Haven Park (Demo)
Developer: Fabien Weibel
Publisher: Fabien Weibel, Mooneye Indies (Mooneye Studios)
Genre(s): Adventure, Management
Platform: PC – Steam (will also be available on Nintendo Switch and itch.io)
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 5/8/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
This is a collaborative Rapid Preview! Chloe’s paragraphs will be in blue and Georgina’s in red.
You begin Haven Park as a little yellow bird named Flint, speaking to his elderly Grandma. The park has been in Flint’s family for generations, but she is now too old to take care of it. Subsequently the park has turned into disarray, with broken lamp posts and empty campsites. Now it’s your task to take over from your Grandma and transform the island into a camping haven!
In terms of story, this is about as far as it goes. After this short introduction, you are free to roam and work out things for yourself. All you know is that you have to find each camp on the island and renovate them, as well as fixing items scattered throughout. There isn’t a narrative to follow, though there is a hint within side quests which will be discussed shortly.
As you begin to build up each campsite, you’ll have several types of facilities that you’ll need to build. To do this, you’ll need to collect resources from around the island such as wood, metal, fabric and mushrooms. Sleeping quarters, food stalls, decorations and tourist attractions will all need to be carefully selected and placed in order to create the perfect hotspot for new visitors. Once all of the essential elements are in place, you’ll find that new campers will show up to test them out almost immediately – and then entertaining them will be your next challenge!
Along the paths and in the mountains of Haven Park, there are also broken objects and furniture such as fences and torches that have deteriorated over time. These require the materials you’ve collected to fix, and it will prompt you with what you need when you’re nearby to something. Though not a thrilling task, it at least gives you extra incentive to explore the whole island and fix everything. It also makes the island feel a little more homely, and more like a traditional camping space.
Can He Fix It?
Due to the small nature of the demo area, we found ourselves quickly running out of camps to fix up, furniture to repair and campers to meet. Content feels a little thin on the ground in this preview, and it does beg the question as to how much more content the full game will offer, and whether the gameplay grows more complex over time or if it stays about the same in terms of intensity. However, we can at least see from the available in-game map that the full grounds of Haven Park stretch much further, perhaps promising many more hours of adventures.
One interesting addition to the gameplay was the Black Tower riddle. Here, you take part in a choose-your-own-adventure story by spending some coins. If you fail to reach the end, you are returned to a previous checkpoint and must pay to try again. You must find items around Haven Park to complete the story, and having done so, you’ll gain access to another part of the island. This was substantially different from the general gameplay, and was something we enjoyed. A camper also mentioned a riddle about treasure, which leads us to believe the full game will be littered with some of these mini side quests.
An Abrupt End
It was quite jarring however that the demo seemed to abruptly conclude after completing the Black Tower riddle. At this point, a message thanking us for playing the demo popped up, and we could choose to either continue playing in the same small area, or quit. It wasn’t very clear that the demo was going to be so short, and due to the limited content, we had little reason to continue playing after hitting this message. By this point, we had already built up our campsites and fixed everything we could with the limited available resources.
Another criticism we have is of the map, and its lack of easy access. It was frustrating to have to open the map from the core menu and try to figure out where we were. Without any icon to indicate the player’s position, or a mini-map to make navigating around Haven Park easier, it was sometimes incredibly difficult to find our way to the locations we wanted to be at. It would be a guaranteed quality of life improvement to add in a mini-map, or at the very least an arrow or indication of where the player is currently located. Without these things, it’s pretty much a case of surveying your surroundings and comparing them to the small icons on-screen.
One with Nature
We were surprised that Haven Park did not have a soundtrack to accompany you on your wander through the island. It is unclear whether this will change in the full game or not. However, there were many sound effects which I found more immersive. You could hear your feet hitting the ground and the water splashing as you ran through it or went swimming in the sea. Birds tweeted around you, waves crashed onto the beach and fires crackled. It made it feel more like a true camping experience.
There are several other small sound effects that add to the experience as well, such as when placing items down or fixing them up. There are also small sound effects to acknowledge different actions, such as campers purchasing food or interacting with each other. Flint also makes an incredibly cute “pew” noise while traversing the island, so if you don’t mind that repeating, you’ll have immense fun listening to it while navigating.
