The Park Review
The Park was developed and published by Funcom and released for Xbox One on May 3rd 2016. It is also available on Playstation 4 and Steam, and is priced at £10.39/$12.99. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels.
The Park is a psychological horror game set in a first person perspective. You play as Lorraine, a frantic mother on a quest to find her lost son in a sinister looking theme park. With a heavy emphasis on exploration and zero combat there initially seems like there isn’t much on offer here, however scratch under the surface and you’ll find a very atmospheric title that will have you hooked.
What I enjoyed:
A gruesome tale – Now if you don’t want to know too much about what happens in The Park I strongly advise that you skip this paragraph. The story is quite a dark tale at times with some fairly disturbing images. What starts as a simple quest to find your son quickly turns into a battle to keep your sanity. As you work through The Park you will find a lot of conveniently places newspaper articles or notes that you can read. I strongly advise that you do as it really helps to flesh out the story as to why the park is now a desolate shell. Cleverly the scares are kept to a minimum so when they do arrive it is often at a moment you are not expecting. Lorraine is a flawed character who clearly is struggling with the loss of her son as well as her sanity. There are several set-pieces that reveal more of just why Lorraine is the way she is with her bleak outlook in life. Her initial fear and worry starts to warp toward hatred for her son and it actually can be quite distressing to hear.
The theme park of fear – After seeing how effective the abandoned amusement park setting is for a game like this I really don’t understand why more games haven’t utilized a similar setting. A lot of the tension and fear is purely psychological but it can feel pretty relentless at times. The visuals are incredibly well done and help set the mood. You don’t actually see a lot of the main protagonist but he is definitely a memorable looking character. There is the odd occasion when some of the textures look a little flat but this only happens in a couple of sections so it doesn’t really affect the overall immersion. Make sure that you check out all of the theme park rides too, as apart from one exception you can actually ride them all which leads to some interesting scenarios.
Audio torture – One of the very first warnings The Park flashes up when loading is that the game should be experienced through a headset. I can absolutely say that this is a very smart move as it completely changes the entire experience. The sound is definitely the stand out feature here and left me feeling on edge the whole time I played. One of the mechanics you use for clues is to call out to your son who will give you clues as to what you have to do next. As you progress through The Park these calls become increasingly distressed and really help you feel the fear that Lorraine has for the welfare of her son. The ambient noise and music is also very well done and really builds tension, and as you progress Lorraine will start to reveal that she is not quite what she initially seems. One of my favorite parts of The Park was hearing a re imagining of Hansel & Gretel, complete with some devilishly good wall illustrations. Audio cues will actually purposely misdirect you and at times you can really feel disorientated although fortunately Atlantic Island Park is hard to get lost in due to the linear layout.
What I disliked:
Tiny text – I mentioned that the various newspaper clippings helped build the back story and develop the world of Lorraine, however that is only if you can actually read the text on screen. I play on a 55 inch screen and I still really struggled at times to see what was written. It’s a shame as I ended up skipping the ones I couldn’t read (which was far too often for my liking) which made me feel that I’d missed certain plot points. An easy fix for this would have been to have the main character narrate the items so that way nobody misses any interesting tidbits.
Pacing problems – I’m a massive fan of The Park however I do feel that the pacing was a little off. The first half of the game expertly builds the tension and really sets up the story to be something special, however it then seems to move along at an increasingly rapid pace which only manages to disrupt all of the atmosphere that has developed. The game itself can easily be finished in a little over an hour so I feel they could have spent a little more time fleshing out the story instead of wrapping it up as quickly as they did.
Going into The Park I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into as I had seen very little press about it, however I enjoyed this immensely. Some people may quibble about the relatively short game length however apart from the pacing issues I mentioned above this is a great story driven experience that is a must buy for those who are looking for some scares.
Score: Buy it now
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