If you’re a player of a certain vintage, you’ll know who Ron Gilbert is. Along with Gary Winnick, the pair effectively created the ‘point and click’ adventure genre as we know it through games such as Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island.
Like a fondly-remembered band getting back together again, the duo reunited for Thimbleweed Park, a modern adventure game which deliberately looks like it was made in 1987. It’s even got the same interaction systems, oddly-animated pixel art and kooky voiceovers of those early games.
Most importantly, it’s got the wit and freewheeling silliness of the originals, too. “One of our goals was to see if we could recapture the charm of the classic adventure games,” explains Gilbert, now boss of studio Terrible Toybox. “We set out to design and build a game like we would have back in 1987, but also look at the design from a modern perspective, removing all the rough edges those games had without losing any of the charm.”
The result is a mix of exploration and puzzle-solving, wrapped in a narrative peppered with fourth wall-breaking dialogue. It begins with a murder down by a river, a couple of detectives fresh on the case and later moves into the titular town, which of course contains dark secrets and weird characters aplenty.
Before you get into all that, you’re offered the choice of the gentler ‘Casual mode’ or the authentic, 1987-style ‘Hard Mode’. “A lot of players of the classic adventure games have moved on from PC gaming, and we hope they can rediscover the charm by playing on iOS,” adds Gilbert. “There are also new players that game primarily on iOS and will now be able to play an all-new classic adventure game.”
It’s a welcome concession, allowing for those with modern tastes to ease themselves in while allowing point-and-click genre faithfuls to relive this genre’s early nineties heyday. Whichever of these you are, there are postmodern surprises and gags aplenty in Thimbleweed Park, proving that sometimes, it’s worth getting the old band back together again.