From developer Funcom, The Park pits the player against unknown evil forces within a seemingly abandoned amusement park. And while the setting was fresh and unnerving, the game as a whole was just mediocre.
In The Park, you play Lorraine, who somehow manages to lose her kid in an amusement park after her kid takes off from the car in the parking lot—probably to find his lost teddy bear he kept moaning about. But as you re-enter the park, it becomes this Silent-Hill-like environment with rides that control themselves and you keep getting these strange bouts of dizziness, as if a memory is trying to push itself into the front of your head. Calling out to your kid, you wander around the park and begin to learn some pretty weird and horrifying things have happened there. But that doesn’t stop you from looking for your son. Check out the trailer below.
The first thing I immediately took note of in the PlayStation 4 version of The Park was the controls. Moving Lorraine around with the analog sticks was a little janky in the sense that one small flick of my analog sent my character flying—it was very sensitive and while some players like that (like those who turn up the dpi on their gaming mice), I can’t stand it, but I forced myself to get used to it. Although it made moving around feel really frantic and I routinely bumped into objects.
The game itself is very pretty with mountains reaching towards the sky in the background and stars twinkling overhead. But I found it hilarious to watch the rendering up ahead of me when walking, seeing the details of the bushes and trees suddenly appear when I reached a certain distance. I didn’t mind that so much because it didn’t really affect me. I also noticed when you look up into the sky, the stars are all formed in a certain repeating pattern and I was a little bummed about that because I love stargazing in games. It just kind of removed me from the game, like “Oh yeah, that’s right. This is just a game and those stars are fake.” However, I loved how I could interact with the rides in the park. I especially loved the swan ride that tells the story of Hansel and Gretel. It must’ve unnerved me, because every time my boat bumped the wall on curves in the track, I jumped and prepared for the worst.
I think the most upsetting part of the whole game for me could be narrowed down to two moments. The first moment was when I was skulking around the little carnival booths and I came upon a corpse behind one of the booths. When I turned around, I didn’t get the full effect of the shock of seeing the first entity in the park because these blasted controls shot my camera way to the right so I was staring at the ground when it happened.
The second moment that ruined it for me was when Lorraine gets onto the rollercoaster and this strange voice starts having a conversation with her. The voice basically reveals “Oh hey, we have your son and you. You’re screwed. And there’s nothing you can do about it.” So rather than rely on subtle atmospheric dread and horror, there’s a voice all of a sudden speaking directly to me on the rollercoaster? Do you remember hearing any voices talking to you in clear language in Silent Hill or Fatal Frame? The blatant loudness and sheer “Oh hey what’s up” feeling I got from that moment just totally destroyed how I felt about the game—or at least is one of the reasons I’m calling it mediocre. Because when it comes to survival horror like this that really tries to harness atmospheric terror, you can’t be so blunt about the way this horror is perceived by the player. It has to be inklings of horror, droplets that just tease them into wanting to know more, to understand more. But this moment on the rollercoaster felt cheesy and forced and I didn’t like it.
Another thing I didn’t like about the game was reading the notes. Usually in a horror game, you collect articles or notes that you find along the way which help explain the story. And because so many people play these games on consoles as they sit about 15 feet from the TV on the couch, usually developers will include an image of the note and then the text in larger and clearer font. But in The Park, I couldn’t see a damn thing. I ended up skipping notes because I couldn’t read them and didn’t want to keep getting off the couch. And that’s too bad, because I really enjoy reading these kinds of notes in horror games. They really set the tone.
To help explain the happenings in the park (which are found on notes you find throughout the game), Funcom released a mockumentary on the park and all of the strange occurrences there. You can check that out below.
Atlantic Island Park is actually a setting in the MMO, The Secret World. While I enjoy the nod to the MMO, I just wish the game had been a little more rooted in original survival horror, something that I could’ve walked away from and thought to myself “wow, that was truly a terrifying experience.” And while it wasn’t a terrible game, it just didn’t meet my expectations for a horror experience.
This review based on a PS4 copy of the content provided by the publisher.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC