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The Park

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Funcom
Developer: Funcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:

The Park is hiding something. Of course, you could probably tell that by the glowing red eyes of the nightmarish mascot who adorns the game's promotional art. But I'm not talking about the setting, I'm talking about the story. So throughout this review, expect me to tread lightly: the less you know about The Park as you walk through the entrance turnstiles, the better. What I can say from the outset is that the ticket price and small amount of time it asks of you is well spent. It's not without its stumbles, but you won't soon forget your visit to The Park.

Atlantic Island Park at night is a thing of nightmares. Sparse lighting and a labyrinthine walking path work in tandem to instill the sense that something is very wrong with this place; since this is established extremely early in the experience, the game can only increase the tension from there. Developer Funcom could have employed any number of cheap visual tricks to startle the player, but they wisely invested their efforts into laying the foundation for your imagination to start building its own idea of the place. Not that there aren't any frightening images -- far from it, in fact. But nothing jumps in your face and goes "boo!" Instead, you begin to notice small, slow changes in the world around you, and it's that subtlety that makes The Park special.

With regards to sound, Funcom could have just as easily taken the same kind of lazy route that it could have with the visuals. But again, they don't, and the result is more disturbing than an overload of distorted carnival noises. While some of the requisite sounds are indeed present, most of the game's audio plays it straight. And considering what happens over the course of the adventure, this specific brand of tonal dissonance is extremely effective. Special mention goes to Fryda Wolff, whose portrayal of Lorraine is faceted and haunting, despite the script's occasional tendency to overdo it.


All you need to know about The Park going in is that you are Lorraine Maillard, a single mother who has just arrived at Atlantic Island Park with her young son, Callum. Unfortunately for the both of them, the park has recently closed. However, young Callum gets excited and bolts off into the park. From there, you assume control and begin the search.

I refuse to divulge any more of The Park's story, but I will praise its maturity and willingness to venture into some deep, dark places in order to create drama. Furthermore, it allows its atmosphere to do a lot of the storytelling; after all, you're alone in an abandoned environment -- who are you going to talk to?

On top of having a rather unsettling history, Atlantic Island Park isn't kept up very well. That's ultimately to the player's benefit, as newspaper clippings, maintenance logs, and other assorted correspondence litter the place. These provide lots of insight into not only the scumbag behind its operation and the unfortunate (but numerous) incidents that taint the park's history, but they also give Lorraine several chances to reflect on her own past and how it is connected with this place.


Perhaps the only difficult part of The Park is coming face to face with its themes, which can be extremely upsetting. It's neither difficult to watch nor gratuitous in its execution, but once you figure out where the story is going, you will inevitably be brought down.

Games like The Park are not developed to present challenges to their player bases. They aim to deliver a very specific, universal experience, with the only real gameplay in direct proportion to the eagerness of the player to explore every nook and cranny. But since the story is the focus, there isn't much scavenging to be done.

Game Mechanics:

The Park isn't an action game. Lorraine Maillard is no Ellen Ripley. All she can do is search and observe. And the three primary mechanics that allow her to do that are simple enough to the point where, were this not a part of our review format, they wouldn't even be worth mentioning.

Lorraine didn't pay for the Segway tour, so she's got to rely on her legs. She'll do more walking than anything else, much like everyone does during a theme park visit. Walking and looking, which are handled identically to nearly every first person game that's come out in the last decade and a half. It works.

Most of The Park sees Lorraine wandering Atlantic Island Park on her own, but there are secrets to uncover. Luckily, they don't usually require much off-the-path exploring, and you'll usually be able to tell from a distance what is interactive and what isn't. And of course, you can ride the rides...

One final mechanic is cribbed from Luigi's Mansion; since you're looking for a missing person, you can call out to him. Without giving anything away, this mechanic doubles as an extremely important storytelling device. Use it often.

The Park isn't an experience you'll want to visit often, if more than once, but it's one you should definitely consider if you have the stomach for it.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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