Ron Gilbert was the 11th employee at Lucasfilm Games and is the creator of Monkey Island, the co-creator of Maniac Mansion and the creator of Pajama Sam. His love of adventure games can be described as “I don’t know what else to do”, and drives him forward each day. You can follow him on Twitter at @grumpygamer and on Grumpy Gamer. Ron is designing, writing and programming on Thimbleweed Park.
Gary Winnick was the 6th employee at Lucasfilm Games. He co-designed Maniac Mansion and worked on Zak McKraken and Loom, going on to become the Lucasfilm Games Art Director. He was the designer of Defenders of Dynatron City which was also a limited series with Marvel Comics and an animated special on Fox TV. You can see more of his work at garyart.net. Gary is designing and animating on Thimbleweed Park.
David Fox was employee #3 at Lucasfilm Games and worked with Ron and Gary on Maniac Mansion as the SCUMM scriptor. He co-created Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidbfox and on Electric Eggplant. David is designing, writing and scripting on Thimbleweed Park.
Mark Ferrari is a commercial illustrator and published novelist currently living in Portland, Oregon. He cut his ‘digital art’ teeth at Lucasfilm Games doing 8 bit, EGA backgrounds for Zak McKracken, Loom, and Secret of Monkey Island. He has also administered successful artificial respiration to an octopus, for those keeping score at home. You can visit him at www.markferrari.com He is doing backgrounds on Thimbleweed Park.
Octavi Navarro, a self-taught pixel artist and former children’s books illustrator from Barcelona and the creator of the amazing Pixels Huh, a love letter to pixel art and to all the classic videogames that marked his childhood. You can find him on Twitter at @pixelshuh and Facebook. Octavi is doing animation and helping out Mark with backgrounds.
Lauren Davidson founded Dropped Monocle Games with her friend Sox Brooker in 2012. While discussing their love of point and click adventure games after an evening of DnD, and probably too much cider, they decided they could totally make a game! How hard can it be? You can follow her on Twitter at @boosegoose. Lauren joins the team as a writer.
Jenn Sandercock hails from Australia and has been playing adventure games since she could work out how to kick her older brother and sister off the computer. With a background in artificial intelligence, Jenn has been working as a game designer for over 6 years. You can follow her on Twitter at @jennsandercock. Jenn comes on board as a game play programmer.
Robert Megone is a Game Designer and QA Tester from Hampshire in the United Kingdom. Rob understands point and click adventures as a tester and developer but more importantly from the perspective of a player. His first adventure game was Zak McKracken on the C64, the greatest game ever made. You can follow him on twitter at @robertmegone or on his website. Robert joins Team Thimbleweed as its lead tester.
Malcolm Stead was raised by pirates off the coasts of Bristol, England and had his first game published at the age of 14, and has been working as a tech programmer/game designer professionally for the last 20 years. He now works as an independent contractor under the guise of “Confused Duck Entertainment” and promises one day to finish the website. Malcolm is primarily responsible for the Xbox port.
Developer / Publisher: Terrible Toybox (based in Seattle)
Release date: Early 2017
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux, Xbox One, iOS, Android and hopefully more.
Regular Price: TBD
Welcome to Thimbleweed Park. Population: 80 nutcases.
A haunted hotel, an abandoned circus, a burnt-out pillow factory, a dead body pixelating under the bridge, toilets that run on vacuum tubes… you’ve never visited a place like this before.
Five people with nothing in common have been drawn to this rundown, forgotten town. They don’t know it yet, but they are all deeply connected. And they’re being watched.
In a town like Thimbleweed Park, a dead body is the least of your problems.
• From Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion.
• A neo-noir mystery set in 1987.
• 5 playable characters who can work together… or get on each other’s nerves.
• Not a walking simulator!
• Satisfying puzzles intertwined with a twisty-turny story that will stay with you.
• A vast, bizarre world to explore at your own pace.
• A joke every 2 minutes… guaranteed!*
• Casual and Hard modes with varied difficulty.
• English voices with English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish subtitles.
*Not a guarantee.
