Review: The Park (PC)

THE PARK bannerPlatform: PC
Developer/Publisher: Funcom
MSRP: $9.99
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Official Site
Score: B (80%)

Although it’s set in The Secret World universe, no previous experience with that MMO is needed to get a jolt or two from The Park, Funcom’s short psychological horror adventure that’s both a nice looking and eventually haunting game experience. It’s not without flaws that make parts a lot less immersive than they should have been and as an experiment in storytelling it relies on too much inner dialogue from the main character that makes her sound more like a writer working on a short story in her head more than a worried parent. That said, if you’re in the right mood on the right dark night, the game will eventually get its creepy points across and right under your skin.

The_Park_Screenshot_6_1080 

When her child, Callum, goes missing during a trip to a shuttered amusement park with his single mother, Lorraine, she heads into the gloomy, deserted venue in order to track him down. That’s the simplistic way of telling the story without spoiling much because the game experience is actually fairly short, clocking in at about two hours if you take your time and do as much as possible. As Lorraine makes her way around the park calling out her son’s name, she ends up making the rounds of the few rides and attractions while talking to herself (internally and externally), finding newspaper clippings and other notes that detail the park’s not so safe past history.

The_Park_Screenshot_5_1080 

The scares here range from the overall atmosphere of park, the well-worn but still working rides and the general feeling of helplessness as Callum’s voice gets further and further away from Lorraine as she goes after him. The game works its spell well in those moments where you may feel as jumpy as Lorraine does as she tries to pinpoint exactly where Callum is, but somehow gets sidetracked into taking one of the rides. Actually, the rides are part of the story and going on each advances the plot as Lorraine’s inner voice and other elements spell things out in assorted pieces. The writing is fine for the most part, but the story almost seems more like an allegory and less like a story about a mother desperately searching for her kid.

Intentional or not, there are nods to both the original Silent Hill on the PlayStation (the parent looking for a lost child in a strangely familiar but unknown location) and the now dead P.T. demo (traveling about in circles in the park’s haunted house attraction). Naturally, anyone who’s not played either game won’t know or care about the connections and they become moot thanks to the parts of the game that work well. As this is supposed to be a short experience, it’s pretty impossible to become lost and Lorraine’s interaction with the game world is minimal at best. Yes, it would have been excellent to have more objects to mess around with in the environment and sure, the game isn’t going to make you run screaming out of the room (or post stupid “reaction” videos to what happens). But there’s a sinking feeling that sets in early on and fits the non-interactive end sequence nicely.

The_Park_Screenshot_2_1080 

That said, there’s an odd point in the game where Lorraine has a mood swing into a weird place, but this may be part of the game’s design. Her mental state doesn’t seem to be in a great place when the game begins, so perhaps that moment in question as well as some of the transition scenes where she just appears in the rides after choosing to go on them could be seen as an erratic mental condition. By the end of the game you’ll either be mild to moderately creeped out or somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t more to experience. As noted, the writing tends to rely less on giving Lorraine a personality and more on giving her things to say that nudge the plot along. Yes, she’s a digital character, but given she’s also desperately searching for her child, there should be more emotion in play that help put players more in her shoes.

That said, as an experimental game, The Park works quite well and certainly doesn’t wear out its welcome. It’s not reinventing the wheel at all, but it does more than enough to grab your hand and take you for an unsettling ride that will linger in your head for a bit.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Review: The Park (PC)

  1. This is one of those games that even though the replay value is pretty low, there were things that I missed in my playthrough of it that I read about later and it made me think a bit more about what happened, and it’s also one of those games that really leaves you questioning things later on when you think about it, specifically about whether what we see in the game is meant to be literal, an allegory or metaphor for a larger state of mind, or somewhere in the middle, and then mix in to that the ties from TSW (and the recent event in that game), and you end up just having to come up with your own perspective on what transpired.

    Like

    • I think that the replay value thing is going to bug some people, however, as you noted, missing stuff and interpreting what you’ve experienced actually makes the game something to go back to at some point. I guess it’s like a decent short story where you read it, stick it back on the bookshelf and at some point go back to it because it’s worth a second look. I’d actually love to see this pop up as a console game just to test the waters where other SP horror games like it have seemed to do well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s very true. I know that Slender: The Arrival was met pretty well when it was ported to the Wii U, and so I wonder if a game like this could benefit there as well?

        Like

      • I dunno if that game engine can run on the Wii U, but if it’s able to, I’d love to see The Park end up on that platform for sure.

        Like

      • If Slender: The Arrival could make it on the Wii U (and in my opinion that game has pretty great graphics), I would imagine The Park could. But…Who knows! Anyway, it would be cool for sure 🙂

        Like

      • Absolutely. Although, the Wii U seems to have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to some ports (Watch Dogs, Mass Effect 3: SE, Assassin’s Creed III & IV, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Darksiders II, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and so forth and so on). Still, for folks who ONLY own a Wii U, these games and others are more than acceptable versions. The good thing is, in terms of content, the Wii U also gets bonuses not found in some of the other versions (Batman: Arkham City comes to mind) which makes those versions somewhat definitive.

        Like

      • Absolutely. Although, the Wii U seems to have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to some ports (Watch Dogs, Mass Effect 3: SE, Assassin’s Creed III & IV, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Darksiders II, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and so forth and so on). Still, for folks who ONLY own a Wii U, these games and others are more than acceptable versions. The good thing is, in terms of content, the Wii U also gets bonuses not found in some of the other versions (Batman: Arkham City comes to mind) which makes those versions somewhat definitive. I’m still a bit ticked off that poor Project CARS was canned after some years of work by the developer who couldn’t get it running at an acceptable frame rate. But I also understand that a realistic racing game with all those physics, weather effects, damage and more was probably way too much for the console to handle without some major reworking. Ah well…

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.