Remember how Untitled Goose Game had a dedicated 'honk' button we never got tired of tapping? Haven Park, released today on Steam, GoG, and itch.io, is another game starring a bird, but instead of an asshole goose you're the sweetest little bird ever equipped with a dedicated 'pew' button.
As in pew-pew, pew-pew. I've been playing for about four hours and I haven't gotten sick of tapping that button either.
Our bird, Flint, is a young, cute little round bird a bit intimidated by his new responsibilities. With his grandma having gotten a little too old to act as manager of a picturesque island and camping destination, Flint has to become the new caretaker, fix up the various campsites, and lure the visitors back to the island paradise.
At first Haven Park mostly feels like a lot of running around picking up wood, metal, and cloth, and using them to build some simple camping equipment like tents and park benches. But as I fixed things up, guests began to show up in the park, and the island began to come alive. The island is also completely gorgeous, and the more of it I uncovered, the more magical it began to feel, with lush woods, snowcapped mountains, butterfly-filled meadows, refreshing waterfalls, and even a few areas that felt a bit spooky, especially at night, like nature sometimes does.
As I found new campsites to fix up, more and more campers arrived, and a few even gave me additional quests that help break up the constant scrounging for supplies. One visitor is full of island trivia and keeps betting more and more money that he can stump me (he hasn't yet). Another fellow fancies himself a monarch and demands I bring him a crown, which turns into a multi-part quest that took quite a bit of exploring to complete.
One camper asked to play hide and seek, and after I closed my eyes and counted to ten, he vanished. That was a couple of hours ago. I still have no idea where he went. In another sort of game I'd be worried something horrifying had happened to him, but Haven Park is incredibly sweet and wholesome. I'm sure (pretty sure) he's fine.
And some characters are just amusing even if they don't give you quests. It's fun watching them enjoy the things you build: they'll swing on swings, cook food at barbeques, sleep in tents (you can sleep in the tents, too), ooh-and-ah over fireworks, and even take a dip in the small swimming pools you can build for them. You can chat with all of them: one told me he rated my park four stars, which made me happy before he quickly added that his scale was out of ten. He then said what I really needed to make the island great was paintball. Another asked if I'd found a toy boat, which I had. I was honest and told her I'd used it for scrap wood. Now she's adorably furious with me. Hopefully there's a replacement somewhere on the island I can find and give to her.
And there's a lot of surprising stuff to find in Haven Park. At one point I came across a book which turned out to be a game inside the game—a choose your own adventure style story that not only asks me to pick actions (like whether I should try to sneak past a dragon or speak to it) but also acts as a scavenger hunt, where I have to find several physical objects on the island that are needed to make it through the book's adventure. Haven Park is a great balance of resource-based tasks and fun distractions that let you forget those tasks for a while.
And it's just so darn cute, wholesome, and a joy to explore. Just don't expect an endless Animal Crossing-esque because Haven Park probably won't take you all that long to finish. I've played for about four hours, my park repair meter is at 71% and I've got a handful of quests left to complete (including finding my incredibly skilled hide and seek partner). But each time I make another run around the island I seem to find a new little quest hiding somewhere, so I honestly don't know how much left I've got to do.
But I'm happy to keep looking. This may be the one game this year I complete 100%, mostly because Haven Park is such a beautiful and gentle place I'm just not ready to leave it yet.