BY DEAN MOSES
Game: The Park
Platform: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Rated: M for Mature
A mother’s love for her child is one of the strongest bonds one human can have for another. A mother will do almost anything for her child, which includes entering a demonic amusement park in the latest title from Funcom.
A Mother and Son Day Out
The Park’s story preys upon every parent’s worse nightmare—a missing child. Lorraine and her young son, Callum, have decided to spend their day at Atlantic Island Park, an amusement park that Lorraine has enjoyed since her own childhood. However, when she approaches the gates she discovers that the park has closed. Unfortunately this is where things begin to turn grim. Callum decides to run into the park anyway, forcing his mother to follow him. Once Lorraine is inside Atlantic Island Park, she finds that it is in a state of disrepair, a stark contrast to her warmhearted memories of her juvenile sanctuary. It appears darker with a somewhat sinister undertone. The player’s objective is to help this mother find her son by persevering the horrors lurking within the funfair, along with her own guilt. In 2015, an estimated 13,700 children were reported missing in the United States, according to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children— some of these cases start with the simple act of visiting an amusement park or crowded location. So this game’s narrative will already hit close to home for a great many people, but it also has another focus in addition to this— mental illness. Lorraine talks widely to herself as she frantically searches for her son; sometimes seeming distraught while at other times she appears to almost resent her offspring. These are two very real, very tense subjects, making this tale an important one for gaming. Emphasis is placed on exploring the human psyche and the trauma of loss instead of engaging in bloody battles.
Fun At The Fair
The gameplay is extraordinarily simple—the player merely controls the mother’s movement with one stick and the camera angle with the other, creating a game that’s easily accessible, one can effortlessly pick up and play. This is not an action game and there is not really a difficulty level. There are no weapons to use, any enemies to fight, or puzzles to solve—one just saunters around. There are, however a great deal of things to explore. You will come across a multitude of fairground rides like a towering Ferris wheel, an exhilarating roller coaster, a tunnel of love style raft, and more. Exploring these distractions will determine the game’s length. If you decide to partake in everything the game has to offer, the experience will last around two hours, if not it will conclude after an hour of play. Here lies one of The Park’s downfalls. Despite it being a budget title (retailing at only $12.99) I would have hoped for a lengthier run time.
All The Looks of a Carnival
The Park was originally released in October of last year on the PC, giving developer Funcom ample time to make tweaks and improvements. Sadly some things were not fixed or did not transition well. For instance, there are documents littering the area with the soul purpose of giving the player more information about Lorraine and her plight, but the text appears on screen exceedingly small, so much so I could hardly read it unless I positioned myself inches from the screen. This is not the game’s only pitfall. Character models don’t look comparable to most other games on modern systems. They are presented as half-loaded shambles that hearken back to a bygone era of consoles, not on the machines we own today. Thankfully the environments in which you explore have a much more appealing aesthetic. The amusement park shines as a character in its own right. The clattering rides, the foreboding footpaths that snake into the darkness, the still lakes, the faint glow of fading lights, and the mysterious figures that lurk just outside of your view. The Park creates an eerie feeling, an almost predatory fear that does not target what the player sees, but, instead, what he or she does not. I contently found myself wondering what I would find prowling just up ahead or around the next corner.
The Park’s narrative could be a little too disturbing for some. Others may find the one to two hour playtime more horrifying. However, if you are looking for a game that takes you on a thrill ride more akin to a movie, then this is the perfect horror experience. It’s full of jump, scares, chilling moments, and has a twist ending, just be aware the experience will be short lived.