As far as horror-themed settings go, the haunted theme park is a relatively common and contrived one. Whilst we've seen carnivals take centre stage in cinema, games have generally reserved the locale for one-off, novelty excursions - The Park attempts to remedy that.
Core gameplay is typical of a ‘walking simulator’ - thankfully one with a sprint function - whilst the ability to call out to Callum provides the gimmick to spice up proceedings. Think Heavy Rain's infamous "Jason" sequence, but not hysterically repetitive and flat. The vocals emit a sort of ripple effect that distorts elements able to be interacted with, ensuring you won’t miss anything significant. On occasion, Callum will answer, the direction of his voice serving to direct the player, whilst the nature of his replies can often induce a chill: "He's watching you, mommy." "Don't let him take me, mommy!"
It's a story open to interpretation, with strands that warrant investigation and subsequent playthroughs.
“He” is a recurring frightener, amongst others, ever aided by constant ambient whispers and animalistic sounds that emerge seemingly from thin air to taunt you. Whilst routinely unsettled, we were never outright scared.
Eternal Darkness inspired moments of fourth-wall-breaking manipulation to audio, gameplay and visuals were appreciated in essence, but intentional audio crackle and gameplay stutter quickly became an unwelcome distraction. That said, these methods of toying with us did succeed fantastically during the concluding sequence. The issues intensify with each continual loop through the same environment (yes, it’s very P.T.) until you’re driven half insane, beautifully mirroring that which plays out on-screen.
Whilst pretty in a quaint sort of way, The Park’s visuals are unimpressive and rife with pop-in. Load times are significant, though the entirety of the location is accessible without need for further delay following the lengthy initial wait. When the setting is titular, you’d expect it to shine, but outside of interacting with some of the attractions, there isn’t much defining about it. When we think back on carnival-type settings in games, fond memories of Bioshock Infinite, The House of the Dead: Overkill, Bully: Scholarship Edition and Left 4 Dead 2 are conjured; ironically, their flirtations with the setting were altogether more memorable.
Ultimately, these issues aren’t too detracting. The Park is laser-focused on delivering its narrative and it does so with some eloquence. Don’t expect a superlative videogame, but do look forward to a feature length horror experience that’ll engage your brain.