Review

The Park Review

  • First Released Oct 27, 2015
    released
  • PC

House of Horrors.

Amusement parks are interesting places. Constructed for the sole purpose of amassing hordes of people there to experience excitement and joy, a park devoid of its attendees seems withered and without purpose. And yet the sad shell of an empty amusement park serves as the setting of The Park, a horror game which follows the plight of a single mother as she searches for her missing son.

It is apparent that this amusement park is unusual, with a shady past dotted by construction problems, fatal accidents, and murder. Into this creepy environment steps Lorraine, a young widow who has labeled herself a failed mother and exhibits strong feelings of self-doubt. She vocalises these via monologues that gradually reveal more of her inner conflicts as you walk around and search for her son, Callum. Your insight into Lorraine's plight deepens over time as you learn about her struggles as a mother, a process which strengthens your connection to her character. As much as she's Callum's mother, Lorraine is an individual with her own problems and insecurities. It's a different take on the complexities of parenthood and the tumultuous and sometimes contrasting emotions that develop between loved ones.

See anything unusual?
See anything unusual?

Without giving away too much, the game touches upon interesting themes on the darker side of parenting in exploring her history and motivations. The park in question originated in Funcom's The Secret World, so it may look familiar to players who have ventured into the MMORPG. As you search the park's contraptions and shadowy corners for Callum, you find evidence of an otherworldly presence. However, there is no fighting to be done and there are no puzzles to be solved here; The Park relies on the hook of its narrative and thrill of its scares to beckon you forward.

Lorraine's shouts for Callum--a key gameplay mechanic--become increasingly distressed as the search continues. Shouting highlights visual clues and sounds back with Callum's own cryptic replies, serving as the game's hint system. It's a rudimentary mechanic, and at some points the visual guidance can be inaccurate and lead to running in circles, with some highlighted clues leading to nothing. Lorraine's escalating panic comes across strongly in her cries for her Callum, selling her emotions well, but it can sometimes conflict with moments where she expresses anger and frustration. The juxtaposition of an angry and bitter monologue with her concerned cries muddles the impact of the story's tone and Lorraine's emotions.

That's not to say that The Park's story does not shine at its finest moments. The game builds anticipation effectively through the use of newspaper clippings and other writings strewn throughout. Progression is often gated by the necessity of examining these, which might seem annoying, but the benefit is that reading these materials thoroughly creates some of the game's most tense experiences. The Park's setting is creepy to begin with, but learning about its tragic backstory and seeing hints at the sinister inhabitants Lorraine is yet to encounter heighten the tension--especially so when they play with your expectations. Suddenly, the gaze of the amusement park's cute mascot seems a lot more malevolent, and I really did not want to venture behind the cotton candy stand after learning of its dark history. These discoveries also contain occasional nods to characters and events of The Secret World; a nice touch for those who have spent time with the area in Funcom's MMO.

The game's audio design is particularly effective in creating tension, with sounds ranging from the simple rustle of wind in the trees to strangely distorted carnival music befitting the dark setting. These effects and music work well with The Park's layout and environmental design, resulting in a believable replica of a real world amusement park.

The best scares occur during quieter moments.
The best scares occur during quieter moments.

Which brings us to the rides: for what is an amusement park without its rides? Each attraction brings a new experience to the table, with some being necessary to interact with to trigger story progression. However, they aren’t scream-inducing thrill rides, nor should they be--some of the game's best hair-on-end instances come in the form of its subtle moments. Misdirection from audio cues, strange figures lurking in the shadows, these moments are where The Park excels.

For a game that puts so much stock in its story, The Park's narrative is plagued by pacing issues in its second half. At one point Lorraine's mood shifts suddenly and without warning as events escalate--a marked contrast to the game's earlier pace. It's a shame, as The Park's atmosphere is as unnerving as the dilapidated attractions that populate it. The escalation feels out of place; a little too much like a quick way to tie the ends of the game together.

The Park ends in an area riddled with its loudest scares that feel cheap, which is disappointing given how atmospheric the first part of the game is. Despite its lacking final moments, The Park makes the experience of searching a haunting, abandoned amusement park feel genuinely tense. This, rather than a specific plot point, is what sticks with you after you turn off the game and return to your normal, less disturbing reality.