Thimbleweed Park (Terrible Toybox)
Prepare yourselves for an almost-in-depth review complete with nonsensical information that may enthral in one way or another. This is Thimbleweed Park, a brand new Point and Click Adventure game from Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick.
Remembering the good old days – were you there?
Do you remember Ron Gilbert? No? How about the games, Zak McKrakken? Monkey Island? Maniac Mansion? Or even The Cave? What about the company, LucasArts? No? Blimey, you must be a young whipper snapper and you’ve been missing out on some wild and crazy adventure games, so, without further ado-who* let me put you all in the picture.
To those who answered, “yes!” and “I’m a Pirate!” to the aforementioned questions, you could scroll down and head straight to the “Is Thimbleweed Park any good?” sub-heading bit and you’d be wasting your time as that part does not exist so you may as well read the nostalgic recap below to bring you up to speed anyway.
The Cave. A mixture of puzzle, adventure and platform (201
Zachariah and the Dingles, alias, Zak McKrakken & the Alien Mindbenders. Possibly a connection. Who knows.
David Fox was the project leader and designer of Zak. Ron’s contribution was an update to the SCUMM engine, but he didn’t work on it otherwise. along with a collaboration of a few others, unleashed to the world in 1988, a marvellous 2D Point ‘n’ Click comedic adventure game called Zak McKrakken and the Alien Mindbenders. Full of believable characters (depending on what strength caffeine you are on), whacky puzzles (mindbending would be more appropriate), and a crazy atmosphere (you will think Area 51 is real! Oh, hang on…), witty and sarcastic humour, references to other games/films a-plenty and all topped up with a brilliant storyline. It sold rather well.
Zak McKrakken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988)
For the die-hard knowledgeable fans out there, Zak McKrakken, of course, was not the first from Ron. He was the writer, director, artist and programmer for Maniac Mansion, released in 1987 under the LucasFilm Games label. A simplistic plot that involved you rescuing your girlfriend from a mad scientist, whose mind has been enslaved by a sentient meteor. It was also the first game that allowed you to play and alternate between one of six characters. All interlinked to solving and completing the game.
Where it all began: Maniac Mansion (1987)
Guy’s, Brushes and Cheap Wood. Oh, and Pirates.
A good while later, while Mr Gilbert was visiting friends, he dreamt of a game with pirates. Makes you wonder what his friends were doing, doesn’t it? Pirating games? Playing dress up? Think we’ll leave that there. Anyhow, ideas of pirates led to another stupendously cracking Point and Click adventure game (can you see a pattern developing here?), called, The Secret of Monkey Island. Insert everything said about Zak McKrakken above, here. It starred Guybrush Threepwood, an ambitious and naive wannabe-pirate who must seek out the island’s pirate leaders, who set him three trials that must be completed in order for him to become a real pirate. This one sold by the galleons. Successful sequels subsequently followed. Try saying that after several pints of Grog.
The Secret of Monkey Island (1990).
Some other games to Ron’s credit and well worth a mention are, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, Day of the Tentacle (sequel to Maniac Mansion), The Cave and now, Thimbleweed Park.
Real life and The Passing of Time
Sadly, like everything in life, supposedly, bigger and better things came along and the famous point and click adventure games that dominated the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s became a distance memory. Caterpillars became butterflies – several times, men and woman grew up, maybe got married, and had kids, joined The Pirate Scouts and, who knows what else. Then the time when one’s mind starts wandering, blissfully reminiscing about those glorious days of entertaining the world with games that had become timeless classics, still fondly loved by many.
Thimbleweed Park – A new idea surfaces
After a few nights spent in some SCUMM bar and downing plenty of Grog (Monkey Island aficionados will understand), an idea to bring back a new point and click adventure came about to Ron Gilbert and his good friend, Gary Winnick. Modern Laptops were opened, doodles and funny faces were drawn, ideas were written, excuses via e-mail to the wives why they were “late” hastily sent, and the coasters were chucked across the pub because they felt like it as they set about creating a Kickstarter fundraising project to bring the ideas to life. Disclaimer: I have no idea if the aforementioned is actually true but sounds probable. The Kickstarter part is true, though.
