Straight off the bat it’s quite intriguing and impressive that The Park is a game that is set within the world of another game by the same developer. It’s like one big easter egg spin off, but of course you don’t need to have played The Secret World in order to play this or even enjoy it. Still for fans of the ambitious MMORPG that Funcom released, this might be something quite exciting to delve into. Funcom are nothing if not that, ambitious and it’s refreshing to see their take on video games and to see their risks pay off.
The Park is a single player game, where you play as single mother Lorraine whose son Callum has gone missing in a theme park. Every parent’s worse nightmare, after having to take a child to a theme park in the first place of course.
To find your son, you’re given a calling ability which helps keep you on track on your search but also fits in well. The voice actress calling out to her son is heart wrenching as her panic becomes more apparent. This doesn’t mean that you won’t come to points where you’re a bit lost or unsure of where to go next, but overall it’s an effective method of being able to follow along with the story and traverse through the mysterious theme park.
Moving is fluid and you can interact with a lot of objects, which is reminiscent of games that have served as inspiration for The Park. There is no verging off to an alternative path in hopes of completing your mission, this is a story that has a beginning and end and you are part of it, but cannot change it. As with these sorts of games, the end story is often left to interpretation but unlike some games, it is unlikely to leave gamers feeling frustrated but rather encourage a dialogue about what happened. As you are a lone mother looking for her child, you are not alone in a void of silence thanks to Lorraine’s narrations throughout. You also get to see what your controlled protagonist looks like, which in games such as Dear Esther and Gone Home are forbidden. Well not forbidden but you get the point. There’s an odd comfort from being able to your characters features, maybe that’s just a singular notion, but the comfort is soon drained as you see the harrow that Lorraine’s facial emotions succumb to.
This is a story about a mother and son relationship, as much as it is about a terrifying theme park at night. Delving into Lorraine’s past is an interesting as the history of the park itself and the intertwining themes that manifest to bring her down are executed in a chilling manner. The game has jump scares, because of course it does and yet what really sticks with the player are the themes which are not otherworldly, but extremely human and traumatic.
Funcom show a dedication to design in all their games and that passion for ensuring the creation of a very live and detailed environment continues in this game. The Park has its own styles that differ from the ‘secret’ world it is set within. The moon illuminates the sky, casting upon the parks layout, fog haunts in the distance and the rides are realistically designed, blending in a surreal manner with the overall daunting and dangerous area the surrounds it.
Sound is stellar in this game, which subtle elements adding to the tension that emanates from every dark corner. Branches snap, trees shake and the wind plays tricks with you. Add in an excellent soundtrack by Simon Poole and The Park ticks off all auditory boxes that a spooky game should.
Unless you so choose, there’s no need to replay The Park, most of what the game contains is laid before your eyes. The Park is currently £7.69 on Steam, which is a pretty fair price for the duration of the game. In fact grab it if you fancy a spooky, narrative to dive into on Halloween night and perhaps it might make you interested in checking out Funcom’s other game The Secret World, but on its own the Park is worth grabbing at this current price and the story is one worth hearing.