Now here’s a feature that has spent some time on the back burner. Once scheduled to coincide with The Stick of Truth’s original release date – back when THQ was still breathing – we’ve held it off time and time again following the numerous delays.
With Obsidian’s RPG finally out this week, we’re mildly pleased to present this slightly uneventful history of South Park games. Yes, there have been more bad ones than good, but you can’t blame us for that.
You can, however, blame Acclaim – their disrespect for licensed games is what ultimately lead to both themselves and fellow publisher THQ going bust. Well, that and THQ manufacturing approximately 20 billion uDraw tablets.
South Park – N64, PSone, PC
If memory serves, there was a bit of a buzz surrounding the first South Park game. South Park fever was in full swing – you even couldn’t step into Clinton’s Cards, of all places, without tripping over merchandise – and so the videogame press of the era were keen to give it plenty of exposure. It even took the cover of Future’s respected Arcade magazine – a move they later apologised for.
Although Acclaim had a reputation for churning out bad games during their 16-bit days, they managed to turn their repute around by becoming one of the N64’s most prolific publishers. They understood that although the risks for developing for the N64 were high – mostly due to pricey cart costs – if the product was good enough, it would sell incredibly well. The original Turok reportedly managed to turn a huge profit, selling over 1.5 million copies.
South Park however saw Acclaim fall back onto the license for sales. Seemingly rushed out to cash-in on the show’s success, it was ostensibly a re-skin of Turok 2. Snowballs replaced arrows; the mini-gun became a rapid fire foam dart launcher. And the much celebrated cerebral bore? That was changed into a weapon that made characters unwillingly sing and dance, rather than drilling their brains out. Visually crude, with the notorious ‘N64 fog’ in full effect, it simply saw the South Park gang fighting off swarms of mutant turkeys, robots and other enemies while trying to save their home turf. Most reviewers found that it was beyond repetitive, in respect of both enemy attack patterns and use of speech samples.
The PSone version didn’t arrive until almost a year later, featuring notably poorer visuals. A Game Boy Color South Park game was also in development, but eventually canned due to Trey Parker and Matt Stone reportedly believing it wasn’t a good fit for a system with such a young demographic. Acclaim later re-used the engine and some of the art-work for cartoon tie-in Maya the Bee, which incidentally, was re-skinned once again to become the New Adventures of Mary Kate & Ashley in the US. A quick glance on Google suggests that it actually wasn’t a bad little game, should you ever want to discover what could have been.
South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack – N64, PSone, Dreamcast, PC
Whereas the first South Park game received a staggered launch, mini-game collection Chef’s Luv Shack was released simultaneously across four different formats. Just in time for Christmas, funnily enough.
The Dreamcast had only been available in the US for a month prior to Chef’s Luv Shack’s release, and following poor reviews it was wildly regarded as one of the DC’s worst games, joining the likes of Acclaim’s own WWF Attitude. The whiff of ‘rush job’ was undeniable – it was, for most part, a dull quiz game. The mini-games meanwhile were heavily influenced by the arcade classic of yore – ‘Asses in Space’ was a clone of Asteroids, while ‘Bad Kitty’ was based on Donkey Kong. There was also a ‘Whack-A-Mole’ game, presumably because it’s written in stone somewhere that every mini-game collection must include one of these.
Oddly, the PC version removed all multi-player support – the game’s only positive feature – leaving the player to compete against CPU opponents only. We should also spare a thought for those who shelled out for the N64 version. With the majority of N64 games retailing for £49.99 at the time, that must have been heavy blow to the wallet.