The infamous SCUMM bar (not the real one) from Monkey Island
Anyway, enough of the ramblings, let us take a look at this shiny new waxed and polished game and see if under the surface, there really is a nice piece of thimberwood or timberweed.
Hang on – what are these Point and Click adventure thingies?
If you’ve never played one of these before but you’ve played those fangled modern 3D first-person shooter games, then, congratulations, you’re halfway there to becoming an adventurer! Maybe not quite but that crosshair you see on screen with those type of games? It’s an essential part of most point and click games. Although, I must point out that it’s not for shooting people. Sorry to disappoint.
The cross-hair is controlled with either a mouse or joypad (depending on which system you’re playing this on) to either move your character, interact with non-player characters, examine objects in the play area or your inventory (a list of items being carried) or in the case of Thimbleweed Park, choose from a selectable list of on-screen verbs to trigger certain actions, such as Pick Up, Pull, Examine and so on. So this combination of dialogue, exploration, and puzzle solving, creates the Point and Click adventure genre. Moving on…
Even new wannabe adventurers are shown the ropes
Welcome to Thimbleweed Park – enjoy your stay
The game starts off on the outskirts of Thimbleweed Park back in 1987 (ironically, the same year Maniac Mansion was released). A town that once was a vibrant business district complete with an enormous pillow factory and an abandoned circus that now feels more like a ghost town.
Spot the cameo appearances…
It may be the 1980’s, yet, somehow, technology here is advanced; it already has the future of automation, with machines aiding everything from criminal investigations to movie rentals. Life in this town, if you can call it that, still goes on. One of those places that you certainly would not want to visit but somehow end up there. With a population of just 81 crazy people, what could possibly happen? Actually, make that 80…
The grass might not just be greener the other side…
Murder most horrid
A rather pixelated decomposing body had been found in a river under a bridge. A murder needs solving and it is the job of FBI Agents, Antonio Reyes and Angela Ray, to embark on solving this terrible crime. Sounds simple? Far from it. As you progress through the game, a further three characters come under your control, a la Maniac Mansion (if you have played it). Playing all these characters leads to unravelling the mysteries of this gruesome murder and who actually dunnit. However, there are twists and turns throughout.
FBI Agents Angela Ray and Antonio Reyes, about to delve into the unknown
You will not find any here. Perseverance is a necessity. The game is devised in such a way that you can’t actually die or get stuck. There are also multiple endings too that adds to the game’s longetivity and it is already huge. The key to solving the game lies in talking to the many wacky, bizarre, unique, sometimes humorous, sometimes sarcastic characters you meet, gathering clues, along with finding objects and using them to progress further.
One thing for sure – all five characters you get to control are deeply connected but they do not know it yet. And every one of them is being watched.
Wise advice from the postman
Starting out – Tweaks and squeaks to suit
Dinner ready? Gotta nip out? Providing you are not on some hilarious cut-scene, your progress can be saved at any time. The sound, music and speech volumes can all be individually adjusted. You can also choose to have the game in Windowed or full-screen mode. The font (text style) can also be changed to make the game look as though you really are playing this game back in 1980’s.
There is even a “toilet paper over” option, whatever that is…
Customise the game to your taste
Shallow or Deep End?
Thimbleweed Park has two levels of difficulty. One called Casual, which throws in a free tutorial and introduces beginners to the controls as well as giving guidance on the first few screens on how to interact, move around and so on. Getting hints out of characters on what to do next is also a little easier.
Hard mode, is for the experienced adventure gamer so no doubt these will feel right at home with. More complex puzzles and it’s tougher to get clues out of characters you speak to. You are chucked in at the deep end. Just mind you don’t fall on that dead body.
Wimp or hardened adventurer? Take your pick…
Like a paperback novel (or hardback, if you are a keen librarian), the game is split up into several chapters as the story unfolds, a bit like Monkey Island and The Cave.
As mentioned earlier, the great thing about this game is that you can’t actually die. Sure, you’ll get stuck. Maybe a lot. The key here is exploring everywhere, checking the scenery for maybe objects missed or re-talking to characters that could give additional clues and allow the story to continue.
