A look at South Park games - "Gonna meet some friends of mine"
It's that time of year again. Yes, South Park is back! Tonight, the long-running animated series kicks off its 19th season on Comedy Central. Of course with its season premiere airing tonight, what better time than now to take a look at all of the games based on this landmark series.
As a fan of the series since it premiered back in 1997, I have played all of these games. As with all licensed game series, there are some poor titles, but there are also some good ones as well.
Developed by Iguana Entertainment and published by Acclaim, this first entry in South Park's gaming library comes in the form of a first-person shooter. The story is simple. As a mysterious comet approaches Earth, its influence begins to alter the town in odd ways such as turning townspeople into clones, making turkeys rabid, and creating murderous toys.
Do you think a snowball will make up for all those Jew jokes?
The game has very similar controls to Turok being as the game was developed from its engine. You could play as either of the four boys, gaining the ability to switch among them once all were located in each level. Additionally, each weapon had an alternate fire mode. For example, the snowball could be made more powerful through the magical powers of piss.
The graphics were very true to the series despite not having aged well. Also, the level design kept with the spirit of the show, even though the game could get boring at times. The audio is decent with Trey Parker and Matt Stone supplying the voices for the characters. Their quips and insults are humorous, at first, but are recycled very frequently.
Character select screen
South Park also included a multi-player mode. Similar to Golden Eye, players were given the option to choose a level and commence in an all-out death match. The interesting aspect of the multiplayer was the ability to unlock characters through the story mode. There was a decent selection of characters, even though some of them had an unfair advantage. Selecting Kyle's little brother, Ike, made him rather hard to hit compared to the adult characters or even the other kids.
Regardless of its flaws, I enjoyed playing South Park when it came out on Nintendo 64 in 1998. I especially enjoyed played the multiplayer with my brother.
And yes, I used to cheat by choosing Ike.
When you're short on ideas for a licensed-based game, you turn to the party game for that easy cash-in. That's what Chef's Luv Shack is in the simplest terms. Cheap party game cash-in. The game centers around a game show, hosted by the school cook, Chef, allowing the player to choose either of the four boys as the contestant.
Answer is Duck and Cover.
As you might have already expected, the type of gameplay here is centered on a series of various mini-games. The game switches between trivia questions and mini-games. After every three questions or so, the players are thrown into a random mini-game out of a possible 23 different options. Well, sort of. Whenever I played the PlayStation version of the game, the same mini-games were often chosen over and over again. More on the mini-games in a moment. The questions asked to the player often consisted mostly of South Park trivia. However, the game does throw questions at you ranging from all kinds of different subjects. Be prepared to bring a friend though as the game does not support playing with yourself. Yes, that joke was intentional.
Now for the mini-games. First of all, as I mentioned earlier, the mini-games are often recycled very easily. The ones I encountered the most were Asses in Space (an Asteroids rip-off with Terrance and Phillip), Eat This (pie-eating contest), and Stampede (think Running of the Bulls, but with cows). The mini-games are fun, but I would have enjoyed an option to select them myself instead of letting the game decide for me.
Always the damn pie-eating contest!
Also, another issue with the game was the incredibly long loading times. For a game with such simple graphics, I do not understand why it took so long for the game to load a basic mini-game. It's frustrating waiting for a mini-game to load, playing it for less than a minute, then having to sit through another long loading screen. If the whole purpose of this game is to be a party game, you think having quick load times would be vital.
All in all, Chef's Luv Shack is definitely weaker than its first-person shooter predecessor. There was potential there, and good times were had, but the long load times and lack of mini-game variety made playing Chef's Luv Shack an incredibly dull experience.
Unfortunately, our next title is the worst of the bunch.
South Park Rally (thankfully) wraps up the South Park games published by Acclaim. Aside from contributing a few lines of voice acting, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had little involvement in the development of these three titles. It's clear in this title and Chef's Luv Shack that the license and characters were being used for a cheap cash-in.
It quickly goes downhill after this, trust me.
Yes, South Park 64 was a decent title and Chef's Luv Shack had its moments, but holy hell, South Park Rally is just downright unplayable. There is no real story to this game other than the Mayor is hosting a series of races in the town. However, it is a racing game, so I can't really knock it for that. I mean, you didn't know why the hell they were racing in Mario Kart, did you?
Speaking of Mario Kart, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that it's a Mario Kart clone. And, I'm also sure that I don't have to tell you that's it's a horrible one. Much like every other racer, you select your driver, and I will give the game credit for having some diverse drivers, branching away from the usual foursome. By the way, that's the end of the praise.
Not to go all "nerd" here, but I'm pretty sure it was Barbara Streisand and not Saddam Hussein's face for spooky vision.
Of course, like Mario Kart, you can use several items inspired from the franchise and characters to fight your way to victory. You could use the alien mind control device to turn other players into rosy cheeked, crooning drones or the Saddam Hussein which hinders the field of vision of the other players. That's all well and good, but the game does not really need these items at all. The driving controls are poor enough on their own to where I don't need Saddam's face on my screen to cause my car to veer off to the side suddenly.
I love South Park and kart racers, but poor graphics and shoddy controls are ever prevalent in South Park Rally. Fortunately, we only go up from here as South Park games start being developed on a smaller scale.
Due to the dread-inspiring South Park Rally, we did not get another South Park game until 2009. At this point, the show had developed immensely, amassing a ton of new characters and the games moved away from commercial releases to online distribution through Xbox Live Arcade.
This pause screen is awesome!
