Title: The Park
Genre: Adventure, Horror
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 22/10/19
Price: £8.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
A Ticket To Ride
Welcome to Atlantic Island Park, a dilapidated ruin of an amusement park that plays host to Lorraine, a stressed and frightened mother in search of her missing son Callum who has lost his favourite teddy bear somewhere along the way. As a parent, the thought of having to face such a horrific experience and the sheer panic of a missing child is enough to make me run from this game in the opposite direction. However curiosity got the better of me, and I was incredibly intrigued to see how the Developers channelled this emotion through its player, so let’s dive in.
The Park, developed by the Indie developer Funcom, originally saw its release on PC back in 2015 followed by its console release in 2016 and now finally ported to the Nintendo Switch in October 2019.
The game is best described as a Psychological Horror narrative and more of an interactive story with some smaller moments of exploration but with a mostly on-rails path to follow. You cannot fail and as long as you invest around 90 minutes of your time, you will see the final credits. Whether you’ve enjoyed the time invested is a different story altogether.
The game flows in first-person playing as Lorraine, a struggling single mother and widow, who spends the entirety of the game narrating her journey through The Park. Lorraine often digs up memories and reflections from her past that help to expand the dialogue and narrative of the world afoot.
There are no moments of fighting, no weapons, no health bars and no HUD for Lorraine, and the extent of complexity to the control system is a dedicated ‘Call Callum’ button. This game is all about immersion, throwing the player into the sinister and darkening world of a theme park by night. In theory, this works incredibly well; playing with headphones creates a dynamic and expansively immersive world. The player can hear the creaks of the Ferris Wheel, the grind of a bumper car and eerily disturbing inner voices as the story quickly spirals into a fractured battle of descending mental health.
Graphically the game doesn’t exactly do justice to the world it’s trying to create, it didn’t look great on its console release and unfortunately looks slightly worse on the Nintendo Switch. There are regular pixelated tears, grainy sequences and moments where Lorraine raises her hand to her face in cutscene sequences and pokes her fingers straight through her cheeks (not part of the horror narrative I might add). Unfortunately, this does detract from some of the jump scares carefully inserted across the game, with the audio and timing doing all the right things with just the artwork and imagery letting it down.
Without diving too far into the evolution of the plot for The Park, the voice acting is superb and Fryda Wolff really helps the audience to connect with Lorraine. To feel her pain, her exhaustion and ultimately to feel her sense of loss, anxiety and depression. This is a tough gig to get right, and although there are certainly moments where I’m not comfortable the developer dealt with mental health as sensitively or accurately as they should have, the dialogue and emotion brought to the character by Fryda is superb.
A Deeper Meaning
There is also a really interesting scene later in the game, that follows a repeating corridor like an experience similar in style to P.T. You feel the downward spiral of depression, and see repeating elements in the scenery such as books and letters that change in line with the character’s mental state. This for me was something of a bravo moment to allow those playing to feel how a mind can change rapidly and adjust the lens of perception.
The more you explore in-game, the more letters and articles you read, the more you can really grip the depth of story involved in The Park. As those credits finally rolled I couldn’t help feeling a little short-changed around what had entirely happened, with lots left to the player’s imagination or perception of the reality created. This may be considered a directorial masterstroke, or under-developed narrative. I guess maybe you should give it a go for yourself and find out, for £8.99 it’s definitely worth the money.
Rapid Review Rating
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