“The Park” was released on October 27, 2015 by Funcom Games. It is a powerful, narrative-driven psychological horror experience that may be disturbing to some. A review copy of this game was provided directly from Funcom’s Public Relations team.
I remember when The Secret World launched back in 2012 and reading about all the new features the game had to offer. In many ways, the game itself was an experiment at doing something different – at creating a modern-themed MMORPG filled with horror aspects and an open-ended character progression system. The very fact that the game had a strong horror atmosphere to it alone made it different, and despite not having played it much after its launch, I can say I did enjoy what I saw. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that The Park would be something that also shakes the genre up a bit for us.
The Park is set in the early-1980s on the fictional Solomon Island and starts us off with a single mother named Loraine running inside Atlantic Island Park after it closes to chase her son, Callum, who ran in because he left his teddy bear somewhere within. Things start out bright and chipper enough, and even Lorraine’s mood supports this, but on the journey up the escalator that leads into the park, things take a rather dark turn quickly.
Yes, this is a horror game, but no, it doesn’t rely strictly on cheap jump-scares. In fact, at no point in the game are you ever in any sort of immediate danger. The game builds up its tense atmosphere as you go by providing you with an unsettling narrative, dark and foreboding environments, strange situations, and a few creepy encounters that will leave you on the edge of your seat as you go. The game encourages you to explore and take everything in, find notes and documents that provide you with the backstory on the amusement park, and enjoy (or dread) it all at your own pace.
The overall experience is short, yet powerful. Loraine is a character that you can identify with an commensurate with, and perhaps this fact is rather darker than we’d like to admit about ourselves. As Loraine chases after Callum and rides the various rides, a narrative is unraveled that leaves us wondering what’s really going on. Is this all some strange journey deep into her subconscious in order to deal with some unfathomably-terrible event in her (and Callum’s) past? Is what we see around us meant to be taken quite literally? Or is the truth somewhere between both of these ideas? One thing’s for sure, though: Loraine’s mental state changes as she progresses deeper into the amusement park itself, and this is evidenced by her voice and reactions as she goes. Players can call to Callum as they explore, and at first, both she and Callum seem rather cheerful. Later, though, she becomes more frantic, even angry, and it seems like Callum doesn’t even want to be found.
While playing The Secret World isn’t required to enjoy this game, reading up on its lore and some of its recent tie-in events is a big plus. While The Park provides additional insight into the world of the MMO in regards to the amusement park itself, the MMO may help you further understand the character of Nathaniel Winters, the reason for the park’s creation (which is discussed in notes found in this game), the presence of a supernatural entity known as The Bogeyman, and explains who the man seen at the beginning (and end) of this game is. Further, understanding the lore of Atlantic Island Park will help formulate ideas on what really happened here, and why the atmosphere transitions from late-afternoon at an operational amusement park to nighttime in a run-down horror fest.
In a future post, I’ll go into some spoiler-filled details as to what I really think happened in the game, but for now, I’ll only suggest that you take a look at it for yourself.
The game isn’t cheap on Steam. Currently, as of this review, it sells for $12.99 and may only take you an hour or two to get through. But, don’t look at it as a game to run through so much as an experience to enjoy (like a movie). That may help justify the cost even more.
Ultimately, I highly enjoyed The Park and I think it’s a dark adventure that any fans of a psychological horror nature should play. It’s fun while it lasts, it’s trippy in places, and in the end it leaves you thinking and wanting to know even more. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a true success.
“The Park” is a dark, deep, and narrative psychological horror that really hits home. It’s short-lived, but it leaves a strong impact and leaves you wanting to know more and questioning everything that you experienced while playing it. It’s a fantastic tie-in to “The Secret World,” but easy to enjoy all on its own.
VERY GOOD: 8.5/10