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The Good
Amusement park and its inhabitants are very creepy
Story touches upon rarely discussed, interesting subject matter
Great use of audio
The Bad
Shouting mechanic causes some disjointed moments
Story escalates disproportionately
Visual clues sometimes buggy
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

A seasoned horror game veteran, Zorine finished The Park twice for this review. Her first playthrough took two hours and she was thrilled each time she found a reference to The Secret World.
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Avatar image for dark-floors
Dark-Floors

Completed this game last night. Something you can finish within a couple of hours which is alright for a "walking simulator" (as many are defining it). Compared to other games of the same type, I personally felt this one was more immersive, thanks to the eerie atmosphere of the park and the story (quite predictable though). Even though there isn't much interaction I didn't feel bored (for instance, I found Everybody Gone to the Rapture more tedious despite it had better visuals so I dropped it quite early). In overall if you want a few thrills for a short time I think The park makes it's honest job as an alright game to kill time (if of course you like the genre, otherwise better leaving it alone). I give it 6 out of 10. Cheers!

Avatar image for hishamramzan
hishamramzan

too short, not that scary, monster looks like a character from "Corpse Bride" and not really a horror game if the monster doesn't attack you.

So I give it a 4 out of 10

Avatar image for UberMan5000
UberMan5000

This is the game Five Nights at Freddy's wishes it was.

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emerin76

Good experience. Hardly a game though. Watching on YouTube wont get you the experience.

Not for everyone, but that much is obvious.

Avatar image for alcapello
Alcapello

Not on PS4, pass.

Avatar image for externalpower43
Externalpower43

@alcapello: The PS4 couldnt handle this game.

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bigruss730

@externalpower43: wrong, it's listed for pre-order on PlayStation store right now.

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UberMan5000

@externalpower43: Oh, don't be a silly. It's because Funcom's not a console developer. They'll probably release an Android version of this eventually.

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sleepnsurf

@alcapelloDon't think you have a choice if no PC bub.:

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MigGui

five nights at freddy's 5

Avatar image for bikskit
bikskit

I actually have the CD for the game "Bad Day on the Midway" by the avant garde collective The Residents. "Bad Day" was more bizarre and experimental, than horror. Circus and amusement parks have built-in creepy factors for sure.

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josiekind

interesting, Ill check it out.

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stevo302

I like a damn good story, and I'd pay good money to hear/see one.

Thing is, I also like a good game.

When the former is not of great quality, and the latter is partially non-existent, because there is no real 'game' to be had, that's when I have an issue with length and price. Especially when there are similar games that have a lot more meat to them, and do more to physically involve you in the story-world.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

Watch people's playthroughs of this game, e.g. Mary Kish's, and you don't have to play it anymore.

P.S. Make sure to use ad-blockers to block YouTube ads and YouTube stream-rip software to download the source video outright.

Avatar image for j12456788
J12456788

@Gelugon_baat: You are the reasons Nintendo is pissed at let's players

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@j12456788:

If Nintendo thinks that the act of being entertained (or dismalled) by a game is through playing the game itself, then Nintendo is very sorely behind the times.

Avatar image for viciouskiller
viciouskiller

@Gelugon_baat: "Watch people's playthroughs of this game, e.g. Mary Kish's, and you don't have to play it anymore."

You already destroyed your own argument.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@viciouskiller: Do explain the contradiction.

Don't think that you can just make statements like "you already destroyed your own argument" and get away with that.

Avatar image for viciouskiller
viciouskiller

@Gelugon_baat: Do explain how you didn't contradict yourself.

Don't think that you can just make statements like "Do explain the contradiction." and get away with that.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@viciouskiller: Oh, sure, ape me.

You don't have any argument at hand, really. You just shoot your mouth off. You are also lazy.

There is no contradiction, as far as I see. There is nothing for me to explain.

I expect you to ape me again, if you bother to make another retort. Let's see if you are that predictable.

Avatar image for d-man
D-Man

@Gelugon_baat: or you could actually support the developers by playing the game instead of being a cheap a-hole who equates watching a playthrough with participation

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@d-man: Yet your stance is how game-makers - or software pirates - keep making money for doing so little.

