One of the most joyful things about point and click adventures is that you can construct the most wonderfully ridiculous sentences around them. Like: ‘I can’t figure out how to turn off the radio. I know it has something to do with the homeless guy in jail, and fixing the old pocket watch.’ Or: ‘I’ve reprogrammed the robots and got the blast door open, but can’t work out how to get past the “Certin Death” arms.’ Out of context they sound like the fevered ramblings of a novelist trying to write an airport spy thriller. In context they make perfect sense.
Those aren’t examples that I’ve made up for comic effect, though. They’re things I myself had to say to another real human being. The context was playing Thimbleweed Park. And the thing is that they do make sense in context. A common complaint levelled at point and click adventures is that the solutions never really make sense until after you’ve done them: you must either accomplish Machiavellian twists of reasoning, or systematically use everything in your inventory on everything else, until something happens. In Thimbleweed Park you can always see the shape of the next thing you need to do. You probably already have a couple of pieces you need to do it, but you have to figure out how they fit together.
Thimbleweed Park (from a team lead by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, famously behind most of the iconic games produced by Lucasfilm) takes all the best parts of classic adventure games and leaves out the flaws The controls are streamlined to make it easier to play, you get an objective list of sorts to keep you on track, and if you find your inventory is getting full you can throw away things that turn out to be useless. Saying that, though, I’m not convinced a menu taking up the bottom screen adds anything other than a tug on nostalgic heartstrings, and there was, it must be said, one large and significant puzzle that whiffed of the old school. I don’t think the intra-game prods would ever have been enough to get me to the solution without an extra-game shove.
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