Penko Park by Ghostbutter
In Penko Park by Ghostbutter, a mystery surrounds an abandoned wildlife park. What was once a bustling travel spot is now an eerie shadow of its former self: no humans in sight, and what’s left are the animals that used to be on display.
It’s up to the player to take pictures of these animals to document them for preservation’s sake.
Leave Only Footprints, Take Only Photographs
The game is a collection of automated rides through three distinct areas within the titular Penko Park. Each has a certain number of animals that you must take pictures of, many of which during different emotional states.
You’re rated on how close and centered the animal is in your photo. Each photo is rated on a three-star system, and the better the photo, the more experience you gain.
At its core, it’s a fun and simple mechanic that I really got into. I was constantly trying to get the best pictures for my scrapbook and wanted to get three-star photos for every creature I came across.
Many creatures are hidden behind foliage or hiding in plain sight. Some are found in different paths unlocked behind mechanical switches. It often felt like a photography version of a hidden object game. Finding the creatures and taking the best pictures is fun and addictive in that completionist kind of way.
Upgrades add to the gameplay to make things a bit more complex. Experience gained from photos unlocks more upgrades, like the ability to stop the tram for a couple of seconds and a grappling arm that can pick up hidden artifacts. There’s also the essential upgrade of a throwable flower, which can make animals angry or happy.
Upgrades make taking pictures easier and add enough variety to the game’s handful of hours to keep it from feeling repetitive. I also appreciated that the upgrades didn’t make things too complex or difficult.
The Mystery of the Missing Mystery
It’s a goal-oriented game for sure, but these mechanics make for a mostly relaxing experience. Most of the game is pretty chill, and taking pictures is nice and calming. There are, however, tenser moments, which I won’t spoil, but needless to say, they add to the game’s mysterious vibe in a great way.
There is a mystery surrounding Penko Park, and it’s not necessarily fleshed out as well as I’d hoped. There are specific moments where the narrative has the potential to expand and go places, but I felt it was more of an afterthought.
I feel like this side of the game is its weakest aspect, but it doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall photography experience. It’s just something that I felt was teased but never fully explored.
All Creatures, Cute and Creepy
It utilizes a cut-out paper art style effectively. Creatures have a flat look to them but are textured with small details. It manages to look simplistic, but looking closely, a lot of work went into every texture in the game.
These creatures are unconventional. Many look cute, while others look downright sort of horrifying. It makes some of the game’s atmosphere charming in an off-putting way. It serves to make the game’s world that much more compelling, more alive and more cohesive. It’s not going for that hyper-realistic look, but I think it’s such a great rendition of its art style.
Penko Park is a wonderful game for those who just want to take pictures of some weird creatures. It’s a lot of fun for those looking for a more relaxing experience. It’s one of those games where after I was done, a part of me was wishing it was longer, but for what it offers, it’s plenty of fun and well worth your time.
Penko Park is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Penko Park below: