RPGamer's visit to PAX West included a look at the new adventure game from industry veteran Ron Gilbert, Thimbleweed Park. Anna Marie Privitere also got a chance to have a short chat with the man himself.
I didn't grow up playing PC games, so my limited experiences with Ron Gilbert's work prior to adulthood was perhaps Maniac Mansion on the SNES and a dabble into Day of the Tentacle with DOSBox as an adult. By the time I met Guybrush Threepwood, he was already a mighty pirate. So I went into the demo with a bit of trepidation — would a gamer who hadn’t played the classics be able to enjoy Thimbleweed Park?
Spoilers: Oh, yes. Yes you can.
Thimbleweed Park’s demo gives players a few slices of gameplay to get a feel for how the game works. You first get a quick glimpse into a town where, as the saying goes, a dead body is the least of your problems. The demo introduces the character swap mechanic, where we swapped between the two detective characters to get film into a Polaroid camera before the body could pixelate any further. Groan. The demo then sped us forward to a different slice of gameplay, where we relived a horribly potty-mouthed clown that had to get ready for his show. We had to solve several small puzzles that knit together everything the clown needed that evening, such as his nose, his makeup, and his joke book, which was being held ransom by a fellow carnie. I personally found the puzzles to be at a well-tuned difficulty, though Chris was concerned they felt a little easy.
We also had the opportunity to chat directly with Ron Gilbert, who discussed how players have a different set of needs and expectations twenty years later — even the same gamers who lovingly played adventure games when they were younger have evolved, along with their tastes, to some extent. What he really wanted to do was to capture the essence of those games while not ignoring the pitfalls the older games fell into and taking into consideration that modern gamers had specific expectations from their games.
For example, classic adventure games didn't always have a logical ruleset they played within, often causing players to have to experiment with little direction. It was important that the why's of what the player was doing in Thimbleweed made sense, even if it was in hindsight, as opposed to being the rubber chicken of Monkey Island. So Thimbleweed's puzzles all fall within a logical ruleset, and take advantage of modern graphics, all the while capturing what was the quintessential feel of how it felt when you finally solved a challenging puzzle and the story moved forward.
That being said, for those that prefer to stick to the story, an easy mode will be available, where some of the puzzles will be essentially pre-completed. For example, a door might be unlocked by default, instead of having to solve the puzzle of how to actually unlock and open the door. Thimbleweed Park is set to release in early 2017 for a variety of platforms including PC/Mac/Linux and mobile.