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Thimbleweed Park gets in-game hint hotline

Out of the weeds

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.

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