A Quaint and Boring Little Colorado Mountain Town
Despite South Park‘s rampant success on TV screens the world over during the last decade-and-a-half, the franchise has had more than its share of troubles finding a firm foothold in the video game market. 2009’s South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! was the first time a game featuring the four perpetually pre-adolescent boys Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny was met with favorable criticism.
Now, Other Ocean Interactive has released the Xbox Live Arcade platformer, South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge, making for a grand total of two South Park games that fans of the show can get their hands on this year, including the upcoming RPG. Tenorman’s Revenge puts the boys back into a 2D side-scrolling world, and includes a large cast of supporting characters from throughout the show’s history as the boys have to travel through time to recover the hard drive from Cartman’s Xbox, which has all their game data stored on it. In a bit of self-promotion, the game’s opening cinematic details the boys’ motivation of traveling through time to face Scott Tenorman and his army of ginger robots rather than have to relive every cutscene from L.A. Noire, or replay each level of Arkham City. Thus begins Tenorman’s Revenge.
Staying True to Its Roots
The core gameplay of Tenorman’s Revenge is basic, no-frills platforming. The boys run and jump their way through the environments, while occasionally picking up melee or some limited-range weaponry, like bats, crowbars, bubble guns, and water balloons. Enemies are generally dispatched by jumping on top of their heads, with the exception of a few that must be tackled (literally) by pushing them down to the ground first, or with said armaments. The whole game is a constant chase after Scott Tenorman, who escapes through time portals through which the boys must follow at the end of each level, broken up every now and then by a boss fight.
Confining the game to a 2D side-scrolling experience probably worked out in its favor, as the intentionally bare-bones animation style of the show would have otherwise made a 3D experience too bland. Other Ocean does a good job referencing many of the show’s episodes and characters during the player’s travels through time, such as landing in the middle of a feud between the Ginger Army and the futuristic Atheists, visiting Tynacorp’s towel labs, or daring the South Park sewers, searching for Mr. Hanky and his Poo Choo train. Long-time fans of the show will find many classic memories stirred when facing off against ManBearPig, visiting PiPi’s Splashtown, and battling it out with Mephesto’s twisted multi-boobed and -butted animal creations. The many nods to the source materials, as well as the obvious involvement of series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, lend an air of authenticity that other games have lacked to this title.
It’s Not All Roses
As much as the game stays true to the show that spawned it, there’s a finite amount of enjoyment to be found here. Levels are incredibly long and the platforming challenging to say the least, and it’s very common to come upon an obstacle late in a level that quickly saps all of your remaining lives, relegating you instantly to the ‘Game Over’ screen. This isn’t so much a slam against the game, as a good level of challenge is quite welcome, but when combined with some required back-tracking (you have to find an ever-increasing amount of hidden time cores in each level to unlock later stages), as well as replaying levels as different characters to uncover all of their secrets, it becomes a bit tiresome to be forced back into the same lengthy levels over and over.
The game does fare better in local and online multiplayer, which supports up to four players taking the role of each of the boys for a tandem runthrough of a level. The game’s inherent humor also works better when experiencing it as a group of players rather than one sole gamer, smirking on his couch, alone.
Level design is easily geared toward taking some friends along for the ride. Each of the boys has a unique special ability that lets him access parts of the level the others can’t get to: Stan throws a football at far-off switches, activating platforms and the like; Cartman uses his big-boned physique to belly-smash weak walls; Kyle takes off his cap, flashing a swatch of red hair which lets him infiltrate ginger force fields; and Kenny is able to charge up a super jump, letting him access high platforms and collect out-of-reach items. In addition to this, scattered in certain locations in each level are power-ups that let each boy transform into his “Coon and Friends” superhero alter-ego, for even more collectible secrets: Cartman’s Coon can scale vertical walls with ease; Kyle’s Human Kite can soar through the air; Kenny’s Mysterion can die and obtain invincibility; and Stan’s Toolshed alias can dig through certain floors to reach caverns and spaces below. This high concentration of special abilities and secret areas within the levels make for an entertaining experience in multiplayer, but a rather arduous chore when attempted in single player.
The Final Verdict
Tenorman’s Revenge is one of the first games based on the franchise to put its source material to use successfully. The result is a side-scrolling platformer that offers a good challenge and a fun multiplayer experience, but ultimately doesn’t offer up a whole lot of new and innovative gameplay ideas. With some required backtracking and levels that carry on too long and overstay their welcome, Tenorman’s Revenge‘s lack of innovation keeps it just shy of living up to its full potential.