Mundanity and Murder: A Date in the Park Review for PC
A Date in the Park is a short and not-so-sweet free indie adventure game which explores "the feeling of oddness in an everyday situation", the thrill of meeting a new love, and the slight terror of being alone in a foreign city.
The game is almost entirely a point and click, with a few small and easy puzzles to solve. It wouldn't pose a challenge to the vast majority of gamers, but that's not an issue. This game is about the atmosphere.
The story is quite simple, befitting an hour-long game. You are Lou, a British chap recently moved to Lisbon. The night before, you met the woman of your dreams, and she asked to meet you again at a local park. The game's early 'puzzles' involve getting around when you don't understand the language, and finding the right location to meet your potential true love.
A Date in the Park seems to be partly autobiographical, as the park in question does indeed exist, and the scenes in the game are photos of the park itself. I think this basis in reality is what makes the game so chilling when it goes off the rails.
An in-game scene beside a real-world photo from Tripadvisor
There's also some lovely foreshadowing in the gameplay, especially in the features of the mundane objects around you. A fountain doesn't trickle but "spurts". Statues are headless. The park is devoid of life, apart from our character, a "slightly odd" gardener, and a pair of ducks.
Sound and Graphics
The sound is very minimal, with only ambient park noises. There's no music and no dialogue. Just birds chirping, water bubbling, approaching police sirens... It's a very peaceful game to play, up to a point.
Graphics are, as mentioned above, photogenerated, but have been altered to give the game a charming, early-90s adventure game aesthetic. The few gory scenes don't lose any of their impact due to the low-key graphics. I think that's in part because the lead-up to these scenes has been scripted so well.
I have to say replayability of A Date in the Park is pretty poor. But then again, it's a free game and won't take much more than an hour of your life to play. So I don't think this detracts much from the game. I found the start of the game a little frustrating and tedious, but when I later learned that this was part of the whole point of the game, I could definitely appreciate the awkard beginning.
All up, I give A Date in the Park 8/10 on the GameSkinny Scale . I certainly enjoyed playing it, and will remember it for some time. And if I ever end up in a certain park in Lisbon I will definitely get a major case of the heebie-jeebies.