The sweet, camping exploration game Haven Park is out today, and takes inspiration from the equally charming indie title A Short Hike by Adam Robinson-Yu, and also from Nintendo's popular villager hoarder Animal Crossing. Haven Park hopes to make us love the outdoors again despite the state of things - at least by the looks of its screenshots and gameplay videos. Like any successful game, you play as a bird named Flint, exploring the park around you. The soundtrack fits the gameplay shown in its trailer quite nicely, and reminded me of the work Natureboy Flako did producing the futuristic, chill sounds of indie explorer Stonefly.
Haven Park seems to set itself up as a welcomed reprieve from the steady influx of hyper-competitive games taking over the summer. Some of its cute features include a bright open world with multiple areas to setup your own camp, quests and side quests that share a bit of the game’s lore (as deep, no doubt, as Dark Souls'), and a whole lot of other campers to interact with. The game was developed by Fabien Weibel, and it apparently took him 800 hours to put together - nearly as long as my time spent on Oblivion. As a person who has never camped before, I’m going to take Haven Park as my not-so-crash course on what it means to explore the wilderness.
When Animal Crossing: New Horizons released last year, I initially found myself totally consumed by shaking and chopping down trees, bartering with fast-talking villagers, and struggling to pay rent to the tyrannical tanuki Tom Nook. I had never played an Animal Crossing game before, and was overwhelmed by videos of incredibly complex and ornate islands, and ultra-rare villagers other players were scamming each other for. An smaller title like Haven Park, however, looks to have the same qualities to whet the appetite of cozy gamers without dazing them. And campers at Haven Park appear to have more of their own autonomy, with some of them asking you to tend to the grounds so that they can enjoy the park as well.
Weibel’s work in the animation and film industry comes to the surface when looking at Haven Park’s overall aesthetic. He was a writer on the dialogue-free Angry Birds spin-off animation Piggy Tales, and it’s clear that experience informed his game development - just look at those bouncy little character animations, and the cuts in the trailer. While most of us were arguing with cable companies and internet service providers during the lockdown, Weibel turned the personal project into a fully realized game highlighting the wholesome side of exploration. The game is out now on the Steam store and GOG.