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volume 1, issue 31

Today in loonygames:

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Off the Shelf:
South Park






By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Title: South Park
Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Iguana
Average Price: $40 (PC)


hen Acclaim first announced that they had acquired the South Park license, I, along with well…a lot of other people, pretty much groaned in agony. Let’s face it…Acclaim made a bad name for themselves a few years back by making some truly horrible licensed titles. It’s going to be a loooong time before I’m willing to forgive them for all that drek.

But, to Acclaim’s credit, since then, they’ve put out some decent titles, most notably the Turok games. Which would seem to be a good thing, considering that South Park uses the Turok 2 engine. The engine’s not half bad, all things considered. It’s certainly pretty, and it does run seamlessly on both the Nintendo 64 and PC platforms, but it has some serious fog problems. Turok 2 (and South Park as a result) is slightly better than the original, but compared to Unreal or Tribes, it’s a bit on the irritating side. But hey…this is South Park we’re talking about. The engine doesn’t really have to do very much.

So here’s the schtick: it’s a first person shooter. A South Park first person shooter. Could there be a better game on paper? I don’t think so. Unfortunately, while it’s probably the best South Park game we’re ever going to get, it’s just not much of a game once the whole novelty of playing as Cartman wears off.

Assuming, of course, that like me, you’ve got a major problem when it comes to Cartman. See, I’ve got this problem. Every time Cartman opens his mouth, I laugh. I can’t help it. I should probably get some help, but the dude’s just so damn funny. If you’re not a Cartman fan, you can play as any one of the other kids, but who the heck wants to do that?

So okay, you pick your character, and from there it’s your normal first person shooter. Well…sort of. See, South Park’s real problem, is that in the single player game, each level consists of basically one or two enemies, repeated over, and over, and over, and over again until you want to pretty much throw the damn thing into the toilet. The level design is pretty bland, and plan on hearing the same sound bytes about sixty times before their novelty wears off. The layout of the levels is pretty much what you’d expect from a pre-Quake 2 first person shooter: kill everything that moves, kill boss, move on. It’s all very generic.

What doesn’t exactly help the game, is that there’s a major ammo problem going on here. Some of the weapons are actually very powerful, but you’ll find yourself using them very sparingly since they tend to fire very rapidly, and you’ll want to save your ammo for the bigger enemies. The end result, is that while the weapons are pretty cool, you’ll find yourself resorting to using the boring snowballs for most of the game. Ugh.

Multiplayer, while entertaining in theory, is pretty much as stale as the rest of the game. It’s cool that you can play as all the characters (everyone from Jesus to Kyle to Santa Claus) and they’ve got some really clever sound clips, but ultimately, it’s gameplay that makes a decent deathmatch experience, not cleverness. And let’s face it…South Park ain’t exactly Doom 2. To the game’s credit, it ships with a stylin’ GameSpy Lite, which lets you find servers very quickly. The game doesn’t seem to be especially popular, though…the last time I checked there were three servers up, and none of them had more than one person in them. On a LAN, it can be slightly more fun, since you get the novelty of knowing who’s behind that smirking Cartman face, but it’s still not exactly the best DM experience around. It is kind of fun for about ten minutes, though, which is pretty much the case with the whole game.

So, am I disappointed in South Park? Not really, to be honest. The truth is, that this is the game we wanted. It’s reasonably funny at first, it feels like a South Park game should feel, and all the characters are present. So where did it go wrong? Well, nowhere, really. Think about it. If Acclaim had added an in-depth plot line, and scripted sequences a-la Half-Life, would anyone have liked that game? Hell, no. That’s not South Park, that’s Half-Life. What we got is the best South Park game we’re ever going to see, hands down. The fact that it’s not exactly an instant classic should come as no surprise at all.

The bottom line is this, really: if you’re a fan of South Park the show, you’ll enjoy the novelty of South Park the game. For about twenty minutes tops. After that, well, you’ll occasionally pick it up from time to time to laugh at the novelty of it. You decide whether or not that makes it worth your hard earned ca$h or not…but personally speaking, yeah, I’d buy it. But then, I’ve got a problem…

- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief of loonygames. Hell yeah, he wants some cheezy poofs!.


Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This edition of Top Shelf is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is a majorly hostile gesture.