Thimbleweed Park gets in-game hint hotline

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I’m constantly getting stuck in Thimbleweed Park [official site], the old-school adventure game from the creators of Maniac Mansion, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. I always seem to have an inventory full of loose popcorn, soot, a t-shirt and some dynamite with no clue as to how to combine them in order to get ice cream cake to a hungry ghost.

I thought I was just being dense, but it turns out that I’m not the only one who’s had issues. Fans and critics have remarked that the game needed a hint system and the team has, somewhat reluctantly, obliged. And not just any old hint system: a proper hint hotline you can call from the in-game phones, reminiscent of the real gaming hint lines of the ’80s.

Here’s Gilbert on the game’s development blog:

“I know this will cause the hardcore adventure gamer’s blood to boil (as it does mine), but the lack of hints was widely criticized by some of the more casual press. As we move to new and more casual platforms like iOS and Android, this becomes increasingly important. I guess it’s a sad fact about not only modern gamers, but older gamers that just don’t have 18 hours to spend on a game.”

Well, my blood is definitely not boiling: I think this is a smart addition. If players get really stuck they’re going to find a walkthrough online to help them out, so why not instead take control of the process and allow them to stay in the game?

Gilbert and the gang toyed with adding a portable ‘HintTron 3000™’ that you could combine with any item to get a hint, but instead decided to use the existing in-game phones. Players can dial 4468 [that’s HINT -rotary ed.] at any time for a spoiler-free steer in the right direction, with hints based on the online guide from Meghann O’Neill. Here’s Gilbert again:

“The advantage we had over a true 80s hint line was that we know the context of where you are in the game, so the hint line can be smart and focus down to hints we know you might needed, and ignore spoilers and other distractions.”

Thimbleweed park opening

It’s not the only change in this week’s latest update, either. New dialogue is in, with a “Talk To” action available for Delores, Ray, Reyes and Ransome, four of the main characters. The dialogue will reveal “plot clarifying” points to give players a better idea of what’s going on at that particular point in time.

The update also added new greetings between these characters when they walk past each other in the town, which doesn’t add any extra story but is designed to “make the world feel more alive and real”.

These changes, in particular the hint system, are a decent enough excuse to pick up the game if you haven’t already, especially if you’re an adventure game fan. Here’s Adam’s fairly glowing review, and you can buy it on Steam for £11.99 (20% off) or GOG for £14.99.

13 Comments

  1. GeoX says:

    Hmm…if the thought of those hated casual gamers using hints makes your blood boil, I feel like a serious reevaluation of your life is in order.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Those filthy casuals ruined everything, with their tie-dyed shirts, bell bottoms and long hair. But we’ll make our country great again.

  2. fuggles says:

    Yeah, the only reason I spent ages stuck on games was that I spent my day at school and there was no internet. Since then it’s been game FAQ after the first 20 minutes of sitting doing nothing – I don’t have spare time like I use to.

    Also it was bloody annoying to find you had missed the key pixel. Looking at you Simon the sorcerer.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      Damn straight. Advertising that your game has 60+ hours of gameplay these days is almost a surefire way to get me uninterested. When I was in highschool, different story.

      I look forward to the day when there’s a whole genre of games that can squeeze a meaningful experience into 20 minutes.

  3. Del Boy says:

    Quite surprised as I’m bloody awful at adventure games but me and my daughter breezed through this. GOTY so far.

  4. Caiman says:

    I didn’t like this quite as much as Paradigm (which was far easier but much funnier) but it was still a great experience. Well, maybe not the ending. Still I really hope we see Ron and Gary come up with another, it’s clearly their forte.

  5. April March says:

    I didn’t get this game partly because I knew it’d have this outlook. There are a group of people who fondly remember adventure games for being hard, but most people remember them for having good stories. Puzzles are only memorable for being nigh unsolvable. To me, trying to recreate 80’s adventure games by putting obscure puzzles in it is like trying to recreate N64’s Goldeneye and focusing it on not having reload animations.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Not sure what you mean by “this outlook.” The puzzles in the game are uniformly fair and solveable, FAR more than actual adventure games of the age its emulating.

    • Premium User Badge

      Angstsmurf says:

      People remembering adventure games for having good stories have false memories. I can’t think of a single example that would be considered a good story if it was a book or a movie rather than a game.

      The main reason I remember them fondly is probably the kick you get out of finally solving those frustrating puzzles.

  6. lancelot says:

    I don’t think the extra dialogs are going to help much. Most of the game is still lots of very mechanical “use X on Y”, very loosely tied to the story and often without a clear idea about what the game wants you to do.

    The big reveals about the two agents are just a few very uninspired lines of dialog. In the case of Ransome, we’re given some backstory, and then it’s completely irrelevant for most of the game, there is no development, and the only thing unique to him gameplay-wise is that, absurdly, he’s the only one not afraid of heights. It’s like they thought up a cool character and decided that was enough.

  7. TheSplund says:

    Not bought it yet, though it is on my list, but I seem to recall one or two other games that had an in-game hint system. Always remember UHS-hints and, having a limited slow dial-up, only getting the first 2/3rds of the hints in a single download (freeware version)

  8. funky_mollusk says:

    Haha… I remember how frustrating 80s adventure games were! Oh wait: this is modern??? So nostalgia trumps playability huh? OK then. derp…

  9. Franchie says:

    To me, trying to recreate 80’s adventure games by putting obscure puzzles in it is like trying to recreate N64’s Goldeneye and focusing it on not having reload animations.