Why is Barney the dinosaur the image for this review? Because there are no available press images that accurately represent the disappointment that is ARK Park for PSVR. Seriously, every screenshot available is an extreme bullshot that is not representative of the final product. Barney it is, then.
ARK Park is a spin-off title from the infamous ARK: Survival Evolved. It’s a VR-only game so you’ll need a PSVR headset and a DualShock 4 or a couple of PS Move wands to play. If you don’t have a pair of Move controllers handy, don’t worry; you’re not missing out on anything.
The opening of ARK Park is full of promise with a train ride to dino island. Everything looks promising as the futuristic Jurassic World inspired train gently hums over the water. There’s a monstrous dinosaur enjoying the water, a few flying creatures taking in the air, and a general sense of wonder. Until you actually get to ARK Park, that is. Once you’ve left the train things quickly go south. I decided to take on the game’s tutorial where you learn the different aspects of the game.
It’s here that you’ll learn how to move around, craft, and explore. Unfortunately the biggest letdown is apparent from the start: teleportation. Instead of being able to wander around freely you’re stuck with moving your head to move an in-game cursor to where you want to go, then you press a button and – voila! – you’re there. I’ve had problems with teleporation in other VR games, but I’ve also championed it (Arizona Sunshine) but ARK Park just does it in the most frustrating way possible.
I originally tried to play with two PS Move controllers and I was forever pointing my right hand at where I wanted to go, to no avail. Using your head to aim is a pain in the neck – literally – and after 20 minutes of play I was starting to feel the strain. I think I’ve pinned down why the developers didn’t go with free movement, though, and it’s because the game looks awful. Everything further than, say, three in-game feet away from you is a blur. Trying to move through this game without puking would be a challenge, even for the most die-hard PSVR users. Objects look pretty decent up close, to be fair, but if you’re wanting to take in the scenery you’re going to have to get really up close and personal.
- Developer: Snail
- Release Date: March 22nd
- Price: £44.99/$49.99/€49.99
Once I’d gone through the motions with the tutorial, it was time to get into the game for real. This is where things get nasty. You’ve got your exploration mode where you, er, explore. You’re equipped with a pistol, a scanning tool, gloves, and a really shitty looking pickaxe. Like, I’ve got this wonderfully futuristic scanning gun in my backpack, but it’s resting next to a pickaxe that a caveman would have cherished. It’s just a bit daft.
Wandering through the various locations is the best part of the game, though that’s not saying much. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I could actually see what was going on rather than guessing what the that blur in the distance is.
Getting up close with dinosaurs is the highlight of ARK Park. There’s a decent amount of detail in each and every one and it’s just a shame that the whole experience is marred by poor graphics. It also doesn’t help that half the game is reduced to a wave shooter (more on that in a moment) that just seems so out of place, but it’s a necessity if you want to finish the game.
The buzzword of 2015 (crafting) is here in spades. You need to collect bits and bobs, such as wood, fruit, and the genes of dinosaurs in order to craft new items. Did nobody tell the developer that this year’s buzzword is ‘loot’? The whole collecting and crafting aspect could have just been done away with and the game wouldn’t have suffered. It was a pain in the arse to have to go back and forth the hub area to stash my goods and craft (I hate this word, by the way) what was needed.
On one hand I can see a good game in ARK Park. If it was focused purely on exploration and watching dinosaurs munching leaves and what not, I’d have appreciated what was here. But the fact that there’s a battle mode that is completely derivative of other wave shooters is the nail in the coffin. You’ve got a few different arenas where differing dinosaurs will come in waves. You need to shoot them. Once you’ve completed enough waves you’ll get a bullet-sponge boss dinosaur. You’ll shoot it dead. You will feel zero accomplishment. It’s shallow and honestly feels like it was put in there just so the publisher could say “look, we let you shoot dinosaurs! Buy our game!”.
ARK Park wants to do too much. It’s got ambition and I’ll admire that any day of week, but when it’s reaching for all audiences by splitting itself into two half-arsed games, I’ll happily sit here and tell it how it is: ARK Park is not a good game and you should avoid it at all costs. Oh, and it costs more on PSVR than on other platforms, so you’re getting shafted just for having the nerve to be a PSVR owner.
ARK Park PSVR Review
Ark Park could have - should have - been a decent Jurassic Park knock-off. Instead it's just a knock-off. It lifts its entire concept wholesale from the Jurassic Park series (even more so from Jurassic World) but without any of the charisma, quality, or fun. Couple this with the fact you're paying more for an inferior version of a poor game and you've got enough reasons to watch this one go the way of the Dodo.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the developer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.