Horror titles have sent us across a good variety of locations, but I haven’t played one that took place entirely within the confines of an amusement park. The more I thought about it, the more fitting the location felt – there’s actually something quite terrifying about amusement parks. Rollercoasters shoot you around upside down at speeds of up to 150mph, Dodgems simulate the experience of being in a car crash, and Ghost Trains… well… they speak for themselves. Imagine all of that except within an amusement park that is seemingly abandoned with a terrifying supernatural twist. That’s exactly what you get with The Park.
You take on the role of Lorraine, a young mother whose son Callum has got lost within Atlantic Island Park. Whilst it begins as a seemingly innocent search, things quickly take a turn for the worst when the park starts showing signs of supernatural activity. The further you progress the more you’ll learn of the history of the park and its horrifying, murderous past.
There’s also an overlaying narrative from Lorraine that tells of her recent struggles in life as well as her relationship with Callum. One of the themes of the game is mental illness, and it’s quickly established that Lorraine has been struggling immensely with the difficulties of motherhood. It’s interesting to listen to, but I found the script a little pretentious with a lot of the things Lorraine saying feeling out of place coming from her mouth. It’s well written, sure, but it just felt a little too scripted at times.
Of course, The Park is a horror game so you’ll encounter plenty of horrifying sights within the park. I appreciated the subtlety of these horrors though, with the game focusing on creeping you out as opposed to throwing a barrage of predictable jump scares your way.
There’s a series of rides that you’d naturally come across within an amusement park, but they each have an eerie twist on them. There’s the Dodgems that shoot towards you with no driver, the Rollercoaster that seems to transport you to a mental asylum, the boat ride across a lake that recites a horrifying twist on the ‘Hansel and Gretel’ fairytale – it’s not just the thrill of the rides that will terrify you in Atlantic Island Park.
There are also the creepy random sightings of Chad, the murderous mascot of Atlantic Island Park. The Park isn’t the same as the likes of Outlast and Amnesia though – you won’t be hiding or running away from any enemies. In fact, there’s no threat to Lorraine’s life at all throughout the game. The Park is technically a ‘walking simulator’, tasking you with simply exploring the amusement park and whilst uncovering the mysteries behind it.
You do get to examine objects and documents though, each one offering you an insight into the park’s history. Some of the documents will tell you about the seemingly sinister park owner, whilst others mention some of the peculiar deaths that have occurred within the park.
The history of the park was interesting to uncover within these documents, but their presentation in-game was terrible – the text size would be so small and unclear that I really had to move close to the screen just to read them. Whilst it’s got an authentic vibe to it with the presentation being restricted to appearing just on the document, it would’ve been useful if the game offered a ‘text only’ presentation of each document too.
You won’t only interact with documents, but you’re also able to call out to Callum in the game. As you progress, you’ll notice Lorraine’s cries becoming all the more desperate – it’s as if she starts losing hope of finding him when she witnesses all the sinister things around her. Calling out does come with some uses though, with each call giving a visual indicator of any hidden document or item around you.
With The Park’s focus on telling a story as opposed to giving you a game to play, it’s important that it sets up a good atmosphere. Thankfully it succeeds, with the venture through the amusement park itself feeling unnerving and tense. The game doesn’t try to throw too many jump scares your way throughout the park, instead focusing on genuinely trying to creep you out with small yet noticeable oddities.
Unfortunately, the game’s finale ends with a bit of a whimper. Whilst the game builds a creepy atmosphere when you explore the park itself, the finale took away the build-up and instead tried to scare you with a series of cliché horror tropes. The ending itself is a little vague too, leaving a conclusion that wasn’t bad but rather a little too ambiguous.
The Park is tied to Funcom’s supernatural MMORPG The Secret World – a game I haven’t actually played. I’ve read online that if you’ve played The Secret World you’ll understand a few more of the mysteries of the amusement park itself, though it isn’t a necessity in order to enjoy the game.
The game has a fairly short running time, with my playthrough lasting roughly an hour and a half. I’d say I saw pretty much everything the game had to offer in that time too, leaving no real reason for me to play through again other than for my own enjoyment.
The Park mixes up two of my favourite things – horror games and amusement parks. Combining the two seems like a great idea, and for the most part there’s a genuinely creepy and atmospheric horror tale on offer. It’s just unfortunate that the game’s finale lets it down, offering a vague conclusion that doesn’t deliver a good pay-off based on all the tension built throughout the game. The Park isn’t a bad game by any means and offers plenty that’ll keep horror fans happy throughout its hour and a half playtime, I just wish that the ending lived up to the rest of the game.
– A creepy, atmospheric tale that doesn’t depend on jump scares
– The unique twist on each amusement park ride
– Documents are interesting, offering insight into the park and its history
– The finale is vague and doesn’t live up to the rest of the game
– The text on documents is incredibly difficult to read
– Some gamers may be put off by the short length
Developer: Funcom (www.funcom.com)
Publisher: Funcom (www.funcom.com)
Release Date: 03/05/2016 (Xbox One, Playstation 4) 27/10/2015 (PC)
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PC