Review: The Park (PS4)

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Title: The Park
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.69 GB)
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Funcom
Developer: Funcom
Original MSRP: $12.99
ESRB Rating: M
The Park is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
This will be a shorter review, partly because it is a short game but also because it is a narrative first-person experience and I do not want to spoil anything.

The Park is an atmospheric horror experience. That said, it differs from most horror games that are made now mainly for the purpose of someone on YouTube streaming it and being scared. There is no way for the player to die. There are jump scares, but they are well designed and there aren’t too many. There are also no mutilated bodies lain about. It is all about the experience of exploring the park.

Players who take the time to fully explore the Atlantic Island Park will get much more out of the game than those who rush through it. Lorraine, who the player controls, talks to herself from time to time but there is much more to discover.

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There are notes, police reports, and newspaper articles that dive much deeper into the lore and twisted history of the park and the land it was built on. In the last part of the game, the player will come across notes they have already read but they will be different each time.

This could have been a big issue because if the player can not find the collectibles to read, then they would not get the full story. However, The Park is a short and linear game and they’re not hard to find.

… it seems fairly small …
The game does not have the most straightforward narrative. The player will start to combine what they have read with what they are hearing from Lorraine, piece by piece, and slowly an image starts to form.

I do wish the game was not so linear. They could have found other ways to tell the parts of the story that could not be missed and created more “off the beaten path” areas to explore. The Atlantic Island Park is a gigantic park yet, there are only a few attractions and there is only one path to get to the next point. For a park that is so big it seems fairly small.

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There are a few times that the game takes control away from the player. I enjoyed most of these and they incorporate the rides in the park. These are a great chance to look around and fully absorb the world The Park has created.

These are also great times to ponder the last thing you read or heard and put some of the story pieces together. There was one, however, that took far too long. The game told a twisted version of a fairytale. It was well told but just took too long. I could do nothing but sit there and wait as I was brought from scene to scene as the story was told.

… no reason to go back …
I generally try not to bring up the cost of a game or campaign length in my reviews. To me an eight hour game is not any less of a great game than a fifty hour open world RPG. But I do feel that I must tell you that The Park is a short game.

Someone rushing from point A to point B can finish the game in a little over a hour. Taking time to fully explore the park and the rides and then finding and reading everything can stretch the game out to two hours. I have gone through the full experience twice.

I missed something the first time and wanted to go find it. I also wanted to go through the story one more time and to dive deeper into the lore and everything the game has to offer. The two playthroughs were great, but I have no reason to go back.

Visuals:
This isn’t the most visually impressive game on the PlayStation 4 and it could probably run on the PS3. The graphics are more impressive when looking at the park and trees from farther away than up close. It is, however, very polished. There were no bugs or framerate stutters. There are also some great lighting effects and camera techniques that force the player to focus on certain things.

Most of all, it nails the environment. The game doesn’t try to be an over the top jump-scare horror game or overly grotesque. It is just unnerving. The sun has set on the Atlantic Island Park in a beautiful Northeast forest, and the park has somehow changed. The more I explored the more I realized it was not just the creepy house of mirrors, but there was something wrong about this whole place.

… haunting atmosphere …
Audio:
The game is full of ambient noises that accent the creepy carnival music. When combined with the visuals, the audio really creates a vivid, and at times, haunting atmosphere. Playing with headphones is a must. Playing in the dark is recommended too.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
The Park fully embraces the creepy park/carnival trope while avoiding most other tropes that plague the horror genre. The game is more focused on the experience, still an unnerving experience, than it is scaring people.

If you have always been curious about horror games but scare easily, this is a great way to dip your toes into the genre. Really, anyone who enjoys narrative driven adventure games or exploring areas and uncovering their secrets should give this one a try.

It does fall short in a few ways. The graphics are muddy when looking at items up close. The game is very linear and there is not much of the main path to explore. I enjoyed my time with the game, but I wish it had been a little longer.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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