is humorously censored, but I was still able to call someone an “asswipe”, something that was unimaginable back in the day.
The SCUMM interface is back and goes a long way in making you feel at home with the game. It’s kind of cumbersome to use compared to some modern solutions but it’s so iconic and I think essential to the feeling this game is going for.
Fans of Maniac Mansion will instantly feel at home when gazing upon the visuals of Thimbleweed Park, which does an excellent job of evoking the nostalgia of its ancestors while still feeling contemporary in its own right. One of the game’s artists, Mark Ferrari, described it aptly commenting that “people like visiting a renaissance festival, not necessarily traveling back to the middle ages.”
The game will be hitting a wide array of platforms starting with Windows, Mac, Xbox One, and Linux. iOS, and Android when it releases next year. Whether or not you’re a fan of old adventure games I think this is absolutely one secret pizza meeting you’re not going to want to miss.