Version reviewed – Xbox One.
When it comes to survival horror, and scary games in general, I’ve always been the type to half watch the action from behind the sofa through my fingers. It’s a genre I always find myself questioning whether I’m actually enjoying the game, or simply enduring it.
So it was with trepidation tinged steps that I embarked upon a journey through Funcom’s terror soaked new game, The Park. Here’s how it played out.
Right from the off I was tense, a mother leaves her young son in a deserted theme park car park as she goes to enquire about a missing teddy bear. The youngster nips past her as she’s engaged in chat and we then begin the chase as she searches for her child.
It becomes immediately apparent that not everything is as it seems and as the first inner monologue from the Mother’s perspective plays, the journey takes our hand for a journey down some very dark roads. The writing is really quite powerful, and in combination with some excellent voice work I found myself completely absorbed by the unfolding of a tale that was in turns shocking, and heartbreaking.
The strength of the script and voice talent is the bond that holds the game together. In terms of gameplay there’s not a great deal taking place. The basic premise sees the player walking through the park, getting deeper and ever more unhinged or scared insights into the Mother’s psyche, riding a few of the attractions, and undergoing frequent moments of pure jump scare terror, or skin crawling creepiness.
Despite the limited options in terms of what can be done as a player, The Park managed to keep me hooked until the close, maybe an hour and a half later. That’s all the playtime on offer and replay value is slim to none, but it’s about right for what it is.
The park’s attractions can be ridden in a first person perspective and it proves a bit hit and miss. For example, where the rollercoaster provides a short fun blast, the opening swan ride proves a torturous few minutes of absolute tedium that can’t be skipped once you buckle in for the trip.
The scares are plentiful and did a great job of making my heart pound heavy in my chest. One in particular almost lifted me from my seat, but the whole lot are spot on and really emphasise the tension in the air. The walk through the witches mouth towards the end of the game plays as a wonderful spiralling journey through madness, addiction and the struggle to cope and will live long in my memory.
Graphically The Park is pretty workmanlike, quite last gen in its looks, but sufficient to carry the game along without any gripes.
As I said, the game is short, and there’s not a lot can be said of plot without detracting from the experience, but if you seek a short scary trip through someone’s nightmare, peppered with some genuinely fantastic jump scares, then The Park will tick those boxes. It isn’t perfect and it is limited in its stay, but it does prove gripping before it leaves. Approach the game more as a storytelling experience to be soaked up and embraced rather than a game with action and options and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by what The Park delivers.
The Park is part game, part mesmerising storytelling session. Mixed in to the frequent dose of shocking jump scares, is a tale that delivers horror and heartbreak in equally hard hitting measure. Short but worth your time.