Missing child causes headache at haunted park.
The Park is a pretty short game. It needs stating outright because it’ll be one of the main sticking points for a lot of people who never experienced it when it first released on PC last year.
It took me just over an hour and a half to finish and I was exploring every inch of creepy ground the game had to offer. If you don’t want to take in the atmosphere and are content to just sprint through to its conclusion you could easily beat it in half that time. What you’re paying for here is a tense and often unsettling experience that clocks in at a shorter run time than most modern films. If the thought of paying £9.99 for that is more nightmarish than the idea of a demonic theme park then there’s probably little I can say to sway your opinion.
Now that we’ve got that little PSA out of the way, let’s talk about the reason many a horror fan will be sucked into this game regardless of its price tag: the atmosphere. The Park has plenty of it, and as a long time fan of the horror genre who’s been playing creepy games for over 15 years, I’m not ashamed to admit that one standout moment made me cry out loud enough to cause my pet leopard gecko to rocket across its tank in surprise like a marble bouncing around a linoleum floor.
The Park puts you in the shoes of Lorraine, whose irritating young son decides their day at the theme park isn’t going to end when the park shuts, and runs back in through the barriers, forcing you to pursue him as night falls over the ferris wheels and merry-go-round rides. The little runt is always one step ahead of you, either hidden from sight or running off ahead as you try to catch up with him. Lorraine can ride the attractions if she desires and this is where much of the game’s exposition comes from. Each one has its own jump moment, most of which are subtle enough to be easily missed if you’re not paying attention – a mascot that comes to life here, a creepy figure stood in the ride’s control box there – and skipping these rides will cost you the full experience that the game has to offer.
It’s a shame, then, that The Park is let down by its latter stage. The game takes a page from P.T.’s book, plunging you into a seemingly never-ending loop of identical corridors and rooms that quickly becomes frustrating rather than frightening, before making the even more heinous mistake of reverting to horror cliches. “Look, look at the disembodies dolls hanging from the walls!”, the game seems to shriek at you. “Look at the blood running down the walls! YOU MUST BE SCARED NOW”.
In the gallery of overused horror tropes, creepy dolls and bloodied walls are among the first exhibits, and most horror fans are now so desensitized to them that they illicit a sense of fatigue rather than fright.
Further disappointment comes from the game’s ending, which is left frustratingly vague and open to interpretation. A quick look around the internet post-end credits confirmed that it wasn’t just me who felt confused – the general consensus on the ending seems to be that no-one really understands it and like an A-level Media Studies essay, any argument you can make is as valid as the next person’s provided you have something to back it up with.
The Park was reviewed on PlayStation 4.
I came away from The Park unsatisfied by its up-in-the-air conclusion and brief playtime, which is a real shame because most of the game is a beautifully crafted horror experience that takes a product of childhood innocence and twists it into something truly unsettling.