Ark Park VR:
I was a dinosaur kid – you know, those children who are obsessed with T-Rex toys and only wear shirts if they have a Stegosaurus on them. Jurassic Park was my favourite movie growing up. Heck, it’s still up there today. So I was thrilled to get to play the retail disc of Ark Park VR – a virtual reality game that throws you into an island theme park full of dinosaurs. But whilst I expected a virtual reality version of the wonderful Dorling Kindersley Dinosaur Hunter, I got something a little different.
Ark Park proudly boasts its lack of a linear storyline as a selling point, instead opting for players to tackle the park as they see fit. You can roam freely and choose what activities to pursue early on, and whilst the lack of a narrative drive can be felt in how aimless the title can sometimes feel, I appreciated what the devs were going for here.
Ark Park is, after all, modelled after a theme park, and aims to give you the freedom of choice such a venue would have. If you’re not interested in something, you’re (mostly) not forced to participate in those activities.
I wanted to be immersed in Ark Park – I really did. But through some clunky controls and some average visuals, I was constantly brought out of my dino-hunting experience. It doesn’t help that the title can’t seem to choose what it wants to be – the survival game it span off from, or a more mild-mannered exploration sim.
There’s a dissonance between being asked to witness the majesty of dinosaurs in VR, and then gunning them down in lacklustre wave based shooting segments. The same goes for the ability to rear the little critters from eggs – I can only imagine John Hammond is rolling in his grave right now. This split personality means that nothing is truly competent in Ark Park, instead offering a number of distractions of equally disappointing execution.
The tedium of harvesting materials to make incremental upgrades (and then make incremental progress with said upgrade) is also a chore – one that made sense in Ark proper, as you escalate up that particular food chain, but feels stilted and weird here.
It doesn’t help that the package doesn’t sell itself well with its visuals or sound design. The latter is tinny and flat, with a score that tries to elevate the proceedings to something triumphant and majestic but falls short.
The visuals are also simply average. Ark was never the prettiest looking game, but in VR things get even muddier, with low res textures making the world of Ark look bland and uninteresting. The dinosaurs are a little better, with some neat animations here and there, but I was never very immersed by the way the title looked – something of a cardinal sin for a VR game.
‘Ark Park VR‘ has some moments of fun amidst its humdrum box of toys, but mostly it was a forgettable experience – something a dinosaur theme park should never be. My inner child is still holding out hope that such a virtual reality experience can work, but I think we both agree that this isn’t it.