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Archive for May 31st, 2020

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Lockdown diaries – Volume three: Thimbleweed Park

Well, this lockdown diaries thing never really took off, did it? Never mind. I at least managed one entry in May, in the final few hours of stoppage time.

I try and avoid play computer games. This isn’t because I don’t like them, quite the opposite in fact. I have spent possibly hundreds of thousands of hours playing them, ever since I got a Game Gear for Christmas in 1992.

The main reason that I try and avoid games is because I get addicted very easily, to the extent where it becomes all-consuming and I’m unable to concentrate on anything else. I become irritable and distracted, constantly thinking about the game in any time that I’m away from it.

The most effective way of going cold turkey and getting clean was to not take my PS3 with me when I moved to London. I think the last game I played was in 2011 and was Telltale’s Back to the Future games, which were highly enjoyable. I’m still using the same laptop as I write this, which tells you how out of date my computer is. That’s the other thing about computer games: technology moves on so quickly and it can cost a lot of money to keep up with the latest stuff.

I’m not one for online multiplayer games. For me, a game with a good story is what it’s all about. This is for the sake of my own health as much as anything else. With a story, I at least have a way out afterwards instead of continuing playing forever.

The reason I am writing about computer games is that I have recently fallen off the wagon in the best possible way. The other week, I spent around 17 hours playing Thimbleweed Park in about two and a half days.

In case you didn’t know, it’s an adventure game made by Ron Gilbert – creator of Monkey Island – thanks to crowdfunding. It is clearly made by people who want to make adventure games because of a genuine love for them, no other reason.

The MKI influence is for all to see, as well as Day of the Tentacle – where you can switch between different characters to complete the puzzles. There are also references aplenty to the glorious games of the past.

A sweary clown pushing over a mime on stilts and then the mime’s furious reactions are some of the biggest laughs I’ve had from a game in years. It’s well up there with ruining someone’s stamp collection in Day of the Tentacle.

The sheer amount of writing that has gone onto it is impressive, especially in the libraries where titles, blurbs and extracts for what seems like thousands of books have been written despite them playing no real part in the larger game.

If you’re playing the hard version, some of the puzzles can be tough to crack. Thankfully, there’s a handy in-game hotline you can call for hints. It’s just as well it’s not a real hotline, as I dread to think what my phone bill would be.

I think it is safe to put Thimbleweed Park well up there with the very best adventure games. It’s full of off-beat humour, great ideas, mystery and intrigue. You never quite know what a character’s true motives are, or exactly where the story is going. It takes quite a meta twist towards the end, but I’m fine with that kind of thing.

After completing it, I was instantly left wanting more. This was possibly due to my addiction levels being in full swing. Fortunately, Ron Gilbert was bored during lockdown made an expansion pack with some more levels. I’ve not played it yet, but am looking forward to in the not too distant future once I’ve had some time out.

They don’t really make adventure games any more, and it looks all the more inevitable that Disney is just going to sit on its vault of LucasArts magic instead of sharing those timeless characters with the world again. And with Telltale now also fallen, it further reduces the chances of new adventure games being made.

But I’m just glad people like Ron Gilbert are out there who are still making new additions to the adventure game legacy.