The Park is
self-described as a narrative focused psychological horror experience,
based around intense storytelling and exploration. That is a pretty apt
Notice it doesn’t
use the word game. There are game-like qualities, but “narrative
experience” is probably the best label. The notes which accompanied my
review copy refer to titles such as Gone Home, Dear Esther and The
Stanley Parable as occupying the same space, so if you have “played” any
of those you may be in familiar territory.
Using those same
notes, as the sun sets over Atlantic Island Park, you/Lorraine must
enter in search of your missing son Callum. While meant to be a happy
place, the vision of eccentric business man Nathaniel Winter was undone
by tragedy and drama. As you search, you will unravel that tragedy,
through notes, newspapers, and other written material. The strange and
real motivations of Nathaniel will start to come to light.
You will also
access your own thoughts and behaviours concerning your son, coming to
you in voice overs at certain points in the park. Some seem to be
triggered by examining certain items, others by simply being in a
What starts in the
daylight outside a functioning park turns to night as you ascend an
escalator, and the park appears to be anything but functioning.
Dilapidated, run down and overgrown, and far less hospitable.
Maps of the Park
are at every ride, and taking the rides is part and parcel of
progression. There isn’t a lot to find and not everything is essential,
but some things must be found to enable you to progress. Calling out to
Callum by right clicking can assist (if you tick the appropriate box in
the options menu), as it is tantamount to revealing hotspots, as well as
perhaps eliciting a response from Callum. There aren’t a lot, so don’t
panic if nothing happens, but it certainly helped me now and then when
examining the right object was fundamental to moving on.
Ultimately, you end
up in the House of Horrors, and in my view things then really take off.
Which is not to say
that everything which came before is in any way disappointing. Far from
it. The dual tales (the Park and Lorraine’s) were intriguing and more
and more unsettling, the park appropriately foreboding, and there was
certainly a fright or two to be had. By the time I entered the House of
Horrors, I was well aware things were not as they seemed, and I knew
enough about Lorraine to know that hers was likely the real story. In
retrospect, everything was set up perfectly for what followed.
Which was more than
just unsettling, and could, as the notes said, be emotionally
distressing. They (the notes) recommend player discretion.
Which is well and
good and certainly appropriate. However without telling you what the
main issue is, which would spoil the impact and the tale itself, I can’t
really give you any meaningful heads up. It’s a bit like those tv
warnings that say viewer discretion advised as it contains adult themes,
but you have no idea what the theme is and therefore whether it’s a
theme you want to avoid.
What I would say is
if what you hear in the voice overs during your exploration of the park
prior to entering the house causes you concern, perhaps stay out of the
I did think the
house was superbly done. What it depicted, and the way it did so, was
equal parts compelling and harrowing.
The narrative is
the thing, and the writing doesn’t let it down. Nor does the voice over.
The sights and sounds combine to deliver a creepy experience with just
the right amount of menace. Cutscenes and visions help build the desired
mood. Everything then comes together in the final sequence in the
basement in a remarkably simple yet exceedingly complex way, to
progressively bore into your skin with each staircase descent.
The Park is played
in the first person and uses the WASD keys to move around (you only
really need the W) and the mouse to steer. Left click to interact, right
click to shout, and shift to toggle sprint. There is no inventory,
although there is one item you have to find which you take with you in
order to enter the house. The game auto saves at various points and on
exit, and you pick up where you left off. There is only one save though,
so starting again will erase progress.
Please note - There is a warning on the game’s website
about the videos on the site containing content which could trigger
seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy, and other players have
commented on one video in particular possibly causing migraines. While
that specific video (it is part of a roller coaster ride) does not
feature in the game, there are still flashing light sequences that may
cause issues for some players.
The whole thing
clocked in at just under two hours. I confess I entered The Park with an
open mind and not much else. I left rather impressed. On its strength I
will play more of these narrative experiences.
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon
HD 7800 2048MB
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