The first title was something new for the series, a tower defense game, where players must set up towers to fend off waves of enemies. Of course, being South Park, the enemies are of a humorous variety including the Ginger Kids, Mongolians, and cows. The game does have a simple, but amusing story with our boys proceeding through levels and ultimately facing the ultimate meta villain. The graphics are sharp and clean, keeping well with the style of the simplistic show. All of your favorite characters are here too, with tons of references and in-jokes taken from the show.
Honestly, I am not a fan of tower defense games, but this one I did find enjoyable. Of course, the gameplay does nothing stellar, it's simply the familiar style and humor of South Park which was able to hold my interest.
Of course, its those damn gnomes.
Due to their dislike of the lack of quality of the Acclaim published trilogy, the newly formed South Park Digital Studios developed this title and subsequent South Park games. Parker and Stone's decision to increase their involvement in the development of new South Park titles was a great decision. Even from their first title, it is clear to see their influence in the game's graphical style and humor. The writing is spot-on, the story is clever, and the game feels like South Park. Fortunately, this trend continues through onward through the last few releases.
Release in 2012, Tenorman's Revenge is a co-op based platformer allowing the player to switch controls between each of the four boys. The story is simple, not as clever as Let's Go Tower Defense Play's tale - but still filled with humorous moments. Scott Tenorman, mortal enemy of Eric Cartman, has stolen the hard drive to Cartman's 360. The boys go on an adventure, pursuing the time-traveling Tenorman, through different levels to avoid losing their saved game progress.
Cartman's super hero alter ego, The Coon, or "Cewn" as he pronounces it.
Unlike South Park 64, each character has their own special move that can be used to solve puzzles or move forward through each level. Also, each boy can access their super abilities based on their superhero alter egos.
The game places a heavy influence on co-op based play. If you do not have someone controlling each of the four characters, you will miss out on certain items. Unfortunately the game does not allow switching on the fly, meaning if you want to choose another character for a certain level, you'll have to start it all over again.
Although this can be frustrating, especially for those single player loving gamers, the game is really fun with there are more players involved. The game utilizes the ability to create an online or local game allowing for the much-desired couch co-op. I enjoy playing games with my boyfriend, so this was a great addition for me.
Good luck, Kenny!
Although the game has the show's look and humor down perfectly, there are a few technical issues with the game. The camera is a huge deterrent from the gameplay, often making it difficult to clear jumps or other obstacles. In addition, this game is stingy with its checkpoints. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad, if the game wasn't already stingy with health. The combination of lack of checkpoints mixed with the old school three heart health system makes the game frustrating at points.
South Park: Tenorman's Revenge shines its ability to capture the style and humor of South Park and can play host to some good times when co-op gameplay is utilized. However, it does suffer from some minor technical issues and the reliance on co-op gameplay isn't going to be for everyone.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Initially conceived in 2009, Matt Stone and Trey Parker contacted Obsidian to begin development of a new South Park game. Inspired by great RPGs like Earthbound and Skyrim and impressed with their handling of Fallout: New Vegas, Parker and Stone pushed for a South Park RPG game. Parker and Stone were heavily involved in the game's development. Obsidian had partnered with THQ to help develop the duo's daring idea.
All was going great until THQ went bankrupt. For a while, gamers wondered if this game would ever see the light of day. Fortunately, Ubisoft acquired the publishing rights to the game and it was released in March 2014.
No, this isn't from an episode of the show. It's from one of the game's cutscenes.
When a game goes through such development hell, it is often the case the end product is terrible. Remember Duke Nukem Forever? Fortunately, for us gamers, South Park: The Stick of Truth is amazing. In my opinion, it was the game of the year for 2014,
The graphics were absolutely stunning. Although some of you might be wondering how I could proclaim such a thing when there are games bordering on realistic graphics; it's all in the style. South Park's style has always been simplistic and colorful, yet sharp and crisp. The designers did an amazing job of translating this style to a game that looks like an interactive season of South Park. In addition to the design, the monumental task of developing the town of South Park is admirable.
Parker and Stone's influence can be found in every aspect of this game, but especially in the story and writing. You play as the New Kid who very quickly gets in way over their head with the boys' Lord of the Rings-inspired RPG. Of course, being South Park, the boys' adventure is blown into one of epic proportions eventually involving abortion, the government, gnomes, and Al Gore. Once again, Parker and Stone weave a hilarious tale filled with meta jokes towards gamers (forcing you to name your character "douchebag") and loads of references to show.
Cartman & the New Kid beating up hobos.
As for the gameplay, Stick of Truth keeps it old school with a traditional turn-based battle system. Although there are no random encounters, enemies are seen wandering the environment and enemies do respawn. However, you're not on your own, the New Kid can have several different partners accompany him in battle. Each kid has their own special moves and ability which will greatly help during the fight. The battle mechanics rely on QTE button presses, which are more effective depending on the timing. Think of Costume Quest, but with gore and swearing.
I am glad Stick of Truth was able to survive development hell. I was greatly anticipating this game, so it's a relief that it turned out being so awesome. If you're a fan of South Park, I don't know how you could have not already played this and loved it. If you've been living under a rock though, please check this game out. You won't be disappointed.
Because you'll definitely want to play the upcoming...
At E3 2015, a sequel was announced to the Stick of Truth. Once again, the New Kid and the South Park gang will set off an adventure, but with this time as their superhero counterparts. Although not much has been said about this title, it has been slated for a 2016 release. I don't want to get my hopes too high for that, but I am still absolutely pumped!
Alright, we've finally reached the end of our look at South Park games. What is your favorite South Park game? Leave a comment below and let's discuss!
Image sources: GameFAQs , PC Gamer, Moby Games , Small Games, YouTube, Vizzed, Kotaku, IGN, South Park Wikia, Gamer Evolution, Xbox Blog, Digital Spy, Ocean of Games, World Gamer, Tech News Today, Amazon.