While the sound effects from Flint will make moving around Haven Park fun, one thing that really hindered our experience was the lack of camera controls and the awkward movement of the camera itself. The automatic adjustments were unpleasant on the eye and often led to a poor view of the area that didn’t make moving around as easy as it could be. Combined with the aforementioned lack of mini-map, the overall task of navigating was not as straightforward or enjoyable as it could be. It would be much better to have manual control over the camera angle, or else make it a static angle with a variable / custom distance to set from Flint.
Another aspect of the controls that are quite cumbersome are the menu navigation mechanics. Particularly in the skills menu. It isn’t intuitive to flip through the pages of available skills, as the controls dictate that you need to tab down instead of across even if wishing to select one on a different page. Small issues like this really do hurt the overall gameplay experience, as the interface does not feel easy to navigate and is largely frustrating to go through repeatedly if misclicking. Improving the navigation both with controllers and with keyboard and mouse controls would be a step in the right direction.
The Great Outdoors
As Haven Park is developed by Fabien Weibel, who I believe is a single man developer, it is not expected for this title to have high-end graphics. It is worth noting that this is their debut game too. I’m also a strong believer that it’s not the graphics that make a game great. For me, they were charming and got the job done. Fabien Weibel actually started to make this game part time during the start of the pandemic in early 2020. It has taken 800+ hours to develop so far!
There have been comparisons between Animal Crossing and Haven Park given the aesthetic and advertised gameplay. In terms of graphics, the characters similarly have cute rounded bodies and somewhat oversized heads. This is quite endearing as you continue to play and experience the different personalities available. However, the gameplay is very different, as are the objectives. Though there are of course similarities in terms of resource gathering, acquiring campers for your park, and completing small quests, this is not a game intended to be played over time, and has an entirely different focus. If you enjoy Animal Crossing, you may like Haven Park, but it isn’t a clone, so don’t expect it to be.
The Haven Park Look
The various environments were very colourful, with bright shades that were perhaps a little too harsh at times. What I did like though is that there were various biomes, so no two areas looked the same. There were dry, rocky, orange canyon areas to contrast the greens of the forest campsites. It seems there are more mountainous areas to discover too from the trailer, and I’m looking forward to seeing the entire island in the full game. The biomes will at least add some variety to the somewhat repetitive gameplay.
There is also perhaps a concern with how cramped and isolated some of the campsites are. Though they are given a homely and cosy feel, at points, it does feel like you don’t have enough room to actually place down all of the items you’d like in these far-flung environments. Given how nice some of the items look, this is frustrating, and it feels harder than it perhaps should to create your perfect campsite. This isn’t aided by the limited selection of items available to use. Though of course, more may be available in the full game compared to the demo.
On the whole, the demo for Haven Park was enjoyable. The graphics, gameplay loop and side tasks were entertaining. Though if the gameplay exclusively consists of similar activities, it will quickly become repetitive in the main game. I would have preferred to have greater direction in terms of tasks and objectives, as seeking out additional things to do through unguided exploration was exhausting at points, and I also found myself questioning if I was doing what I was supposed to or not. I feel that additional tasks would also flesh out the gameplay more, and give it greater depth and playability. At the moment, the game feels like it is lacking substance, which is a shame.
From just the demo, it’s hard to tell at this stage how long Haven Park will be. Towards the beginning, I thought that the map looked fairly big. However, I had discovered around a quarter of the map in the hour and a half or so I played. It seems that it isn’t going to take a long time to get around; will the experience be too fleeting?
This also raises questions about what can be done to the gameplay to extend this playtime. There weren’t a lot of items to choose from to build on the campsites, leaving them all look rather similar. It would be nice to have a larger selection to vary themes for each camp. It could be that this limited number of items is for the demo only, but we will see.
The end goal of Haven Park is not quite clear at the moment. Once everything across the island is fixed and the campsites are all satisfying enough for campers, does it end here? This being the entire game would be a little underwhelming. A lack of endgame content would not encourage replaying it either. We will have to wait and see what the full game is like when it releases on 5th August!
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.