If you already have Parks or the recent expansion Nightfall, then you probably know a lot about Parks Memories already. It was part of the Kickstarter for the recent expansion and gained a lot of interest from the enthusiastic fan base there, myself included.
Parks is a solid game that certainly made its name with the beautiful artwork. Many of the American national parks are represented with commissions from many different artists. A variety of styles and approaches. But all stunning in their own way. Nightfall brought in the few parks that had been previously left out, and showed some in a new twilight setting. The games are fun, but the attraction certainly comes from this beautiful art first and foremost.
Parks Memories plays on this, and brings the same art to you again, but this time on 48 sturdy Park tiles that offer the chance to play a few simple memory-based games. But is it any good?
Parks has a few big reasons for its popularity. First, the gorgeous art, as we have talked about. Second, the sense of adventure for people who have been to or wish to go to these amazing places. And finally, the simple but rewarding gameplay. I enjoy it a lot and have played a fair few times. I found the expansion to be a nice addition, bringing in some extra cards, components and mechanisms that added to the game. Parks Memories however perhaps seems like a stretch too far. However, the collectors in us will want it, like me! Let me explain.
If you want a memory game, I would imagine you are looking for something for your children or younger players and this is not ideal for them. You will be protective over the tiles and I would think, not want them getting grubby! Also, the art is lovely, but not ideal for younger players. Not that they have anything unsuitable on, its national parks after all. Usually, memory games for younger players are simple pictures like animals or objects. Easy for children to identify.
If you want a game suitable for adults, I would imagine a memory game is not necessarily top of the list. And the strategy element in this game is very light and doesn’t change what is a pretty simple mechanic.
As such, I am left wondering why this game was made? Was it just to cash in on the success of the base game? Or did they have a genuine passion to make it? I am left thinking about how best to describe this game and who to recommend it to.
I am left with two answers. The completists and the gateway pushers.
If you have Parks and Nightfall, then I would expect you may want Parks Memories to complete your set. Now I must warn you, there are three versions of Parks Memories based on the three main areas the parks are set in. Mountains, Coast to Coast and Plains Walker. They are all essentially the same game but offer different Park art, however, the abilities available in the game do change a little.
But if you are buying this game just to complete your set, fair warning, there are three versions out there!
I could also see some people getting this as they like the art so much, they want to frame it, and see the thicker tiles as a good option for this. That would make sense to me, and in that regards, this is an incredibly cheap way to do that.
The Gateway Pushers
The other group of people this game is perfect for is those of us who love games so much, we feel the need to talk to everyone we know about them all the time! I usually go for a game like Clank or Night of the Ninja for my gateway game of choice, but Parks Memories I could see would be good for some occasions too.
It is so simple, and familiar to anyone, that you could be set up and playing within minutes with any player of any ability. The art is so good, it will generate conversations about games in a new way for the person you are trying to push your gaming habit onto, and plays quick enough for any type of player, no matter their patience. I would also imagine, if they enjoyed it, it would then be pretty simple to encourage them to try a game of Parks after this. And now you have them!
I’ve a terrible memory, how do you play again?
You can play Parks Memories in a few ways. There are the classic ‘flip two tiles - find a match - take the tiles’ style memory game. Or in a simple and light “strategic” twist to this. Players will flip two tiles on their turn. Each Tile has a symbol in the top right corner that if you find a match for, you can activate one of your four ability tokens. This allows you to change where you choose tiles from, change the order of upcoming tiles, flip the top tiles from the stack of upcoming tiles, of tiles or block a face-up tile you have your eye on!
Once you have flipped two tiles and checked for a match on the symbols, you can then take one face-up tile into your play area. You then replace the tile you took, from one of the available stacks, which could now show a face-up tile. You then either add the marker onto the play area if it the first turn of the game or move the hiker to another face-up tile.
The hiker comes in the form of a solid wooden token that represents the players as they move from park to park. Whichever tile the Hiker is on is locked and cannot be taken by other players. So, this is a good opportunity to protect certain tiles you may want in later turns.
The first player to collect three matches of tiles in their hand wins the game. It is simple to learn and play but has enough of a change to the normal memory style game to interest most people for a game or two.
Parks and Recommendations
With all that in mind, can I recommend this game? The art is the main draw, and it is just the same art you have already seen. They have not commissioned new paintings or drawings. Rather the previous artwork from the original game has been ported over to this game. It seems a shame they could not have simply asked each artist to offer a new take, even if it is the previous work but with a slightly new angle or small adjustment. It just seems lazy and a missed opportunity to me for a game that is built up so much by the art. I appreciate this would not have come cheaply, but without new artwork, I fear this game will not deliver much excitement in the market beyond those completists who have the original game.
But if you are looking for something light and simple to tease in any non-gaming friends you may have, to then tempt them with a game of Parks afterwards if you don’t think they would play this first, then this could be the greatest game ever made!