One very useful addition is that every character you can control carries a Notebook, which gives a list of stuff to remember and things you still need to do, basically a checklist. So getting stuck shouldn’t really happen, often. Extremely handy for veterans like me, who forgets to, errr, I have forgotten now.
The Notebook is a blessing in disguise and a great addition to this game
It’s the little things that make a difference
Throughout, there are many references to the original adventure games and/or old films in the guise of posters/pictures. There are also hilarious cameo appearances such as the aliens from Zak McKrakken watching the circus performance, to name one without spoiling too much. Heck, there is even a Billy Idol and Max Headroom poster in there for whatever reason. Oh, and a sly dig at LucasArts/Films but that’s another story. It’s all these little intricate attention-to-detail that makes Thimbleweed Park so splendidly special.
Recognise any faces in the pictures?
Normal is a setting on a washing machine
Every character you get to control and even those you meet along the way become almost believable. From the bizarre to insane. The sulty to the obscene. For example, the FBI agent, Angela Ray, is so sarcastically dry and does not much like her partner, Antonio. No love lost but you can almost feel the electric tension between the two. Well, from Angela’s side anyway.
You will encounter a cursed clown who curses a *beeeeep* lot, can’t remove his makeup and his gags are worse than Christmas cracker jokes but you’ll end up laughing anyway. There is even a budding game developer called Delores whose uncle wants her to take over the pillow factory but she has no desire too. Why would you when there’s money to be made making games, eh?
And there’s a ghost somewhere…
Plenty of insane gags and euphemisms that will guarantee a belly laugh
Puzzles and oddities
The puzzles to solve are faithful to the original adventure games. Some are straightforward; for example, combining a film with the camera. In typical old-skool fashion, there are bizarre objects too, like a broken ketchup bottle, or a lump of cheese. Are they needed in your quest? More than likely. Sometimes looking beyond the logical way of thinking is a necessity and you’ll be kicking yourself when you do solve a puzzle.
Retro in the modern world
In short, this is a beautifully crafted adventure game. Thimbleweed Park really plays homage to the old-style old-school point and click adventure games but with a “fresh” look, given fancy effects such as parallaxing scenes, real-time lighting and 1080p pixel graphics.
The characters throughout, despite the intended pixellated look, are very well animated. The many hand drawn locations are appealing on the eyes and full of little but marvelous detail. Characters on the play area can be speeded up with a quick double-tap of a button if you are in a rush.
Thimbleweed Park in “Retro” mode
So is it a nice piece of thimberwood?
Oh, yes. You betcha. If Thimbleweed Park was a book in the style of those Fighting Fantasy series (remember those?) I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. Well, I’d buy both anyway. Odd comparison? Not when it comes to adventure games of this calibre.
What we have here is a top-notch-a-reno* game with an engrossing storyline, wonderful wacky characters, imaginative puzzles, splendid retro graphics with a bit of spit and polish, many detailed locations to explore and discover, atmospheric music, clear spoken speech, apt sound effects where it’s needed, morose and/or comical cut-scenes and a whole lot more. Overall, a game that will appeal to the young, middle-aged, veterans and SCUMM aficionados.
Check out what’s on the windows!
Any negatives? Yes. Just a *beep* weeny *beeeep* small one. I’m now yearning for more! Mr Gilbert & Co. needs to get themselves back to that SCUMM bar pronto and get cracking on another adventure! I’m sure their wives won’t mind. 🙂
*You’ll discover in the game what this is all means.
Reviewed by Andy Green. March 2017. (Appropriately placed E&OE where applicable because it’s a funny old game)
Note from the Editor Peter Ward:
Andy and myself have been playing this game 2 weeks before its release and what can I say its an amazing game I got this a few days after I got the new Zelda game on the Wii U and have been playing Thimbleweed instead thats how addictive this game is. I have been playing Point and Clicks since Maniac Mansion and a huge fan Monkey island being my favourite.
I did not think id ever have the same experience I did again but Thimbleweed does not disappoint. I have clocked over 5 hours on the game and probably have another 5-10 hours at least to play.
I cannot wait for the sequal!
Fantastic job a must buy people!!!