The Park Review (PS4) – Dammit Callum!

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Developer: FunCom
Publisher: FunCom

The Park (a spin-off from FunCom’s The Secret World) is a short story driven psychology horror game with no combat and plays as a ‘walking simulator’ with moments of interaction with clues. While there aren’t many, there’s just enough interactivity and interest from Lorraine’s narrative, who is the mother you play as. It takes place at an amusement park where Callum, her son, runs into the Atlantic Island  amusement park, that is just about to close for the day. Yes you guessed it, you have to venture into the park and find the kid. This is where things start to get creepy.

The Park Lorraine

As you begin The Park, you’ll find it difficult not to dislike Callum because he runs straight into the amusement park when it’s already been closed for the day. First of all, screw Callum and second of all, talk about a cliché start! But usually in most cases, there wouldn’t be a horror game or film without one of the character’s lacking common sense.

Slow start, but it picks up

The game starts off well for the first 10 minutes or so, but that’s where it gets a little slow and it’s almost a forced effort to get through the dry bits because it does pick up during the second half of the game and it’s worth sticking it through to get to that part. One part of the problem is that there isn’t much being told during the first half and that’s partly why the game lacks. The other part of the problem is that as you gather more clues, things start to get a little more predictable (just after halfway through the game) because you begin to piece things together and you figure out why Callum ran into the amusement park.

The second half of the game, particularly the ending, is however far more interesting, and the only reason is because questions (why the Atlantic Island theme park?) that you may have are starting to get answered, and things begin to make sense, especially when Lorraine begins to see…’things’.

One of the aspects of the game that I love about the game is the manner in which the Hansel and Gretel tale is told, especially with the surprising twist added in to it. I’ll refrain from saying anymore because you know how much I loathe spoilers! The game also explores deeper themes, which I enjoyed, but if I mention them in this review, I’m afraid I’ll give away the story, and I don’t want to deprive you of discovering it for yourself.

More of a thriller than a horror

Despite the initial warning before starting the game and the genre it’s been placed in, it’s more of a psychology thriller with horror elements because there isn’t much ‘horror’ in the game. This is coming from me, who isn’t the best at dealing with horror (I even had the curtains drawn and the lights off to get in the mood)! There are a couple of jump scares that aren’t particularly all that scary, but the game does make you feel uneasy at times because it plays on a very real fear of ‘being alone’ in a deserted theme park. Even the most hardened of horror fans would feel terrified. But overall, it’s not particularly ‘frightening’.

The Park Bumper Cars

It’s no secret that The Park features a menacing chipmunk, it’s even on the front cover. It’s safe to say that if you already don’t trust chipmunks or aren’t too fond of amusement parks, you’re likely to despise them after playing this game.

It’s another short game

It’s been emphasised that The Park is a short game that lasts two hours, at best and FunCom seem very confident that there is a place for shorter, more intense experiences and this is their way of going about it and I agree with this. There are many games that take hours to complete, yet they’re mediocre and they cost heap of money, but with shorter games, smaller studios can focus on the quality of the game.

Let’s get real here, it ultimately comes down to how much two hours is worth to you. You can grab The Park for $12.99 (the same price as a movie), which isn’t really that much and I think it’s a good price compared to other similar games such as Gone Home and Dear Esther. A lot of people complain that some games are too short and it’s not justified because such games are meant to be short. It’s whether or not the prices for them are justified.

The Park does well to immerse you in this terrifying and dark amusement park by combining the chilling voice of Callum as you call out for him and the atmospheric environment that you traverse through makes you feel uneasy. You’re always turning around to see if anything is behind you and that’s what I did throughout the game because of the constant noises. This is where the game feels more like an experience than just a game and it does it very well in that regard.

The Park Atlantic Island

Another thing that the game does well is its voice acting, more so Lorraine’s because you can feel terror in her voice as she struggles to find Callum and as she herself, maybe even becomes insane the longer she lingers inside the park.

It’s a unique experience, even for a horror game and although I enjoyed it, I can only recommend it to you if you’re into the shorter games with little interaction, but as a whole the game is dragged down because of the first half of the game, or rather for the first two rides. It’s a very difficult one to recommend because parts of it are extremely well designed, whereas other parts aren’t done as well. If you’re a horror fan and like these shorter games however, then you should definitely at least try it out.

Score: 73%

What’s your take on short game experiences?

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