The Park is a short but intense ride that has genuine scares and an excellent atmosphere. It does nothing to reinvent the genre but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The story starts out familiar and almost clichéd but quickly becomes an interesting psychological horror.
The Park plays in the first person with little interaction from the player. You can walk and run, examine various objects and papers/notes throughout the park and call out for your son. Although the gameplay is simplistic, it’s the story of The Park that really draws you in. The game starts on familiar territory with the protagonist, a woman called Lorraine, entering an amusement park to find her son who ran off just before closing. A park that seems fine on the surface but as the sun goes down, takes on an incredibly creepy tone.
The graphics are not AAA standard but are well polished. The textures are rich from a distance although a little muddy up close and the lighting is well used although the game suffers with scenery popping up in front of you a few times. The ominous music is accompanied by a voice on the speaker system that isn’t loud enough to be understood but definitely makes you use the sprint button. The cutesy mascot of the park is a chipmunk whose standees can be found everywhere and become more and more sinister as you progress giving the whole park a feeling of fear.
There isn’t a whole lot to do in The Park, it’s fairly linear, going from ride to ride while chasing your elusive son. From newspaper clippings and notes found on the journey, it becomes clear that some truly horrific things have happened there in the past. These snippets help to add depth and round out the story. A lot of the atmosphere from The Park comes from the anticipation that something is going to happen. Each time you sit on one of the ridable attractions, you can feel that something isn’t right but you are compelled to continue anyway. I found myself hesitating before pressing the OK button to start a ride, that minor moment of dread that something truly scary was about to happen but wanting to know what it was. The rides I felt helped with the scene setting although I think some people will find them a bit drawn out as there is no option to leave the ride before it finishes. A particular example of this is the Hansel and Gretel ride at the beginning, it is needed to add to the story but is 5 minutes long and cannot be skipped.
Where The Park really shines though is in its final act. It becomes quickly apparent as the game progresses that all is not right with Lorraine, with her calls to her son becoming more manic and menacing and her monologues about parenthood hinting that her mental stability isn’t doing so well. The final act has a very Silent Hill PT feel to it, traversing an area over and over with things changing each time giving more hints at the story. I particularly enjoyed examining the books whose blurbs changed with each cycle.
In conclusion, The Park is short, very very short, around the 2-hour mark, but in its brief time it delivers an interesting story with some genuine scares. Long has it been since I was last genuinely made to jump by a game but The Park managed to do it on several occasions. Another feature I thought worked very well was the vibration. The triggers vibrate when Lorraine gets scared to simulate a heartbeat and you can her the blood thumping in her ears which works really well. It has a few down sides however, with scenery popping up from nowhere and some of the parts of the story do not seem to get explained. Another (slightly strange) gripe I had was that when you read a note, the text is incredibly small. This may not seem like much but when a game is trying to draw you in, having to lean forward to read the notes, even on a 50” TV, can take you out of the moment.
Overall, I would score The Park 70%, for those horror fans out there, it is definitely worth playing if you can get past the length issues and want some genuine scares. The Park is available now for Xbox One (costing £10.39), PS4 and PC priced at £10.39/$12.99.