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'Thimbleweed Park' Knows Why People Like Me Give Up on Adventure Games

In its casual mode, 'Thimbleweed Park' offers a blissfully frustration-free adventure.

by Danielle Riendeau
Jan 30 2018, 4:13pm

All images courtesy Terrible Toybox

Open Thread is where Waypoint staff talk about games and other things we find interesting. This is where you'll see us chat about games, music, movies, TV, and even sports, and welcome you to participate in the discussion.

One night last weekend, I was looking for something decidedly chill to play and stream. With my girlfriend out on a weekend trip and a house of animals to keep an eye on, there was no way I could keep the pace with anything intensive. And frankly, I wanted something kind of warm and funny and possibly familiar to sink into.

I took a look at games in my PSN account, and hey! Thimbleweek Park! I kept meaning to play it all last year (it arrived first in February, and on Playstation 4 later last fall). Patrick had plenty of things to say about the game last winter, in a piece about the game’s puzzles and powerful nostalgia for point-and-click adventure games of the late 80s and 90s.

But Patrick’s lamentations about the more ridiculous puzzles apparently did not fall on deaf ears, because the developers implemented a Casual Mode. It’s in the version of the game I’m playing, and I’m not ashamed to say it is absolutely right for me.

Oh, sure, Casual Mode is supposedly for players who don’t have a ton of experience with the genre. It’s also for me—a person who is tired after a long week and wants the goofy humor (and certainly some of the puzzles), but none of the frustration that those older games, as great as they were, could drum up. The game’s most arcane solutions are excised, leaving you to play puzzles that have fairly simple solutions. There’s also a proper (and handy!) hint line that gives a couple of layers of direction. First, a vague hint to get you in the right place. Then stronger and more explicit instructions are available if you are well and truly stuck.

So, I’m having a great time with bargain bin Mulder and Scully—er, Agent Ray and Agent Reyes, the detectives trying to solve a bananas murder case in the even-more-bananas town of Thimbleweed Park.

There are some small frustrations—some of the language can be ableist (there’s a lady at the diner who seems to call everyone “crazy”), and Ray has a weird scene where she assumes another woman is a sex worker because of her clothes (what’s up with that?). And sure, I’m playing a point and click adventure on a gamepad—but that’s frankly something I need to do nowadays, given the state of my sorry paws.

In all other ways, the Casual Mode is giving me exactly the experience I want from this game. I’m breezing along from scene to scene, blowing by puzzles I know would’ve probably caused hours of “let’s combine every item with everything until something sticks,” and just enjoying a quirky, goofy, delightful little game.

How about you, readers? Have you had an experience like this, especially in a game that trades so much on nostalgia? Let us know in the forums!

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