Thimbleweed Park - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thimbleweed Park

Ron Gilbert is direct. When earnestly asked what he most hopes people will experience in playing Thimbleweed Park, his reply is, “1987.” Being once the girl who ran home from school in her high-top sneakers to play Maniac Mansion, I can appreciate that. Funded through Kickstarter for US$626,250, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick are relying on nostalgia, humour and threatening to microwave a hamster, to fi nd their audience again. We are, clearly, eager for more.

It looks, if you don’t mind me saying, kind of brown and unattractive, which is brilliant. The characters have oversized heads in a way that you may never have noticed in the 80s, but retrospectively associate with a tabloid journalist on his way to fi nd a two headed squirrel, or the rather sexually empowered Edna Edison. Not sure of the references? That’s OK. There will be new “in jokes” soon enough, ostensibly involving a balloon animal and a corpse.

Surely the most exciting feature of these early LucasArts games, particularly Day of the Tentacle, was switching between characters, allowing for greater complexity in puzzle structure. Gilbert adds, “Maniac Mansion had seven total characters, three playable at a time, and it provided a nice reason to have multiple endings and alternate puzzles, allowing players to take a break from one puzzle path and play another.” It remains a technique many adventures overlook.

Another throwback, which was never quite replaced by a walk, hand, eye, mouth interface, if not just a general interaction, will be the use of verbs. I can’t recall actually using Push and Pull, for example, a lot. But, if they are there, the opportunity to design puzzles around them is intriguing. Gilbert tells us, “Maniac Mansion had a lot more verbs than Monkey island. Thimbleweed Park will most likely use the Monkey Island verb set since it represents the pinnacle, to my mind.”

Thimbleweed Park is described as, “dark, satirical and bizarre,” the story of two washed up detectives, a clown, a dead man and, possibly an heiress. The town has a pillow factory and there is a screenshot of two people dressed as birds and holding a toilet plunger. Is there much else we need to know? I, for one, am looking forward to running home from school pick up and sharing the madness with my children all over again, more than I can say. Might even buy some new high-tops.

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