First of all, where are all the clowns?? You cannot have a horror title, one set in an amusement park, without any clowns, the epitome of the devil’s sense of humor. On that note, I present ‘The Park’. The title has everything set up for it: an ambiguous protagonist, a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ reality and a creepy amusement park… Yet it still failed to deliver as a game.
The Park is a first-person psychological thriller from Funcom, and is best described as a narrative experience into the psyche of Lorraine, a struggling single mother. This is a self-proclaimed failed mother and her tale does not have silver lining in sight, and I believe that’s the beauty in the story it’s trying to tell. The title begins with Callum, Lorraine’s son, running back into the closed amusement park and Lorraine chasing him down. Chasing him through the park, Lorraine partakes in an unholy communion to unravel her past through the amusement park rides: an effective method of narrative. The story tangles threads of young love, alcoholism and alienation. There are certain fears that are always hiding in back of our minds and ‘The Park’, explosively, bring these fears to the center stage (serial killer mascots do not help either). The park becomes a manifestation of these fears and perhaps there is something more sinister in the background… It’s for the player to try to figure out.
As soon as you cross the threshold into this demented reality, either from Lorraine’s psyche or a demonic force, the atmosphere is all encompassing. It’s not even the updated graphics, which look subpar but are still better than the original, it is just a truly eerie setting. The amusement park is genuinely creepy, being dead silent at some moments. Then you’ll hear mumbling through the intercom, a branch breaking nearby and Lorraine’s screams for Callum. This title holds a mechanism where you can call out to Callum to usually point you in the right direction via visual or auditory cues. This becomes useless later but credit is due where credit is due. As the game progresses, Lorraine’s shouts become more and more desperate, a nerve-wracking experience for the player.
Now we dwell into the more unfortunate aspects of ‘The Park’. A little more than five minutes into the title, you are strapped to a seat, unable to do much except listen to fairy tale allegories or look at your hands on your lap. The startling moments catch you off guard the first few times, but become abhorrently predictable (all of them stripped from a James Wan flick it seems). It gets ridiculous sitting through rides and scripted events to some point. The second half of the game consists of a concept very similar to P.T, a loop of never ending corridors getting subsequently darker and twisted. Unlike P.T (which was a demo compared to a paid title), there were no surprises. There were notes and signs to show the dark path that Lorraine’s mind was taking, but the repetitive gameplay served the story no justice. Being blunt, the ending itself was unsatisfactory, lousy and a little lazy. One could replay the title for a better understanding, but good luck with the long Hansel and Gretel Swan ride again! There was no character development for Lorraine, leading the player to become apathetic to her situation, as her story is just a convoluted string of events.
The core gameplay was a mishmash of common horror game tropes with no puzzles to speak of. With Lorraine narrating her own story through predictable and linear events, you can find notes littered throughout the park. They entail different stories of the park’s past and it’s ‘cursed’ land. You can’t have notes without the slenderma…. I mean the babadook! Or the creepy ride operator following you around in this case. Did I mention that your first mission is to find a flashlight, one which you use for five minutes max? All jokes aside, ‘The Park’ has a lot of ambition in its story but fails to bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay.
My cumulative and most important point is that the title was way too short! I sat there, baffled, seeing the credits rolling when the title finally seemed to pick up (this was sadly at a two hour point). I paid the same money to see Captain America: Civil War, the same week, and it was definitely a more enjoyable experience, with a longer running time too.
+ Truly creepy setting and atmosphere
+ A realistic and moving plot with Lorraine’s past
– Overwhelming lack of content and gameplay
– Convoluted story
– A mishmash of horror game tropes, nothing new.
Bryan Salik is an upcoming writer who enjoys everything in-between creative writing and Science, or a quirky combination of both. I am an active gamer and hiker in the Greater Toronto Area so feel free to contact me via Facebook or Medium.