Ark Park is a disappointing VR experience. The Finger Guns Review;
Jumping onto a train and being shuttled to an exotic jungle island with huge sea creatures jumping either side of you as you look around this brave new world just reeks of Jurassic Word. It genuinely fills you with excitement as to what lays ahead. Or does it?
Ark Park is a spin-off game to the well established dinosaur-erm-up Ark: Survival Evolved. This game itself once promised VR integration which never actually materialized. Perhaps Ark Park is Snail’s attempt to rectify this. Perhaps they shouldn’t have bothered.
As mentioned you start the game with a sun licked train journey, with blue skies that Sega would be proud of. You’ll eventually arrive in the park lobby where you’ll find various holograms of dinosaurs from which you can examine and find out all you need to about these walking beasts. It’s quite the educational trip and again builds up the excitement levels as to the potential of this game. There is also a map of the island you can kind of step in and discover which creatures roam which parts of the island. You can even pick up the small holographic creatures, look all around them and then throw them back down before the scale up to their proper, and at times intimidating size.
It’s at this point where you begin to think you are in for something special. An educational trip through the world of dinosaurs and discovery. Unfortunately, it’s not really. See what we have here in Ark is a collection of game styles muddled together into the guise of one game.The stronger of these styles is the exploration of the island. Once you have arrived at the forest path you have the opportunity to fiddle with your inventory, change your appearance, hatch dinosaur eggs, and also craft goodies using the resources you’ll gather.
It’s these zones where you’ll find the best parts of the game and where Ark Park offers it’s most memorable moments. Here you can scan creatures, to build up your catalogue of dinosaurs and collect genes to unlock new items. For the most part, I just found myself just teleporting around the various areas and fulfilling my school boy dreams by seeing all the different creatures on offer in their natural habitat.
It’s a shame then that this game isn’t the best looking VR game. Reality soon breaks through the illusion thanks to some dodgy textures and animation. I wish that Snail spent more time and resources to focus more on these parts as they are easily the best segments the game has to offer. I have a feeling that the developers had this as their initial vision for the game, but decided for some unknown reason, money probably to shoehorn some other gameplay styles, none of which work well at all.
The first issue is with the crafting style gameplay, which for a game like this, I’m not sure is a good idea. Crafting and grinding at the best of times is a drag, but here, in VR it’s worse. The game is repeatedly asking you to return to areas over and over, pickaxe in hand to gather resources to develop and craft new stuff. All this translates to is that much of the wonderment you felt when you first discovered these areas is lost, almost in its entirety. and seeing as you move via teleportation, and can only turn in 30-degree angles it’s all just too long and awkward. What was once a sense of discovery very quickly turns into ‘ugh, not this place again’ To make matters worse, the grinding isn’t even worth the hassle as there is very little you can do with the dinosaurs you have discovered and bred, save for taking them on a linear ride, which in itself doesn’t take very long either and don’t get me started on the camera position.It feels more like you’re standing atop the dinosaur rather than sitting in the harness enjoying a ride.
The other issue is another style of gameplay which is a wave style shooter. Here the dinosaurs you have shared the world with have suddenly become self-aware realising that they are all slaves and start attacking the very brain manipulating machine that’s enslaving them. Yep, you guessed it, you know those very creatures you enjoyed discovering and feeding earlier, witnessing them in their natural habitat? Well, you now have to shoot them all. Harsh. The shooting is spread across six levels, with each level increasing in difficulty, but not by much. You can get through most of the levels with just a couple of machine guns, with the only challenge coming from bullet sponge bosses near the end. It’s a section of the game that kind of undoes all the hard work, and shatters the tone the game tried so hard to create initially. Moral questions aside, there is literally no need for this humdrum of a shooter. No need at all.
Ark Park is almost a Frankenstein of a game, a monster created by many different parts, none which gel together at all. The Exploration is ok and had so much potential. Why the developers didn’t focus on that I will never know. The rest of it just feels like padding, and not very good padding at that. Worryingly, there are eggs in your inventory that have padlocks, which unlock with certain content packs. Even in the tutorial, the voiceover mentions additional extras. It’s a worrying sign so expect some in-game purchases or extra DLC packs.
**speaking of the tutorial, if you do decide to buy this game, make sure you do the tutorial first else you’ll be left wondering what to do, as there is literally no indication or guide or help or prompts in the main game***
Ark Park is not a cheap game either at £44 on PSN its one of the more pricey offerings. And I can’t see where that high price point has come from. The graphics are passable, the gameplay varies from let down to unnecessary, and the rest is just meh. There is only one control method too, and that’s the awkward nausea-free teleportation so there is no free locomotion here. The controls themselves are pretty awful too, with depth perception way out (a killer when you have to select items by looking at them) but for the price, I would have at least expected a choice of control methods, more than just the Move or DS4 options. I would also have expected, for the price that Snail could have changed the sound effects of walking on land to one of walking through water when the terrain changes but they didn’t.
What could have been an exciting Jurassic Park-like adventure filled with wonderment and discovery is, in fact, a simple game that’s been padded out for no real reason other than to make some extra bucks on top of the already extortionate asking price. This is definitely one of the increasingly common creatures known as the Lameosaurus If you want to get your dinosaur fix, stick with Robinson The Journey, and that’s saying something.
Ark Park is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro with a V1 PlayStation VR), and PC
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a review copy from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.