Haven Park Review – Time for a Vacation

Developer: Fabien Weibel // Publisher: Mooneye Indies // Price: $8.99 (Steam/eShop)
Review copy received from publisher

When I was a lad, my parents regularly planned a summer vacation, often a trip to the beach for a week with my grandparents.  My sister and I would climb into the van, sometimes before the sun ever crested the horizon, eager to go on a new adventure.  I hadn’t thought about those excursions for years, but those memories came flooding back while playing Haven Park from Fabien Weibel and Mooneye Indies.

Haven Park is a simulation and adventure game hybrid that focuses on the management of a campground.  It shares a number of ideas from Animal Crossing and recent indie game A Short Hike. Players take on the role of a cute, little bird named Flint whose given the campground by his grandmother.  No explanation is provided on why Flint’s parents aren’t taking over the campground; perhaps they have flown the coop?  The maintenance of the campground has become too much for Flint’s grandmother and the whole area is a bit run down.  Amenities around the campground need to be repaired and the campsites need to be updated for the visiting guests.

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Freedom of Choice

Very little direction is given to players which gives them significant freedom to play the game in any way they desire.  The adventuring areas of the game delicately intertwine with campsite management forcing players to search through the campground for supplies.  Wood and metal are needed for repairing items around the campground and can be combined with fabric and mushrooms to create items for camp sites.

Once a campsite in the campground is established, anthropomorphic animals will wander into the camp site and start asking for amenities beginning with a place to sleep and eventually requesting food and entertainment options. Although the new camp site visitors have desires, there is no rush on fulfilling them; the guests will wander the camp site patiently waiting for Flint to improve their camp site.

All the Small Things

In addition to the campsites and repairs, the campground has plenty of things to discover while exploring. One of my favorite interactions was finding a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style book.  Reading through the book to the correct ending nets a reward for Flint.  While reading the book, Flint is periodically tasked with finding real world objects nearby.  This seemed a little odd that a book would require real objects to progress, but I enjoyed the sentiment as it brought back even more memories from my youth.  This is just one example of the surprises waiting in the campground.

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Hiding amongst the casual gameplay, are role-playing elements that enhance the experience.  Flint has a journal that logs quests that are give to him by characters around the campground.  Completing the quests earns experience points to unlock new skills like collecting additional resources and unlocking additional elements for the campsites.  Overall, the upgrades have little impact on the gameplay, but they compliment well with the adventure aspects of the game.

Wipe It Off The Map

The campground covers a relatively large chunk of land making it easy to get lost.  Thankfully, there is a map, but it is a bit crude.  The map is lacking in detail including the exact location of Flint.  Unless standing by a trail marker, it is very difficult to identify where Flint is.  Maybe the developers were going for a more realistic approach for the map, making it appear like a paper map that Flint might pull out of his backpack. However, I’m a bit spoiled as a gamer; a little dot to show where Flint is would be a welcome addition.

Even with a map, walking around the campground can be somewhat of a challenge.  Brushing up against an object can stop Flint in his tracks.  Tight areas with numerous trees and bushes are a challenge to navigate when exploring off the beaten path.  It was a bit jarring to find myself suddenly stuck on a tree when trying to walk across a narrow cliff and then falling off while trying to maneuver around it.

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Final Verdict

The art direction of Haven Park creates a welcoming world, and the bird calls and nature sounds instead of a musical score helps create an immersive environment with plentiful things to discover as Flint roams throughout the campground.  While the camper satisfaction aspect of Haven Park is reminiscent of Animal Crossing, the quests add depth to the game and make for a more engaging experience.  The sim aspects of the game feel secondary to the adventure.  The items available to build at the campsite are limited and primarily just for decoration which makes the campsites functionally similar with minor graphical differences.  Because of that, I spent more time roaming around gathering resources and fixing things than I did setting up the campsites.  The control issues and map were a minor annoyance but didn’t greatly detract from my enjoyment.  The memories that Haven Park induced was worth the price of admission.

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