REVIEW: Haven Park is a cozy and colorful island-management sim (that won't eat up your time)
Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Just the Facts
Developer: Fabien Weibel, Bubblebird Studio
Publisher: Fabien Weibel, Mooneye Studios
Platform(s): PC* and Switch *platform reviewed on
Release Date: Aug. 5, 2021
Key provided by Mooneye Studios.
Haven Park to-do list: Enjoy a beautiful day and make grandma proud.
This bite-sized open world is a fixer-upper — that is, it’s your task as young Flint to repair and maintain an island that’s fallen out of sorts since your grandmother can no longer keep it running in its full glory.
After an eye-candy cutscene that introduces the vibrant world you’re taking under your tiny wing, it’s up to you to gather resources and get to work. You clear up scraps of wood, metal, fabric and mushrooms that will become your building blocks for 12 campsites that you must find spread across the map.
Along the way, you’ll check in with your grandmother and hear what she thinks of your ongoing progress as the new park ranger.
Into the thick of it
As you begin to revitalize the empty and forgotten campsites, quirky visitors will appear and begin to poke around (word apparently spreads like wildfire in this world’s camping scene). They’ll share compliments and critiques on your work, letting you know what elements you still need to craft to satisfy their needs. They don’t want for much: places to rest, eat, and sleep, as well as a few activities and decorations.
There’s also a charming innocence to these side characters. They’re straightforward and blunt like kids often are. They’ll confide tall tales that help you search the island for secrets and challenge you in youthful games like hide and seek or a staring contest. There isn’t much to them, dialogue-wise, but they’re one reason why this colorful game captures a feeling of childishness that some of us are needing right now.
The game is primarily made up of their campsite fetch quests. Gather, craft and place, repeat. You’ll trek far and wide on Flint’s tiny bird feet to accomplish it all over the course of about 4 hours.
At first, it feels like there are plenty of design combinations with your craftable elements, and each new one you lay out brings a sense of pride. But by the time you’ve found your dozenth camp, they’ll likely start to bleed together.
While there aren’t all that many items you can craft, the game’s whimsical design elements are cute, and varied enough for some customization at each camp.
Along the way, you’ll also repair damaged signs, fences, torches and infrastructure across the park. Thankfully, an update added an indicator for players to know which regions still have repairable items left unfixed. (Unfortunately, it was after my first playthrough, where I trudged through the entire park for hours sobbing and searching for the final few objects to complete the quest and get the completionist achievement.)
"... this colorful game captures a feeling of childishness that some of us are needing right now."
The game's finite materials will eventually, inevitably make your construction tricky, especially considering the unbalanced usefulness of your foraged goods. With wood and metal required for most crafting recipes, you may end up carrying around just massive, massive quantities of mushrooms as you journey alone through the world (and that’s your prerogative!). This quirk can be a bit frustrating until you unlock the Salesmanship and Master Builder skills, allowing you to craft a marketplace at any campsite and trade in resources.
It doesn’t take long to max out your XP at level 10 and unlock all of the extra skills, but you won’t notice the understated effects very much. These skill boosts provide small changes to your gameplay, like the ability to jump higher, carry more resources, or earn more passive income from your food cart sales.
You'll get a fresh addition to the main gameplay in a few side quests. In one, you’ll make your way through a choose-your-own-adventure book that blends your on-page crusade with your “real world” surroundings, requiring you to scout nearby objects to successfully complete the story.
Why its simplicity works
You don’t have to search too far for Haven Park’s inspirations. At a glance, it’s clear that the game breeds A Short Hike with Animal Crossing — and the developer has confirmed as much.
While they share some genes, Haven Park offers its own personality to this wholesome indie games pool. And as opposed to a powerhouse like Animal Crossing, which can look intimidating when you see how granular and impressive some players’ islands become, the controlled simplicity of Haven Park might even be a welcoming and innocuous reprieve for some.
Simple or not, the game is a visual delight, with saturated landscapes, teensy villages, fluttering kaleidoscopes of hot pink butterflies, and all kinds of small pleasures.
This is a game for people who like the simple things in life. Catching fireflies to light your way at night. Blowing on a dandelion puff and watching it soar on the wind. Elevator music playing in the cable car.
The game’s cozy sound design shines in its subtlety, too.
Music is used sparingly. Instead, it’s a lovely few hours spent listening to bird calls, crackling fires, and the pitter-patter of your own little feet as you run from campsite to campsite. You’ll encounter a few satisfying shifts — like wind whistling through a narrow gorge or an echo as you splash your way through a cavernous puddle. These moments were simple, but really quite effective at plucking my little outdoors-loving heartstrings.
Best of all are some of the game’s cheekier sounds, including a dedicated button that lets you go “Pew!” For what reason? It, like me, exists simply to be adored.
Haven Park is packed with personality and charm that lovers of the cozy and wholesome games genre expect.
Could it have more interactivity with campers? Sure. Could it fine-tune its resource availability or add more design elements for varied campsites? Of course. Still, it’s hard to come away from this game and feel that it’s lacking.
This labor of love was developed by just one person, Fabien Weibel, over the course of hundreds of hours during the beginning of the pandemic. It’s a game you can start and finish in a day and feel good about the experience. It’s even had some large updates since its release, including a now-explorable mine that was formerly closed off, as well as a holiday update that came out last month.
Even after the game’s story wraps up with a touching moment, the game offers a new tool to aid your gameplay if you’d like to continue your exploration.
So, whether you’re jumping into the game for a few hours of a campground romp, or you’re craving a new ambient game that you can return to when you want to turn your brain off, Haven Park fits the bill.
Now, get out there and show grandma what you've got.
video games are good and Haven Park is . . . GREAT. (8/10)
+ Graphically gorgeous, enticing natural soundscape, brief but moving story
- Some frustrating “find-it” quests and a limited catalog of camp design elements
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