The easiest way to sum up Haven Park would be “offline Animal Crossing”. Three words that pretty much tell you everything you need to know about Fabien Weibel’s little game, down to whether or not you think it’s something you’ll enjoy spending a few hours on. I’m not sure it’s entirely fair, as this game certainly has its own character and charm to it, but I’m also not sure it’s an entirely inaccurate summary either.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Nicely paced exploration|
+ Wry sense of humour
+ Good sense of progression
|Negatives||– Some performance issues|
– Annoying depth-of-field effect
– A little shallow
|Price (When Reviewed)||£6.99|
|Our Playtime||4-6 hours|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch, PC|
You play Flint, a small, yellow and very round bird, whose name seems much more action-game than the one he finds himself in. When running around the island if you push ‘A’ he says “pew”, which also seems a cheeky nod to the game’s non-violent nature, as well as being probably more entertaining than it should be. Flint is charged by his grandmother, another oddly round bird-creature, into taking on management of the eponymous park from her.
You’ll quickly realise that Flint’s grandmother had really let things slide for a while. The bulk of the gameplay is spent exploring the island to find the various campsites, all the while gathering supplies and resources. You’ll be fixing up broken fences and lamp-posts as you go, and then setting up shelter, food and rest options and decorations for each campsite, all to fit the demands of the other strange round anthropomorphic critters, who apparently teleport in once you start renovations.
So far, so Animal Crossing, although the options for creating the campsites are far fewer than the houses you’d build for your islanders in Nintendo’s game, and the campers less developed than those who would come to inhabit your lockdown escape. Haven Park is far smaller in scope, however, so I didn’t find these aspects lacking – unlike Animal Crossing this is a game you’ll play through in a few hours, and the content matches up well enough with that goal. Haven Park isn’t designed to be a place you inhabit for weeks or months, let alone indefinitely, but it’s no bad thing for a game to aim to hold your attention solidly for a few short hours instead.
The exploration side of things is the main focus of the game and further developed. The park is deceptively large, with some light navigational work needed to access some areas and even some puzzles as well, though there’s nothing too taxing. The overall tone is relaxing, with little pressure or challenge by design yet it offers options for the completionists in collecting resources, side quests and camp construction that you can put as much or as little into as you wish.
Graphically the game fits into the “cute indie platform-adjacent game” box pretty squarely. There is an annoyingly overdone depth-of-field effect – yes, in a top-down game – which made it feel like I was wearing bifocals and obscured any resources or items more than five feet behind Flint. Thankfully this could be turned off, though I did need to do this every time I loaded the game. There were also a few performance stutters, which given the lack of fidelity or any fancy action going on seemed a little out of place, but given the sedate pace of the game they were never more than a mild distraction.
There are some story beats that come in a little later in the game that are a little heavy-handed with the metaphors, but generally everything is kept light. Some of the side-quests have some fun, if slightly nonsensical writing – there’s a choose-your-own adventure book found in a ruined tower that is quite fun, yet it somehow requires that you go out into the world and find real-world items to progress, despite being clearly a book you are reading – but it’s all played with a gentle humour that works well with the tone.
If you enjoyed the escapism of Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley or Spiritfarer but want something a little lighter; something short and sweet yet not too saccharine, you could certainly do worse than a short break to Haven Park. The game is a very reasonable £6.99, which I think is pretty much the perfect price point for its size and scope, and while unlikely to make anyone’s game-of-the-year list, is nonetheless a nice palate cleanser between meatier titles.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.