At first, the story's simple enough. The Park tells the tale of a mother - Lorraine - whose child runs back into a theme park despite the attraction closing down for the day. Her mission is simply to get her son back and get home following a day of fun, but the boy always manages to stay one step ahead, taunting his parent as the darkness begins to consume not only the park, but the mind of our protagonist.
Though I'm not a parent, I am an older sibling to both a brother and a sister who are both at least a decade younger than myself, and so I recognise and relate with the terror of a young child going missing. We've all heard the stories that plague the news channels; it's not a nice feeling. Unfortunately, The Park doesn't manage to make you care enough about these characters to truly invest in that element of the story, and the length of the game - between one to two hours - may be to blame.
Narrative is a little wooden and the padding up on the script is at times exhausting. Lorraine is a character you may root for early on, but that soon switches and predictability in regards to where the story takes the player rears its ugly head. Once you're left almost hating the main character you're being forced to play with, the fear of something terrible happening to her begins to fade and from that point on, why should the gamer really care?
Jump scares aren't scattered around every single corner, and when they are used they do get the desired five second 'Gasp!' response, but it does feel as if there is still an over-reliance on using them. I'm never frightened other than these points and the only time I'm weirded out is in the big House of Horrors finale, and that's because of the dodgy looking cold meat left in a fridge. Even then, the finale becomes one repetitive and at times pointless descent into madness.
Despite that, the atmosphere and location is a great one. Theme parks are a lot of fun in the day, but have the potential of becoming terrifying at night. Cardboard cutouts with smiling faces in the day are warm and welcoming, but at night they're far more sinister. Funcom have done well in this game to allow the player to ride each of the park's attractions - some with more of an exciting journey than others. The Swan Boat Trip at the very beginning of the game for instance is an inspired addition, telling the player a story they're likely familiar with, with a little twist on the ending.
Psychologically, The Park hits all the right notes. Whilst I would have liked to have seen more horror injected into this title, I think the psychological elements turn it into more of a thriller than anything else. For me it was a welcome surprise to peel back another layer to the story, but for those paying for a true horror experience, they may feel a little jilted.
All in all, The Park feels like an experimental project, and as is the case with most experiments, there are some great and some not-so-great findings. For fans of The Secret World - the MMORPG which spawned this spin-off - it's a great little addition to their gaming catalogue. For everyone else, it's probably only worth it if you've got a couple of hours spare and some loose change.
The Park is available now on Steam.