Avatar image for and1salttape
AND1SALTTAPE

@d-man: Is there an obligation on me to support the developers? Nope. Gaming is not some 'romantic' hobby. At its very core, it's 'business'. It's only ethical to pay for something but when you can get something without paying for it, and it is legal too, then I don't see any reason in spending my money mindlessly. Sure if I liked the game or wanted to experience it on my own then I would go for the purchase.

In case of short adventure games, youtube is a far better companion than a digital purchase on steam; unless, as I said before, you, for some reason, want to play the game with your own hands.

Seriously, take this subservient attitude and throw it in a trash can. Improvement is the desired end-goal. Be hard to please and they'll try hard to please you. With this kind of attitude, it's only obvious how the developers will react - and it is pretty much evident too that some BIG companies are now just taking your support for granted and you're sitting there like a despairing widow, ''I WANT TO SUPPORT THE DEVELOPER". Come on...

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MigGui

@and1salttape: "unless for some reason, you want to play the game with your own hands". isn't this the purpose of games?

Avatar image for and1salttape
AND1SALTTAPE

@MigGui: Purpose is subjective. Some play for story, some for gameplay, some for the philosophy behind the game and some for something entirely else.

Avatar image for elheber
elheber

I saw this game in action and it looked pretty bad to me. I'm not touching this game with a stick. And if I ever do, it would be with the same trepidation as I'd have poking a dead squirrel.

I'd rather replay SOMA a fourth time. In fact, I'll go ahead and do that right now.

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turtlethetaffer

Game looked interesting at first but the more I looked into it the more I thought it looked eh. Maybe at a very high discount, but otherwise, I won't play it any time soon. Too many other games to play.

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Maj_Wood

Zorine's First review?

CONGRATS!

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Mr_Pants_tent

@Maj_Wood: Yes, congratulations!

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elheber

@Maj_Wood: It shows.

OOOH, SICK BURN! No, I'm just joking, Zorine. Ditto on the congratulations.

Avatar image for zorine
Zorine

@Maj_Wood: For GameSpot, yes! Thank you kindly.

Avatar image for jinzo9988
jinzo9988

I feel like this game really failed at its execution. "Walking simulator" games coupled with horror elements seems like a good match but it looks like there's a metric ton of tedium to be had in this game. This game is kind of what it would be like if someone made a video game version of a short story. There's no actual game here, but if story is your thing coupled with visuals rather than text on a page then I can see a market for this sort of thing.

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Daian

Another pointless overhyped walking simulator.

Avatar image for ggregd
ggregd

I saw Jim Sterling's Let's Play of this one. The kid is a a little brat who runs off and won't come back when she calls him. I was just getting annoyed with him because I've been there. Then the game makes you sit there doing nothing through a 15 minute telling (nota retelling) of the old story of Hansel and Gretel, which probably everyone knows. Lost me entirely.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@ggregd:

You get to have one possible ending of the kid getting stabbed by the mom in the end, if you are into that extent of spite and despise of fictitious stubborn brats.

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ps3gamer1234

Ugly graphics.

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Stesilaus

"However, there is no fighting to be done and there are no puzzles to be solved here."

In that case, does it really qualify as a game?

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@Stesilaus: Yeah, you explore and interact with stuff still. Its a walking simulator type game.

Avatar image for andfx8
andfx8

@mori70: I get bored watching any game for more than 5 minutes...

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@mori70: Thats what you get foo.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c0b07b32bf03

Reminds me somewhat of a section of the first Silent Hill on PS1 way back in the day. Hopefully The Park gets a PS4 release.

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

Very nice review, seems like an ideal game for those who enjoy story driven ones.

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snugglebear

I thought "the guy" in the video looked like one of the characters I'd seen in a TSW screen shot.

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The Park More Info

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  • First Released Oct 27, 2015
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    The Park is a single-player horror experience developed by Funcom, set against the backdrop of an amusement park where a dark and sinister secret is just waiting to be uncovered.
    6.4
    Average Rating20 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Park
    Developed by:
    Funcom
    Published by:
    Funcom
    Genre(s):
    3D, Action, Adventure, Survival
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Strong Language, Violence