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Theme Park Horror?

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    The Park

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    Theme Park Horror?

    I’ve definitely got a soft spot for Horror Games, so when I saw "The Park" on PSN and the title image has a demonic-looking squirrel in a Theme Park, I mean… how do you say no!? Well, fellow gamer, let my habit of picking up any horror title help you out below as we go through what "The Park" is all about.

    In "The Park", you play as a single mother named Lorraine, who is in the parking lot of "Atlantic Island Park" with her son Callum, just as the park is closing. Being a young kid, Callum has lost something in the park, but as you go to talk to an employee about it the little brat runs back inside, leaving it to us to chase after him. However, upon entering the park again Lorraine will soon find out the park has taken a twisted turn.

    OK, with that intro out of the way, let’s talk about the story. First, let me just say this game can rightly be called a "Walking Simulator", which basically means there’s no actual "game play" to be had in this game (similar examples are games like "Firewatch" or "Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture"). Therefore, the story (and atmosphere) really are the biggest selling points with a title like this.

    The story here (of course) focuses on finding Callum, who has no intention of being found until we’ve just about fully explored the Theme Park. But along the way, you’ll also find documents and newspapers that tell you the sordid history of the park (creepy squirrel mascot included) and its eccentric owner. These story snippets are generally amusing and interesting for sure, but only really provide a small taste of horror and the game as a whole doesn’t do a good job on following up on these documents in a satisfying way.

    The other aspect the story is Lorraine herself. This poor woman has clearly been through a lot in life, as her monologue will share with us as she walks through the park, looking for Callum. The narration here is great, but the park also drives this home with as Lorraine experiences bouts of psychological delusions from time to time. These were probably my favorite story-parts of the game as a whole. Particularly a section near the end that featured repeating graphical segments that changed slowly over the time (much like "P.T.").

    Overall, the story present here is thoroughly "OK". It’s nothing that’s going to leave you shocked or have you insisting your friends play through this game to experience, but it’s not garbage either. Lorraine, her psychological delusions, and the park’s history are definitely the highlights here, but the game does a poor job of tying them all together. In particular, the park and it’s owner is very under-explored here and just plain comes off as forgotten by the time the credits roll, which is a shame.

    With no game play to discuss (you are literally just walking around, occasionally pressing "X" to look at notes), let’s jump right to the graphics. For a budget title, the environments themselves are done well. There’s not a lot of detail to be found throughout the game, but the general feel of a "spooky theme park" is achieved.

    You don’t get to see a lot of characters throughout the game, but when you do it is generally timed well for affect and the models are decent. You do get to see yourself at one point (in some haunted house mirrors… go figure…) and THAT model was honestly pretty sub-par. The audio throughout the game was solid. The various voice actors provided a solid performance (especially Lorraine) and helped keep the (relatively short and un-engaging) story interesting. Sound effects were all pretty standard, but did their job well with nothing negative or overly positive about them. Overall though, the graphics and audio through the game were solid but relatively unmemorable.

    The other thing that really holds "The Park" back is how utterly short the game is. This goes back to my previous point about the story never really coming together, as I felt the game just had several threads left un-explored by the end, which is just ultimately unsatisfying, especially for a game that relies on its narrative as the main attraction.

    To illustrate how "short" the game really is, according to PSN Profiles, I beat the game in 1 Hour and 16 Minutes. You could probably push that down to an hour if you tried. There are a handful of trophies to obtain throughout the game, including some miss-able ones (use a guide if you don’t want to play through this twice…), but the game doesn’t include a Platinum Trophy. Much too short for that.

    Overall: 5/10

    While the story does indeed have some potential (I enjoyed the "world lore" and psychological sections), it ultimately doesn’t follow up in a satisfying way. And even solid graphics and audio can’t change the fact that this is a very short game with no re-playability. If you’re an absolute horror buff who has to get his hands on every horror game that comes out… sure, give this a play through. Buy it when it’s on sale. If that’s not you though, you’re really not missing too much by skipping this title. Hopefully this review has helped you out and don’t forget to have fun and keep playing!

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