Ever seen some of those creepy videos and pictures of abandoned theme parks and thought to yourself, “I’d like to visit that”? Well, HappyFunland lets you live out that fantasy, with the game offering an eerie virtual reality escapade that sees you uncovering the dark remains of a Disney-inspired theme park.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Taking place in the swampy south of Florida, HappyFunland sees players exploring the theme park of the same name, though unlike the obvious counterpart that inspired it (*cough*Disney*cough*), this place has been abandoned for some unsettling reasons. What are they? Well… that’s for you to find out, with players able to venture through the depths of the park, partake in the amusing activities it offers, and unravel the secrets behind its dark and grisly fall.

If I’m being honest, my first hour with HappyFunland was a bit of a struggle. The controls instantly felt off-putting thanks to the omission of smooth rotation, whilst the lack of a run or crouch button made some explorative moments in the game feel particularly awkward. Sure, you can hold your hand up to run if you want, but it felt unnecessarily clumsy when running could have just been assigned to one of the controller’s buttons. However, whilst the controls are flawed, there was something about the traversal that just made my stomach feel a little iffy. I’m a virtual reality veteran at this point and can play most games fuss-free, but playing HappyFunland reminded me of my early days with the hardware where I wasn’t quite acclimatised to movement. I’m not sure if it’s a ‘me thing’ or something to do with the frame rate (which never felt perfectly smooth), but it did sour my early impressions of the game.

“The fact that it’s rundown and abandoned does mean you shouldn’t expect the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ vibes associated with Disney parks, but it still manages to feel like one… you know… in its own disturbing little way.”

Luckily, HappyFunland does have some cool things on offer that make up for these flaws. For one, the park itself is a real treat to explore, with it capturing the vibe of the Disney parks perfectly – albeit with a more unsettling twist, of course. As a regular visitor of Disney World, I appreciated all of the little nods to the attractions there, whilst HappyFunland adds its own unique touches to give the park design a distinct sense of authenticity. The fact that it’s rundown and abandoned does mean you shouldn’t expect the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ vibes associated with Disney parks, but it still manages to feel like one… you know… in its own disturbing little way.

The rides themselves are fun to experience too, even if they can feel a little slow and uninspired from a gameplay perspective. I’m a sucker for old-school rides that feature silly animatronics as opposed to over-the-top technology, and HappyFunland delivers that in spades. Whilst there are clear inspirations for some of the rides, they also manage to feel unique in their own little ways that’s befitting of the darker tone of the park. Some rides will also include some elements of gameplay in their design, but these never felt particularly exciting. Whilst it’s nice that the game tries to spice things up a bit and give the player a sense of danger, I found the rides were the most enjoyable when I was left alone to soak them in. And when a jump scare is thrown in? It’s always a cool surprise.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Unfortunately, whilst HappyFunland offers an atmospheric and intriguing park to explore, its gameplay has a lot of flaws that hold the experience back. The combat is very dull and uninspired, with players simply mashing the evil animatronics of the park with the small selection of melee weapons they come across. None of these weapons feel good to use, with each lacking any sense of weight and making hitting enemies just feel lame, whilst the lack of any haptics feels like a massively missed opportunity giving the features PlayStation VR 2 has to offer. Interacting with items in the park feels equally underwhelming, with players simply having to put their hand over an object such as a lever or door handle to use it. And don’t get me started on the mini golf, which was one of the worst iterations of the sport that I’ve seen in virtual reality, but is also vital to your progress through the park…

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on HappyFunland too much, because despite its flaws, I did enjoy my time with the game. Exploring the park, partaking in its attractions, and discovering its secrets and collectibles was a lot of fun during my three-hour playthrough, whilst the nods to popular Disney attractions always put a smile on my face. It’s just a shame that the combat and puzzling that makes up the rest of the experience is so underwhelming. I haven’t even mentioned things like the awkward clipping with objects in the environment or the erratic physics (the golf ball left the course at one point that forced a re-load to progress), which make it clear that the game might’ve benefitted from a bit of touching up before release.

HappyFunland Review

HappyFunland’s dark and grisly take on theme parks certainly had its cool moments, but some dull gameplay mechanics and awkward controls really hold it back. Whilst I had a good time exploring the park, partaking in its attractions, discovering the nods to the Disney parks, and even getting caught out by the occasional jump scare, the poor combat and lacking puzzles just soured the overall experience for me. And the mini golf? It’s awful.

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on the game because, despite having plenty of flaws, I actually enjoyed my time with it. I just wish it focused more on its stronger explorative elements instead of tacking on gameplay mechanics that just felt dull and uninspired.

Developer: Spectral Illusions
Publisher: Perp Games
Platform(s): PlayStation VR 2 (Reviewed), PC VR
Website: https://perpgames.com/