A chilling, if unoriginal carnival of horrors.
The Park is a brief, atmospheric horror experience that provides a solid dose of scares without ever really bothering to attempt to reinvent the wheel. What starts with the simple, slightly-cheesy premise of a mother trying to find her son in an abandoned amusement park quickly morphs into a chilling and personal horror story.
Mechanically, The Park is cut from the same cloth as first-person, story-driven games like Gone Home and PT. You walk around and examine various nick-nacks throughout the world meant to help flesh out the story — newspaper clippings, creepy dolls, a child’s shoe. However, unlike Gone Home, the Park’s objects aren’t especially interesting, and don’t do a whole lot to add depth to the characters or the world.
Thankfully, most of these aren’t required in order to experience any of The Park’s many, many jump-scares. Despite a lot of these being easy to spot from a mile away, I still found myself yelping out loud numerous times throughout the 90-minute adventure, thanks in part to the excellent sound design and smart camera movement. Ambient noises, audio distortions, and generally creepy carnival music all work together to create a really evocative atmosphere. Likewise, The Park will oftentimes limit your field of view, only to whip-pan you around to come face-to-face with some sort of chilling ghoul.
Also scattered across The Park are attractions that take control away from you and deliver a scripted spooky vignette. While there’s generally a solid payoff at the end of each one, I found that most of them went on far too long without the ability to hop off. Particularly offensive is the Hansel and Gretel boat ride that gets its point across in 60 seconds, then proceeds to go on for another five minutes or so without allowing you to opt out.
Visually, The Park has some effective lighting techniques, and objects generally look great from a distance. However, examining certain structures up-close reveal some muddy textures, and I noticed objects occasionally popped in and out of the world depending on the angle you were looking at them across all three platforms. Certainly not enough to pull me out of the experience, but definitely noticeable.
While the first half of The Park tends to lean a bit too hard into the horror tropes of a spooky carnival, the final act does a really great job of developing a character with the pathos that comes from being a mother who’s having a tough time dealing with the impossible stress that comes from being a parent. Sure, it’s some of the same ground that Silent Hill games have covered in the past, but that doesn’t diminish its effectiveness. I didn’t expect such real and personal themes when I first entered The Park, but I was definitely happy with the narrative depth I eventually found.