Alone in the Park
There ain't too much I can say about this game except that the answer is blowin' in the wind. Or inside a brain fruit. Or a women's public toilet. And you might want to shake down any children you find just to be safe. And harass a goat or two. Maybe take down some migrating falcons? Katharine Neil of Cheap Drunk Games brings you one very odd little tale with Alone in the Park. A mysterious letter arrives in your mailbox one day and invites you to track down pieces of a map scattered around nearby Spiegel Park to find a hidden treasure. What could it be? Unreleased Pokemon sketches? Vintage lego sets? *gasp* TIM HORTONS COFFEE?! What are you standing around for?
The game is primarily a text adventure with some visual representations and inventory management. An icon appearing in the central window where your location is displayed usually means an object or person to interact with, which is done by clicking on it. You can drag items in your inventory over one of these icons to try to use the two together, or to ask someone about whatever you're carrying. The titular park, it turns out, is rather a large place, so you'll be doing a lot of traveling between the numerous locations, which is done by simply clicking and holding on the map screen, whereupon you'll trundle in that direction. If you find yourself at a loss as to what to do, try activating "hint mode" from the game options, which makes items in your inventory that are relevant to your current location glow slightly.
As you'll soon discover, despite the title, you are not, strictly speaking, alone in the park. All manner of people are milling about in the various locales, taking in the sights, chaining themselves to trees, and owning unreasonable teddy-bears. Most of them will be able to help you find the missing pieces of your map if you ask... but only if you do something for them first. It might be as simple as tracking down a missing ring, or it might be as complex as chasing down one of the most belligerent goats on the face of the planet. Just make sure you save your game by clicking on the appropriate button when you need to take a break from the demands of your new "friends", since this game is fairly large.
Analysis: There's no question that while the presentation is unique and appealing, the star of the game is definitely Katharine Neil's writing, which is snarky when it needs to be and breathes life into both her cast of characters and bizarre situations. As is the case with all humour, the jokes in Alone in the Park can be hit or miss depending on your tastes. Some of it I found very clever, while other segments gave me the impression it was trying a bit too hard to be both ridiculously surreal and wink-wink-nudge-nudge-offensive. During our evaluation of the game, fellow word monkey joye made the suggestion that "the narrator is supposed to be unlikable; it's one of those post-post-modern hipster things where no one is likable". Which is a valid observation and stance, but in my case I would offer that someone who is unlikable on purpose is still unlikable and probably not someone I'll willing to hang around with even if the experience does level up my Hipster Hoodie.
Which is not to say the game isn't entertaining and worth playing, of course. If you've ever wanted to make a love connection for a pseudo-Goth shut-in, experience spiritual enlightenment from a goat, or help a woman stuck in a public restroom, Alone in the Park will provide. The cast is essentially a set of archetypes exaggerated to the extreme, and the end result is a game that feels like a sort of mecha-parody of itself and everything from other games to pop culture as a whole. The biggest issue may be with the puzzles in that most of them wind up being extended fetch-quests, which can be potentially frustrating considering that your primary mode of discovery and travel is "wander in big loopy circles until something pops up", which, considering how big the park itself actually is, could take a while. The biggest frustrations will probably wind up being the bird and the teddy bear, for sheer confusion and repetition respectively. (Although seeking out higher ground can help.)
In the end, possibly the word that best describes Alone in the Park is "different". It's not the only word; the game is also silly, creative, cheeky, crass, and entertaining. But it isn't something that will appeal to everyone. Of course, that's hardly a bad thing; give me a Dark City over a Sin City any day. For all its flaws, Alone in the Park is still an impressive bit of work and will appeal to adventure gamers with a sense of humour willing to take a bit of sass with their experience.