I hate it when TV lies. Every week on Comedy Central I hear those crazy foul-mouthed third graders tell me to go on down to South Park and have myself a time. Now that I've finally had the opportunity to visit the Colorado town via my PlayStation, I can't help but feel a little misled. The only "time" you'll have playing South Park is a bad one.
The game certainly looks promising enough on paper, if not for the assortment of weapons alone. In addition to an unlimited supply of snowballs, you'll also eventually pick up foam dart guns, chickens that fire eggs, Dr. Mephisto's warpo ray and other creative attacks. I'll admit it, things like the "cow launcher" had me rolling at first. But as time went on, I began to realize that it just wasn't funny anymore. Eventually, I came to see things like the ever-powerful Terrance and Philip dolls that attack via the fart as something like a rocket launcher in your typical first-person shooter. In other words, the humor eventually gives way to strategic gameplay.
Actually, "strategic gameplay" might be pushing it a bit. South Park is an all-out shoot-'em-up at its core, with very little actual thought necessary. Any "strategy" employed involves holding on to your powerful weapons for the bosses, which means you'll spend most of the game throwing snowball after snowball ... after snowball ... after snowball ... after snowball... Get the picture? Occasionally, you can vary things up by "yellowing" your snowballs (another concept that's funny the first time -- not the 101st) or even using a special weapon with plenty of ammo, but the gameplay remains just as repetitive.
"Repetitive" might actually be the best one-word summation of South Park. In the first stage, you'll encounter literally hundreds of turkeys. Again, this is funny to fans of the show who remember the classic Braveheart-esque Thanksgiving battle in the first season. But just as you'll grow tired of throwing snowballs, you'll also wish you could fight something else. The closest chance you get to this is with larger turkeys known as "tanks," which occasionally show up to dispense even more small turkeys for you to vanquish. Outside of the insanely difficult boss character, in fact, it is ONLY turkeys and tanks that you fight throughout the vast first stage.
After I finally shot the boss character in the butt enough times to make it to the second level, I took solace in the change of scenery of fighting evil clones and their tanks as they ran rampant through South Park. But then I fought more clones ... and more clones ... and more clones... It soon occurred to me that this was as repetitive as the turkeys, only harder. Not a good thing. As I played through more levels, I would occasionally find the attempt to vary things up -- by throwing in turkeys to the mix of repetitive enemies I fought in each of the five stages. Could it get any worse?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Just as repetitive are the sound bites. I like hearing the kids say things like "kick ass" just as much as the next guy, but it's only amusing the first time or two. If you play through the entire game, you're likely to hear some sound bites well over a thousand times! No lie. Along with uninspired music, the sound in South Park is the type you don't mind substituting with your favorite CD -- or even one you don't really like all that much. Unfortunately, you almost HAVE to listen to the sound effects so that you know when off-screen enemies are approaching.
At the risk of sounding too repetitive with the word "repetitive" (how's that for irony?), the graphics in South Park are very ... umm ... repetitive. If you've seen the show, then you know it's always snowing in that Colorado town. And you know what? A town covered in white just doesn't make for much variety. Sure, the houses are various colors, but you don't encounter them enough, and they still seem to lose their brightness from the show.
Another qualm I have with the graphics is that they try to be too good in some respects. Again, fans of the show know that the animation is simple and always in 2D. Meanwhile, this game is very much a 3D experience, conflicting with the simplicity of the show's premise. Graphics such as those in PaRappa the Rapper seem much more appropriate.
If there's a bright spot to the game, it's the multi-player mode. It's much more fun to go up against a friend in the guise of another South Park personality than turkey after turkey after turkey. Unfortunately, you have to play through the game in quest mode to unlock all but the four core characters.
What it all boils down to is that South Park fails as a game. While the television show and movie are some of the greatest examples of satire in the late 1990s, trying to parody videogames via an entry to the medium itself proves more an act of repetition than one of hilarity. There aren't as many laughs in this game as there are in one episode of the show. Save your money.
I hope you like the color white! There will be times when your entire screen is that color.
Hearing the characters speak is funny at first, but gets way too repetitive in a matter of minutes.
Experiencing the inital humor can make you laugh, but you'll unfortunately experience the same joke over and over and over and over...
Just watch the show.
While thorough enough, the instructions actually lead you to believe that you're about to play a GOOD game.