The Park left us a little shaken. It's a heavy and intense game with an interesting albeit depressing story that lasts about an hour and half, and it's story-driven and linear. You play as Lorraine, a young lady and single mum. The story begins in the parking lot outside the Atlantic Island amusement park, where Lorraine has arrived with with her son, Callum. Callum has forgotten his teddybear inside the park and runs in to retrieve it. Lorraine has no other choice but to follow after him. It may be empty, but at least it's still daylight. Oh it's not, you say? Darkness quickly descends. The park has the look of something that's been abandoned for years.
As you walk around the park there's really not that much to do. As mentioned, the game is linear, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a negative. In fact, we were drawn into the story in a matter of minutes. The controls are simple. WASD to move, Shift to run, right mouse button to call for Callum and get a hint as to the nearest examinable object, and left mouse button to read or watch things and open doors. When you call Callum he replies, his shouts getting scarier and scarier the further you advance. A cold sweat descended on us halfway through the game.
In addition to running and calling for Callum, The Park also has rides you can get on. This ruins a bit of the atmosphere though, considering that you're looking for your son, taking a ride on the ferris wheel knocks is a bit immersion breaking. With that said, doing so gives you a better insight into the story as Lorraine's internal dialogue gradually uncovers the plot while you're riding the carousels and whatnot. Around the park there are also objects and notes to examine, which also sheds new light on the story. The Park is a spin-off of Funcom's MMO, The Secret World. There's an Atlantic Island Park there as well, a separate area you can visit. These notes brings The Park and The Secret World closer together, and fans of the latter will thus find The Park slightly more interesting than others might. Having said that, we thought The Park was very interesting even though we've never played The Secret World.
The atmosphere is largely responsible for our positive experience. This might be a disturbing game to play, as it should be in this genre, but we were genuinely scared. The music, the wind whistling through the trees, the voice acting, the atmospheric backgrounds and the fact that you find yourself in an abandoned amusement park in the middle of the night, all combines to ensure an incredibly powerful experience. Having Callum shout things to you like "he sees you," doesn't help the old nerves either. Worst of all, however, is what happens behind the scenes, in the mind of Lorraine. The story of her past and how it relates to the present in the game. It's a horrible tale, but very well executed.
Visually, however, this is no masterpiece. It's incredibly beautiful but at the same time fairly inadequate. By this we mean that the backgrounds and lighting are beautifully done, but the textures looks like something from a five year old game. It's not a big deal, but it does pull the overall level of quality down a little, but the graphics are still good enough to get the job done, and in certain places the mediocre textures actually make the game more scary.
Instead, the biggest flaw here is how we could foresee the ending before the second and final act had even started. This isn't the result of us being terribly clever, but the fact that Funcom unfortunately haven't taken the time to camouflage the mystery better. In one of the more significant moments it was as if the curtain went up too early, and revealed too much of the plot. Naturally we won't say where in the game or exactly what happens, but we assume most players will have the same moment of revelation as we did.
Another thing we won't tell you is which game Funcom has been inspired by in the second part of the story, but we can mention that the first part bears similarities with games such as The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Gone Home. Only scarier. This is noticeable in terms of mechanics, yet The Park is still sufficiently different from its inspirations to avoid feeling like a copycat. It's a technically simple game with an interesting story that's gradually revealed, albeit somewhat earlier than could be considered optimal. The atmosphere is excellent and although The Park is the nastiest experience we've had in some time, we enjoyed it.