Retro Respawn – South Park (N64 Version)

We’ve got an interesting one this week, in that I really disliked this game when I played it, but it apparently has had its fair share of positive reviews and enjoys a decent cult following as a result. The game in question is the N64 port of 1999’s licensed South Park game. The game also saw a port to both the PlayStation and PC, with both of those versions getting roasted by both critics and players alike, but the N64 port still retains its fair share of fans, which honestly bemuses me.

Developed by Iguana Development and published by Acclaim, South Park actually uses the same engine as the one used in Turok 2: Seeds of Evil and inherits the poor draw distance found within its dinosaur-shooting relative. As a result, there is always a fog in the distance, meaning that it’s very easy for enemies to attack you en masse at a moment’s notice. I’ve never really been a huge Turok fan, so the fact this game essentially clones it but just inserts South Park characters and scenery doesn’t really work as a selling point for me.

The game does do a good job of translating the humour and aesthetic of the South park show itself, with fully voiced cutscenes and the real voice actors providing the dialogue, including Isaac Hayes coming in to play Chef. The story of the game centres around a comet heading towards the titular small town and causing all sorts of weird occurrences to take place, such as mutant turkeys and enraged cows running riot on the town’s inhabitants. Playing as Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny, you are charged with the task of saving the town from all the nasties and returning it to a (relative) state of normality.

As a premise for a video game, I’ve certainly seen worse, and the fact that it graphically isn’t really up to much doesn’t really matter as much as it would in other situations as South Park already kind of had a low budget look already, so the fact the game looks a bit tacky is almost a selling point in a strange sort of way. It certainly “feels” like the South Park from that era, when the show was more a straightforward offend-athon as opposed to being more the polished and story arc driven affair that it often is now. In some ways the game works very well as a time capsule for the late 90s, and it’s surprising in a way that a game on a Nintendo console is so willing to embrace the rudeness. It’s almost refreshing.

Unfortunately, I personally found South Park a real drag to play. It’s just the wrong combination of boring and difficult, with the levels mostly being dull open spaces where you spend most of your time just picking off swarms of the same enemy over and over again until you are allowed to advance. There are some fun weapons you can find hidden about the place, with my personal favourite being Terrence and Phillip dolls that can let off deadly flatulence when flung at unsuspecting foes, but after a while, the main gameplay loop just becomes tedious. It’s incredibly annoying when baddies swarm you as well, especially as your character controls can be a bit iffy, meaning you’ll sometimes lose chunks of health before you even have a chance to do anything about it.

Again, if I had any real love or emotional connection to Turok, then I might have liked this one a bit more, but that series has just never really done it for me, with RARE shooters GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark being more my scene when it comes to the N64. I do wonder why they decided to make a South Park game a first-person shooter of all things actually. To me, something like a platformer would have been a better fit and would have probably opened the door for more interesting gameplay and level design. In some ways it reeks of laziness and feels like a cynical cash-in to almost crowbar the South Park license onto an existing game engine that doesn’t suit it.

It’s a shame as games like South Park: The Stick of Truth have shown that you can take the humour of South Park and implant it into an enjoyable video game experience, but sadly, that just doesn’t happen here for me. It’s by no means as bad as the frankly terrible “South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack”, but South Park is still a game that I would struggle to recommend. As mentioned previously though, it’s a game not without its fans for whatever reason, so maybe it’s worth checking out some other articles on it before making the decision on whether you want to play it? From me though, it’s a recommendation to avoid.

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