If you’re a diehard Indie Mine reader, you might remember that back in late May I ran a preview of an iPad title called Alone in the Park. This graphical/text-based adventure game hybrid piqued my interest then, and now I’ve had the chance to play the full release version. I’ll try to avoid retreading too much of the same ground, but by the time you’re done reading you’ll see why this modern take on text-based adventures games is easily worth recommending.
Alone in the Park isn’t an overly complicated game. The player drives the journey of a first-person narrator as she tries to find pieces of a map hidden throughout a nearby public park. Half of the screen is dedicated to the narrator and her descriptions of the people and places that are encountered and the actions that the player chooses. The other half of the screen includes a section of the overall map (with locations hidden until approached) along with an inventory grid containing pictures of the people and objects encountered. That side of the screen also houses icons associated with each place the character has visited and allow for quick travel. It’s simple and intuitive and that’s exactly what’s needed for a game of this nature.
The saying goes that life’s about the journey, not the destination, and that’s definitely true of this game. Katharine Neil of Cheap Drunk Games has done a wonderful job with the storytelling. Although the characters our protagonist meets along the way tend to be one-note stereotypes, Neil manages to keep the narration fresh, a bit saucy, and generally funny. Sarcasm, innuendo, and off-kilter observations are employed to great effect from beginning to end. The story of a largely text-based adventure is perhaps the most important element in separating success from failure. Alone in the Park scores a big win here.
Alone in the Park wouldn’t be a complete game if there weren’t some level of challenge to it. As mentioned earlier, the player is tasked with finding pieces of a map to help solve a mystery and find a treasure. More often than not, the map pieces aren’t hidden but instead held by characters not immediately eager to part with them. In those cases, the player must complete a task to satisfy the owner. These can vary from fetch quests (thankfully only a few) to legitimate problem-solving using acquired items. The items may be actual objects found or icons representing other characters already met. Depending on if it’s the right context, the player can use these icons in order to open a new line of dialogue and eventually earn that precious map piece.
Most people should be able to solve the majority of puzzles without too much trouble, but trial-and-error with the different objects can eventually net success. There were only a couple of puzzles that I was stuck on for awhile, but it was these puzzles that were ultimately the most rewarding. All told I was able to squeeze about four or five hours out of the game while playing at a leisurely pace. Because the individual puzzles are largely compartmentalized – and for the most part non-linear in their order – it’s easy to leave the game and come back without being at a loss for where to pick up the trail.
Because there’s not a lot of action involved, I believe this game can hold an appeal for audiences of a wide age range. The mature nature of some of the jokes, however, has necessitated an age restriction of 17 years or older in the App Store. Still, it’s the humor and overall writing that’s the strength of Alone in the Park and what places it high in the ranks of casual adventure games of the text-based variety.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose. The game was reviewed using the iPad version, but you can win a copy of the PC version by entering the contest below.
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