The Park Review by Bryan Edge-Salois
ByDate: Nov 05 2015 Views:
The Park was created by Funcom (creators of The Secret World MMO) as a single-player horror ‘narrative experience’ that ties into The Secret World MMO. You don’t need to play The Secret World to appreciate or understand The Park, but if you are a Secret World player, you may recognize certain locations and references to the MMO.
The Park started at Funcom as something of an internal training exercise, evaluation,and an experiment with Unreal Engine 4. During development Funcom decided to create something they could release publicly.
Hence The Parkis less of a game and more of a narrative experience akin to The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and Dear Esther.
You play as Lorraine, a troubled mother hunting for Callum, her lost child. Callum, apparently overcoming the universal fear of scary f*cking clowns present in virtually every 8-year-old ever, goes missing in a creepy, old amusement park(prime real estate for scary-f*cking- clowns) in search of his lost teddy bear. He must love that bear.
Although The Park isn’t really a game, it still delivers a suitably creepy experience. The voice acting is excellent, and the Unreal Engine 4 is put to good use creating the dark, decaying remnants of an amusement park where anything might jump out at you from shadows at any given moment.
And few things are creepier than the denizens of old amusement parks, be they clowns, costumed characters ala 5 Nights at Freddy’s, carnies, and every other member of the supernatural freak show of characters that typically inhabit decaying amusement parks. The juxtaposition of jolly mirth and dark, twisted evil tugs at your heart strings, then slices them with laughing, bloody razors.
Or at least that’s what The Park wants you to think will happen. The most effective tension is the tension you create in yourself, and the The Park does a good job of ratcheting those tensions up without relying on cheap scares (although it boasts a couple that are pretty effective).
Unfortunately, despite the gorgeous environments and tense atmosphere, The Park isa largely linear experience with limited opportunity for interaction and exploration. You’ll want to look around all those nooks and crannies and open lots of doors — only to find most of the doors are locked, and you can’t jump, climb, or truly explore the depths of The Park the way you’d like too—even if it is just to find a hole to crawl into and cry until the sun rises.
Generally you just move through the amusement park, click a few things here and there (to read notes and activate switches mostly), and then enjoy a nice ride in the park—literally, because advancing the narrative depends upon you riding theme park rides, during which you get see creepy things happen and listen to character expositions that paint more of the story for you.
At first this seems like an idiotic and nonsensical way to advance the narrative, but it makes more sense as you progress. And in between the rides, Lorraine provides more bits of story and context that further reveal the story and fill in the bigger picture of what she’s going through. Notes scattered around the amusement park provide backstory for the theme park itself—suffice to say it’s not a happy one.
Over all the story is an interesting one and admittedly it kind of made me want to fire up The Secret World again. You’ll soon suspect as you progress through the story that Things May Not Be What They Seem.
But I won’t spoil any of it.
As much as I enjoyed The Park for what it is, I still have to confess that it feels more like a 90 minute teaser or demo for a better, deeper, and more involving game — something with the potential to be just as creepy (and better looking) than Frictional’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
That’s the game I really want to play, and I’d happily spend 8-10 hours in it.
The Park is (as of this writing) $12.99 on Steam, and seems a little expensive in terms of time-to-value. At most you can get 2 hours out of it. My entire play through was around 80 minutes. It does include some digital goodies you can claim for The Secret World, so if you play TSW it may be a little more worth your money.