My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!
#5 Thimbleweed Park
I adore the adventure game genre. When I say ‘adventure game’ I’m specifically referring to point and click, puzzle-based games. There’s no question the Golden Age was in the 90s, during the reign of Sierra and LucasArts. I was firmly in the former camp instead of the latter, yet I fell completely in love with Thimbleweed Park, developer Ron Gilbert’s love letter to classic LucasArts adventure games.
Thimbleweed Park most resembles Maniac Mansion, Gilbert’s seminal 80s adventure game that birthed the beloved SCUMM engine that would power many of LucasArts’ adventures throughout the 80s and 90s.
I never actually played Maniac Mansion but Thimbleweed Park easily stands on its own thanks to clever puzzle designs and an interesting narrative that weaves together the stories of five different playable characters around a mysterious small town, including a surly clown, a promising young game developer, and her recently deceased dad-turned ghost.
The pixelated graphics are absolutely perfect, and never rely on pixel-hunting to find objects. After introducing all our players we’re eventually given the freedom to switch between them, letting me tackle multiple puzzles at once. It’s a great solution to getting stuck in the same place and succumbing to the adventure game equivalent of writer’s block.
The story is particularly compelling, and goes in some fascinatingly bizarre places before ratcheting up into a fairly crazy awesome ending. It’s also funny as hell, as LucasArts adventure games were wont to be, with lots of self-referential humor that fit perfectly. This is a game that knew exactly what it was and loved every minute of it, and so did I.