NOTE: The Park is a short and intense story-driven game and the following will most likely contain spoilers (especially the walkthrough video at the bottom of this review!). While I did my best to keep major plot points out of the review text, the video is a FULL WALKTHROUGH and will reveal every aspect of the game. You are advised to play the game before trying to watch the video, so as not to spoil anything!
I was so excited for this game to come out that I could hardly contain myself. Games like The Park tend to be among my favorite games to play – very atmospheric, story-centric, lots of discovery… and plenty of good scares tossed in. This was actually the first game that I recorded a full walkthrough for, and while you can’t really hear me talking – you can definitely hear me scream! Check out the full walkthrough at the end of this review (WARNING – spoilers will obviously be in the video!).
The Park was created by Funcom, one of my favorite game developers and creators of The Secret World as well as an ultimate favorite game of mine – The Longest Journey. They’re also local to me in Durham, North Carolina, which is awesome – so many great game developers around here, I had no idea!
You play the game as protagonist Lorraine, a young mother, who is forced to explore a creepy-as-hell amusement park in order to find her son, Callum, when he bolts inside at closing time. Think Silent Hill meets Dark Ride… kinda. Throughout the park, you come across several rides, journal entries from the park’s owner, newspaper clippings, and a variety of other things which add great detail to the story as it unfolds.
As you explore the park, you are led down a path of amusement park rides. Riding the rides is required to progress throughout the game, and of course the tried and true standards are included like the bumper cars, rollercoaster, and ferris wheel (but my personal favorite was the Tunnel of Tales!). Every once in a while, you can expect to come across a spectre of a guy in a chipmunk suit with glowing red eyes – Chad. Chad is not cool. We don’t like Chad (refer to 57:40 of my YouTube video above, and you’ll get an idea why).
With each park ride you take, more and more of the story is brought to light, and the real demons that are haunting Lorraine are brought forth. I’ll be honest and say I caught on pretty quickly to what was going on – but I won’t spoil it for you… because playing the game through the story’s end is completely worth it.
The gameplay is pretty straight forward – WSAD to move, left mouse button to examine something, right mouse button to use your “Scream to Callum” ability – which is quite handy for figuring out where to go next if you get lost, I might add. The game is quite linear, which is only slightly disappointing as the story is very well written and the atmosphere is just gorgeous and entertaining to explore.
The amount of detail in all of the visuals is stunning, and the lighting is rendered quite perfectly – which is very important, in my opinion, especially when trying to create creepy, thrilling atmospheres. To put it quite plainly, the lighting (or lack thereof) in The Park is on point.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this game is that despite being psychological horror, it’s actually quite casual gameplay. There’s nothing incredibly challenging that you need to do – no puzzles to solve, no items to collect, no time frame to adhere to. The game does one very specific thing – allows you to follow the story line from beginning to end, at a comfortable pace, enjoying the scenes you’re presented with in your own time. I am thankful for that in games like this, because it gives me the opportunity to really focus on the plot and visuals and artwork (which to be honest, are my favorite part of horror games anyway!), and doesn’t bother you with any of the complexities of a cryptic puzzler.
When you finally reach the penultimate stage of the game, you should have a pretty decent idea of just what is happening, and how the game might end. Like I said, I caught on pretty quickly, but the ending is a supreme, pardon my French, mind-fuck that is well worth seeing through. I found myself thinking, “Man, this just keeps getting worse and worse!” more than once. Play the game, and you’re sure to see why.
My only real complaint about this game would be that it was really short – I finished it in just under two hours. So, if you’re hoping that this game will keep you playing for days, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I tend to never want games like this to end, but until someone makes my fantasy come true of an open world, psychological horror game, I am happy to continue playing all the well-written, beautifully rendered and stunningly scored games I can get my hands on. I knew going in that it was going to be a short, but intense ride, and I tried to prolong it as long as possible; it was just so gorgeous, I didn’t want it to be over!
I will give you one warning though – the number of times I screamed while playing this game is quite comical. Jump scares where you don’t expect! But yet another reason for my love for all things horror… it makes you feel alive!
Ultimately, I’d say Funcom hit it out of… The Park (hee hee – yeah, I’ll see myself out).
WARNING: The video below is a FULL WALKTHROUGH of the game! Please do not watch this video if you intend to play the game yourself. The Park is a short and intense story-driven game and the following will contain spoilers. You’ve been warned!