South Park: Snow Day! review – Fortnite’s success ruins another franchise

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Licensed games are infamous for their poor quality, but in recent years there have been attempts to shake that reputation. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was one of the most critically acclaimed games of last year, like a salve that heals the wounds left by Superman 64. Likewise, South Park: The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole helped us to forget how bad all of the previously licensed South Park games had been, including the original snowball FPS N64 game simply called South Park.

When South Park launched I, as both an avid fan of the series and a terminal gamer, picked it up immediately, only to be left wondering how it was related to the show at all. Sure, the four main characters were there, but there was none of the humor or politically charged storylines that have kept the show on the air for almost 30 years. The reference to snow in the latest title South Park: Snow Day! was enough to trigger my primitive monkey brain into a defensive stance. I feared the series was aping popular genres rather than sticking to what it was doing well.

<p>THQ Nordic</p>

THQ Nordic

Having finished all five missions of South Park: Snow Day! I can safely say it’s not as bad as I had feared. Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone make up two-thirds of the game’s writers, and there is a story here. Someone with powerful magic has created a horrifying snowstorm that has wiped out much of South Park and the gang is taking advantage of the day off school to play their usual games. The series’ most popular characters are here, there are cutscenes featuring South Park’s iconic humor, and the game features plenty of references to the show. If that’s all you need from a South Park game, you’ll be satisfied. However, all the best bits are located entirely within these cutscenes, and I’m sure in a few days you can watch a supercut of those online.

<p>THQ Nordic</p>

THQ Nordic

South Park: Snow Day! is a completely new genre from its predecessors and it’s hard to talk about this change without mentioning the virus that is currently infecting the industry. At some point over the last few years, a rich man in a suit discovered that Fortnite was popular, and he told all the other rich men in suits about the phenomenon at their monthly ‘How to make money’ party where they presumably sit on a yacht and laugh about the poor. Since then, live-service games appear to be the only games the higher-ups think are worth making, which is why Rocksteady, a studio known for its excellent single-player games, made Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

Instead of being a 2D turn-based RPG like Stick of Truth and Fractured But Whole, it’s a multiplayer horde roguelike where you run around and kill enemies in waves before moving on to the next arena. The enemy barks are exceptionally repetitive, and you’ll hear “You’ve done it this time, fourthie” and my personal favorite “I thought it would feel different” with ear-bleeding frequency. Butters and Cartman will occasionally chime in with words of encouragement or insults (respectively), but these are still just a handful of phrases. It reminds me of the awful licensed games of the past, like Hell’s Kitchen: The Game, where Gordon Ramsey showed up to record five voice lines and then presumably went home to shout at his fridge.

<p>THQ Nordic</p>

THQ Nordic

What made Stick of Truth and Fractured But Whole so wildly successful has been entirely forgotten. These games slammed you directly into an episode of the show: there were so many parts where you laughed or were in disbelief at what you were seeing. You could find secrets everywhere and it was entirely unpredictable. This formula could definitely translate to another genre, but that’s not what South Park: Snow Day! is. What has been made here is a generic horde game that has been done better by numerous games many times before, with funny cutscenes sparsely sprinkled between.

The biggest concern is the reliance on multiplayer. These games are only as strong as their playerbase, and if you can’t maintain that you are left with an empty shell. If I still had a report card, it would read “Doesn’t play well with others,” and while there were a few pre-release online matches available for me. I decided to play entirely in single-player, not only because it’s my preference, but to get a feel for the game on its own merit. Snow Day! is not set up for single-player success.

Each player can choose two power-ups at the start of each match, meaning I had just two on my side while the enemy could have up to six. The AI also hindered more than helped in most instances. I spent a lot of my time reviving downed NPCs who repeatedly hit into shields that exploded on impact, or ran freely into invulnerable enemies. Despite this, winning wasn’t too difficult as long as you had the right combination of power-ups, but also seemingly impossible if the enemy chose the wrong ones.

<p>THQ Nordic</p>

THQ Nordic

There is a very limited pool of resources, and you have to choose two of just six weapons to use, one melee and one ranged. One is just strictly better than the others. Once you unlock the two-handed ax and the area of effect vortex that pulls people in, there is no reason to use anything else. This weapon also makes the ranged weapons useless, as they take a long time to charge up and feel unwieldy to aim. The power-ups for each weapon could be more balanced. It's obvious that the healing totem, which can also deal damage to enemies, is the most powerful, and when combined with the whirlwind, you’ll melt through levels without taking damage.

All of this is to say if you want to play a South Park game, you’ll have to return to Stick of Truth or Fractured But Whole, whereas if you want to play a horde mode, you are better off playing the numerous games that are strictly designed for that. I’m sure there are plenty of South Park fans like me who are excited for another excellent adventure in Colorado, but it seems we’ll have to wait a while longer.

Score: 5/10

Version tested: PC (Steam Deck)

South Park: Snow Day! Technical Breakdown

During the ten hours I played South Park: Snow Day! I didn’t encounter any game-breaking bugs, but there was plenty of unpleasantness. Costumes can phase through each other, and the collision is unpredictable. You can get stuck on certain objects, and fail to climb up on platforms you did so earlier with ease. I only played in single-player and cannot comment on online play.

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