Just in time for Halloween, The Park, originally released four years ago on PC, has made its way to Nintendo Switch. Amusement parks are meant to bring happiness to visitors of all ages. The Park, however, does no such thing and instead uses psychological horror to cause emotional distress for players. As darkness falls, Lorraine, a single mother, journeys into Atlantic Island Park after her son Callum runs in to look after his teddy bear. As a walking sim, The Park's length depends upon how much you want to explore to get a better grasp of the narrative. It's quite common to complete the game under an hour if you rush things, and up to two hours if you take your time and pick up and examine every item in the game.
As you make your way up the escalator at the entrance of the park, something nightmarish occurs as the park deteriorates before your eyes. Without so much as an explanation, the day gives way to night. Probably because exploring a creepy amusement park is that much more terrifying in the dark. Chasing after Callum, you'll spend your time walking through the park, going on a few of the rides, reading newspaper articles, and hand-written notes. Collecting the written notes are entirely optional; however, they provide necessary details if you want to gain a better understanding of what is happening in the park and, more importantly, that status of Lorraine's mind.
It doesn't take long for you to realize that there is much more to The Park than a mother trying to find her son in a sinister amusement park. The first ride in the game, sets the mood, with a lengthy sequence, following the narrative of Hansel and Gretel using projected shadows on the walls of the ride. It's importance relies on the significance of the witch and the relationship to the young boy Hansel, foreshadowing the on-going relationship with the mother and her young boy. Later rides have a bit more of a scare attached to them, especially the roller coaster, featuring flashes of shadow creatures, and imagery akin to travel through a hospital corridor with bloodied messages written on the doors.
The longer the search goes on, the more you have an understanding of what Lorraine is suffering from and what struggles she is trying to overcome. She has some serious issues around being a mother, which has has been prescribed medication. Naturally, I'm attempting to keep this as vague as possible, as the whole purpose of the game is to get a better understanding of Lorraine. She frequently alters her mood in her inner monologues, from sadness, to regret, to fiery anger. There are some very unsettling moments, especially in the last few moments in the game. Still, one, in particular, involves the sideshow area after reading about all of the severe work-place injuries, guest accidents, and even gruesome deaths.
As a Funcom developed title, The Park takes place in the same world as the MMO, The Secret World. If you are familiar with it or have played it before, you'll get a better understanding of some of the world's lore and characters, but it's not something that you need to know to play through the game. Being ported to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 months ago, I was hoping that the Nintendo Switch build would fair better than its console counterparts. Instead, the weaker of the three seems to perform much worse than expected. The visuals are worse than the console versions, with the draw distance is largely unforgivable. The grass, which is everywhere in the park, almost appears directly in front you. I also had a triggered event fail, where a door that was supposed to open when obtaining the flashlight didn't open. Quitting the game and loading my save was the only way to remedy the solution.
The Park's best moments come from the sense of dread and uneasiness in an abandoned amusement as you search for your kid. I wouldn't call it a scary experience, although there are a handful of jump scares, it's more unnerving than anything else. The climatic area drove home the narrative; however, if you were rushing to the end, you may not appreciate the message it is trying to convey.Note: The Park was reviewed on Switch. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.