Everyone loses something.
Throughout the course of our lives, we tend to lose countless things. It is human nature to forget. We struggle through our daily lives in pointless attempts to make ends meet. What’s it all for once we perish? Arguably, the choices we make and the deeds we choose to complete are intended to better the world around us for those who come after. Following such a train of thought, then, bringing life into the world would fulfill our purpose. But what if we never wanted that in the first place? Surely, not every living being on the planet desires the intangible concept of good, nor does every person desire children.
This here is Lorraine’s issues in The Park in various degrees. The Park is a first person horror exploration game along the lines of a less intense and less deadly Amnesia. The game centers around the story of Lorraine, who has lost her child, Callum, in the amusement park of her childhood. He has lost his teddy bear, and when Lorraine took her eyes of her son, he bolted back into the park to find it. Luckily, a man allows Lorraine re-entry to the park in order to track down her son.
Unsure of exactly what to expect, the player rides the escalator up into the decrepit looking amusement park. Lorraine’s journey then takes them through the various rides of her childhood as she searches for Callum – whether they be on a roller coaster, bumper cars, Ferris wheel, or the like. Each ride is significant to Lorraine’s adventure, and they each add some pretty cool aspects to the psychological horror identity The Park seeks to effectively employ.
Controls in The Park are very simple. The player’s only responsibility is to walk. If feeling anxious or stuck, the player can call out for Callum by using the right mouse button; depending on what gameplay options you have set, you can follow the trail that presents itself. Should that not help, maps are set around various locations in the park, marking your current position and showing you how to reach the next. The game is extremely linear (but intentionally so), so it is very difficult to get lost.
Fortunately, The Park offers plenty of collectibles to further explain Lorraine’s past, unraveling exactly what she is doing at the park. Again, this plays heavily into the psychological horror aspect of the game. This is particularly insightful material at the closing of the game, when Lorraine makes her way through the House of Horrors.
On the whole, The Park doesn’t offer much in the way of scares. My tip-toed adventures through the House of Horrors provided a few jump scares obviously laid out. Elsewise, the game attempted to thrive by offering a deeply psychological experience. For the most part, the game succeeds. As I stated earlier, each ride serves as ammunition to test Lorraine’s sanity, each ride and walk in-between directly related to her predicament or expositing information about her past or frame of mind. As the game progresses, sound effects and sound glitches commandeer your PC, lending to the uneasiness that seems to be building. An amusement park, too, serves as an ideal setting for such a title – a juvenile location for a mother in search of her missing child.
While the premise of The Park is easy to follow and pretty interesting, the conclusion of the game left me saying, “Is that all there is?” In the short, two-hour experience, I was really gung-ho about the game, enjoying the few scares and finding myself wanting to understand Lorraine and her story. And during the game’s climax in the House of Horror, I could feel the anxiousness of Lorraine and myself increasing, while I watched the world around her dissipate. Pieces began falling into place, and the puzzle that was The Park began to take shape. This is all well and good, but the game does not fill in all the missing pieces.
Any gamer should be able to put together the picture and identify the few characters in the game, especially on completion. But even identifying the characters doesn’t really give us an answer as to “why,” which the player will most likely be asking throughout the experience. Why is Lorraine in the park? Why did Callum run away? Why am I playing this game? I understand the purpose behind it, as any quick Google search will explain. And I understand the plot as it is laid out. But I still have too many questions left unanswered. If there is a small redeeming factor to this complaint, it is that the brevity of the story lends to increased replay value – if, of course, you’re interested in trying to finish the obscure puzzle.
Overall, The Park is a successful psychological horror game that falls a bit short of its full potential. Lorraine is a character worthy of our sympathy, so the journey is not necessarily worthless. However, the ending will leave most gamers unsatisfied – and not for the right reasons. Replay value lies solely within the player’s curiosity to answer any lingering questions.