Search Party: Chaos at the Park Review | Come one, come all, to the wild amusement park filled with havoc, crazy characters, and mysteries to solve! It’s up to you to create some calm in all the chaos – and fast! Search Party is a 3D search-and-find adventure game. Solve missions, find important objects, uncover motives, and more.
Number of Players: 3
Date Played: June 2023
Time Taken: 1 hour
Search Party is a new brand of board game experience from the creators of the popular party game: What Do You Meme. I say a ‘new brand’, because there’s nothing else quite like it in their catalogue. And, judging by how they explain the game in the instructions, I doubt this will be the last. The format is very repeatable, and I have a sneaky suspicion there are more “Search Party” games to come.
It is therefore a compelling first venture into the search-and-find genre. The theme, a sprawling and three dimensional circus park is an excellent place to explore a chaotic scene filled with weird and wonderful characters. Throughout the park are various scenes – there are three grandmas who have been shrunk down and can’t get on the roller coaster, there’s zombie on the loose, there’s a witch who crashes into another mid-air and all her belongings are scattered across the park. You get the gist. Big board, lots of things to find, and lots of missions to complete!
Pop-Up Funfairs & Other Shenanigans
The first and most important thing to say about Chaos at the Park is how visually impressive it is. Seriously! Before I’d even played it I knew this would be something special, and so I saved it for a day where I could sit around with a group of friends really getting into the nitty gritty of it. I also was so enamoured by the game, that I paused a work meeting in order to talk about this “very cool thing” I got in the post, and unfold the board to show them. We do a lot of work in the pop-up world, you see, but nothing quite as cool as this!
So all that to say, our group was very impressed by the moment of unfolding the board, laying it out over our table, and watching as the world literally popped up in front of us. A sprawling rollercoaster packed with park-goers, a big wheel, and the pop-up entrance to the park complete with it’s stripey awning. This game looks COOL.
Puzzles and Pop-Up Parks
The second important thing is therefore to mention the puzzles. With your board game you receive 15 missions spread over 83 cards. The missions are brightly coloured and look absolutely adorable all stacked up together in the box. Each of these missions has a ‘start point’ and then a series of questions the players need to answer to progress through the game.
For example: to begin you might be asked to find a clown. Then you’ll be asked where this clown came from – who are they, what they were doing and so on The activities in the park roll backwards in time, meaning as you trace someone’s path you’ll be able to follow where they came from and see them in steps. Since the whole board is only 50 x 50 cm, it was never too difficult to find what we were looking for in any case. Of course, the game is 3D however, so things got very interesting when the clues we were looking for weren’t on the ground but… Up in the air!
If you finish all of these, there’s a bonus booklet which has a whole host of strange things to find around the park. A refrigerator, a tiger, a pair of frogs. Little easter eggs and odd people doing odd little things. These added some amusing moments of bonus gameplay which you can take or leave as you like. I enjoyed these – although most of them I finished solo, long after my co-players had gone home for the evening.
In terms of the difficulty, this is where I think the game falters a little – it is quite easy. But I fully admit that these puzzles are aimed more at a family, children audience than at me. In our team of three, we had a mix of players with differing experience levels, but we were all familiar with games in the genre and knew what to do and how to do it. Each mission took us no more than 5 minutes to complete, making for a speedy and satisfying whiz through the game.
In all, I think a game like this is best played with younger children, with one or two adults gently guiding them through the experience.
Where’s Wally Meets Micro Macro Crime City
So, lets address the elephant in the room: Search Party is essentially the same as Micro Macro Crime City. And that’s okay… Maybe? In fact, we didn’t need to read the rules because we were all so familiar with Micro Macro, we got the gist of this one immediately. But lets not dwell on the similarities, lets instead point out the differences:
- Search Party is a 3D game, meaning you don’t just need to look top-down but you also look at the things ‘popping out’ of the playing board to find clues there.
- Search Party is also family friendly… There’s no murder and crime here
- Search Party also had an added bonus of a manual filled with fun ‘extra’ things to find and tick off. Kind of like those old Where’s Wally Books have a few pages at the end with cryptic clues of bonus things to find in each world. So does Search Party.
In these ways, Search Party brings something a little new than what Micro Macro offers. It’s a version of the genre that I’d be comfortable playing with my younger sibling or children in my friends/family group who can’t play Micro Macro due to all of the… Well… Slightly horrifying crime!
Somewhere in this there’s a conversation about copyright and ethics – for example, how close is a board game to another board game before it feels uncomfortable? I’m not a board game expert, I’m an escape room person, so I can’t really comment – but it is worth throwing it out there. Search Party is very, very similar. Therefore if Micro Macro isn’t right for you for any reason, and you want something more family focused, brighter, and a little sillier – this would make an excellent alternative.
Honestly? I did really enjoy the game! So did my co-players. We went in with absolutely no expectations – at the time of writing the game is very, very brand new and so there’s not much content available. So we weren’t sure, but we were ready to give it our all. The strengths of the game are absolutely in it’s presentation. It’s gorgeous. I love 3D environments and a 3D theme park is brilliant in it’s presentation and execution. It’s the kind of game you want to have out on display all year round.
The puzzles were a little too easy for our group, and as such we’d probably recommend this for a more family audience. I have the fondest memories of playing Where’s Wally as a child, pouring over the pages of a book, and this game took me right back. If you have kids and those kids enjoy Where’s Wally, then get them on this game right away, they’ll adore it for sure.
The only real negative was that we felt ever so slightly uncomfortable at how similar the game was to Micro Macro – but none of us felt like we really knew the board game landscape or genre well enough to comment. For all I know, there’s thousands of games just like this out there, but we’ve only come across Micro Macro. Who knows. It’s just tricky not to compare the two, and it’s even harder to compete with a game like Micro Macro which is world famous and has won countless awards. But I commend the creators for putting their own spin on the genre and making something refreshing and fun.
Search Party: Chaos at the Park can be purchased by heading to What Do You Meme’s website here.
Note: We were sent a complimentary copy of Chaos at the Park for review purposes, but this does not affect our review.