Over a year ago Crytek made a VR game called Robinson: The Journey, which was a huge disappointment, but at least it looked good, and featured some cool dinosaurs. Now Chinese Snail Games wants to deliver on that Jurassic Park promise in a VR game, as ARK Park uses survival game ARK: Survival Evolved as a base, although unfortunately after some time with it we can say there's pretty much nothing good here... not even nice graphics to look at.
Like its big brother, ARK Park doesn't have a strict plot. The player can roam around freely in a dinosaur park and experience different things it has to offer, and the action itself is divided into three different main things to do. The science section features the ability to get to know these ancient creatures with different holograms, where a few dinosaurs can be inspected up close in an empty building. There's not that much information to be had here, and it's pretty much just looking at dinosaurs.
In the collecting section, though, the player moves around in nature with the wildlife. Each level requires you to collect a certain amount of information to unlock the next level, and you can do this by scanning animals, hitting rocks with a pickaxe, and waving gloves in front of plants. The levels themselves though are very small, much like a small studio apartment.
The third action is a completely illogical shooting game where you have to protect a base. In this mode dinosaurs are running towards a weird sci-fi... thing, and don't care about the player at all. After they reach the 'thing', they start twitching and this results in a reduction of energy. With a handgun the player tries to shoot these animals down, which disappear into thin air like it's the 1990s again. None of these different actions feature a proper tutorial either, so it takes a good long while to get a hang of things.
All the above experiences sound good on paper, but it's impossible to enjoy them because even the basic movement is awful. This happens both when using the PlayStation Move controllers and a regular DualShock 4, and you move by teleportation. The difference between this and most other games is that you choose the teleporting icon by pointing at it with the VR headset. This icon is either oversensitive or doesn't react at all, however, and since the areas are small, there are way too many invisible walls everywhere.
The player can also lift different objects, and there are tools available in the menu, which can then be used to collect information about different areas. Everything is very clunky because of the movement and the placement of different buttons also makes no sense. If you first choose to use Move controllers, and then later want to switch to Dualshock 4, you can still see the move controllers on the screen, and not every necessary action is available to you with DualShock 4 in order to make progress, which is understandably frustrating.
ARK Park's graphics aren't absolutely terrible, but it's important not to stop and look at them too closely. Textures are blurry, and 3D models are simple and archaic, but these aren't nearly as bad as the stiffness of the overall package. Creatures go around the same patterns over and over again like in a rollercoaster in an amusement park; animations lack weight; and creatures look like they're flying, not walking. Many of the trees and bushes don't seem to exist either because animals go clip through them with ease.
Stiffness applies to your own actions too. Certain objects can be picked up and thrown by using one button and then letting go of that same button. Then an object flies the same distance every single time. They also make the same kind of sound when hitting the ground, no matter if it's a rock, a bush, or water. Objects, just like animals as well, just disappear when you have been interacting with them, only to reappear at their original place after a short while. Some of the levels don't even have this reset function, which means that a player is just left standing without anything to do.
Many of the menus are placed too low as well, which means that we got an aching neck while playing the game. The same problem makes it almost impossible to read the few tutorial text boxes the game has. You need to move your head at a certain angle to see the text, but it appears in a wrong place. This means that you can't even see it while holding your head still.
ARK Park had potential in its premise, but everything is so badly executed that all this evaporates incredibly quickly. There's content for 30 minutes if you can put up with the many flaws, but honestly, we wouldn't advise even trying, especially not for the asking price of £44.99. It sounds like a dream to be immersed in a Jurassic Park-esque world via the medium of VR, but ends up being a nightmare.
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