While developer Funcom's last console release, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, never found its way to a PlayStation platform, its newest title, The Park – developed by the firm's Oslo branch – does find its way onto Sony hardware. The Park is a story that supposedly takes place in the world of one of Funcom's past releases: The Secret World. We're not sure how deep the connections run, but after playing through the title, it doesn't seem like they're terribly deep – not that they really need to be.
The Park is a linear horror title that falls firmly under the category of the rather divisive walking simulator. You assume the role of Lorraine, a single mother who takes her son Callum to an amusement park which she last visited when she was younger, Atlantic Island Park. Unfortunately, upon arriving, the park is closing up for the day, but that isn't enough to stop Callum, as he makes his way in anyway. Later, an employee opens up so that you can go grab your son, and this is where the horror elements of the game make themselves known. Upon taking an escalator up into the park, the environment shifts from cheerful and sunny to dark and ominous – and this mood never really lets up again.
Amazingly, Callum seems to have gotten very far ahead of you, and to pursue him you have to interact with a variety of amusements, and should you choose to, you can even ride some of them. In total, there are seven different attractions, ranging from dark rides to midway games to a roller coaster. These are the high point of the game's immensely brief run time, which is around 90 minutes.
To be fair, if you're going to pick a setting for a horror experience, an amusement park isn't a bad idea. It's not a location that's been done-to-death just yet – like a manor or a shopping mall – and it offers a lot of room for creativity and fun. And to Funcom's credit, it nailed this part. The environment is fun, ominous, and interacting with the rides is entertaining.
Unfortunately, the rides don't take up nearly enough of the game. We spent close to 80 per cent of our time with the game walking from one attraction to another – finding new rides doesn't open up shortcuts to get around the park quicker, something that would have been greatly appreciated – and then the remaining 20 per cent actually doing the rides.
The rides themselves, as mentioned, are a lot of fun, though. Not only are there a couple of successful – and subtle – scares during the rides, but just the act of being on them is fun. So fun in fact, that we'd love to experience them in virtual reality – something that the developer hasn't ruled out just yet. The biggest challenge in that regard will be getting the performance up to par, as the framerate chugs on a standard definition screen.
The other issue, however, is that there's legitimately nothing to do in the game other than walk around. The game's brief runtime may make this a less obvious issue than if it were longer, but the fact of the matter is that there's just not much to do while you're playing.
And while you spend most of your time walking around, you are treated to the game's story. Outside of the final sequence – which takes place in a fun-house and is staged very similarly to P.T. – the narrative is almost exclusively delivered through verbal exposition dumps by the player character. It doesn't lend itself to any really meaningful narrative developments, and it doesn't help that much of the voice work is less than satisfactory. While the conclusion is quite a bit more interesting, when it does end, it feels rather abrupt, which is unfortunate.
The Park is a bit of an oddity. A walking simulator with an incredibly brief runtime – 90 minutes at a leisurely pace – that nonetheless has some fun ideas sprinkled in. Actually riding the amusement park rides is a lot of fun – and effectively creepy in a couple of instances – but the rest of the game has nothing to offer other than walking really. Toss in some less-than-ideal performance hiccups and mediocre voice acting, and the title doesn't feel like it comes anywhere near justifying its price tag.