Game: The Park
Time Played: 2.3 hours
It’s another game that shouldn’t be listed as a Steam Challenge, since I purchased and completed The Park all on the same day. So it’s not a backlog game, but I’m still dropping it in the same series. 😄
The Park is a game I’ve been waiting for. It takes place in haunted amusement park in The Secret World MMO, a game that I’ve played and enjoyed since launch. Being almost Halloween, it seemed like the perfect fit. Plus, I really respect the designers and writers for The Secret World, and I’m all for supporting FunCom.
What is The Park?
The game describes itself as:
Set in a creepy amusement park hiding a dark and sinister secret, The Park is a first-person psychological horror experience focused on exploration and storytelling.
This does a good job at summing up the game.
I’m going to throw this out there right now. The Park is about a 2 hour long experience. I’ve heard some gnashing of teeth about cost vs. time, so that’s something to consider.
Some folks have described it as one in the “walking simulator” genre, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The whole point of the game is to explore the environments, investigate the items (notes, newspaper clippings, etc), ride the rides (mwahahah), and ultimately learn the story behind the main character, Lorraine.
There are no puzzles (aside from navigating a few mazelike rooms), there are no enemies that act as a threat to Lorraine. There are a few jump-scares, but most of the fear-factor comes from the heavy sense of dread and unease that fills the park.
You play Lorraine who has lost her young son, Callum, in the Atlantic Island Amusement Park. Or has she? Hmm…
Though it’s based on a location from TSW, and will be that more rich to players who are familiar with the park’s history already, playing TSW is not required to enjoy The Park. I will say, however, that I learned a lot more from the clippings and notes in The Park about this location and what was actually happening here than I did from all the quests I played in TSW. I guess I was more worried about beating off insane carnies in the MMO environment.
What Is The Park, Really?
Warning: Mild spoilers.
It’s just impossible to talk about this game without going into the themes the game represents.
At first, the game appears to be about the park itself. The objective is to find Callum, Lorraine’s lost son. While walking through the creepy amusement park, you can prompt Lorraine to call out to Callum. Very often, Callum will respond, urging his mother to follow. Though sometimes, the response you get grows more and more disturbing.
The game sets up the dark atmosphere and history of the park perfectly. The place looks fantastic, and the rides, which are familiar to me from TSW, are great to see again. In fact, I got a hankering to log into TSW while exploring the park and learning about it.
About halfway through the exploration, the game starts to shift. It becomes less about the park (though the dark and twisted powers that are at work in the park loom over every aspect of this story), and more about Lorraine. More about exploring her loss, and delving into some dark, dark thoughts dealing with parenting, depression and mental illness.
I won’t lie, it gets disturbing. And it’s up to the player to determine what really happened in the end… and why.
Who was to blame? Was it the twisted influence of the park that shredded everything these people ever loved and turned them into something they couldn’t recognize? Or was there already a darkness in their hearts, something that loss and abuse fostered, that prompted them to become what they did? Maybe a bit of both.
This is a slow game. Don’t expect horror, running, and things leaping out at you (often). Though it has a few jump scares, it very much focuses on the story and character.
This isn’t the kind of game that you say “I enjoyed.” Perhaps it’s better to say “I appreciated” what The Park was attempting to do. To be completely honest, I went into this game expecting one thing – a scary game about a scary park – and came out of it with something totally different – a disturbing story about the loss of innocence and darkness.
I don’t know why, but I get the sense that this game started out as one thing that eventually morphed into another. The story wants to tell us about the freaky history of the park. The story also wants to tell us about the struggles of Lorraine. The story wants to try to layer and intertwine these two together… and I feel how well this works for you will determine how much you enjoy this game.
For me, I liked many of the storytelling and world building elements (oh that clever rubik’s cube!). Some parts were more engaging than others. But I still felt there was something missing in my connection to Lorraine and Callum as characters. It could be that I’m not a mother myself, so I can’t identify with the gripping fear of losing a child in a dark scary place. Though as sad and horrifying as Lorraine’s tale is, I just found it hard to feel a connection to her, especially by the end.
I think I just kept repeating to the monitor, “Oh, man. What did you do?”
Your Mileage May Vary