South Park: Let's Go Tower Defense Play! - hands-on

Yet another tower defense title for XBLA, and possibly the first decent South Park game

The tower defense genre is inching ever closer to over-saturation, so it's easy to be skeptical about a downloadable South Park themed tower defense game. After all, the South Park license hasn't exactly had much luck in the realm of videogames. And with a genre that is tough to set yourself apart in part due to the sheer number of games being released, it's not hard to overlook South Park: Let's Go Tower Defense Play! But that would be a mistake.

We spent some time with the first few levels in the game, and it definitely has something new to add to the well-worn formula. Players take control of one of the main four boys from the show - Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny - and set up automatic firing towers to defend against waves of incoming enemies. Some stages have multiple paths for enemies to take, while different towers have different attributes, shooting everything from snowballsto laser beams. Nothing new there.

But where SP:LGTDP differentiates itself is with what you can do with your avatar. They can move around the field placing and upgrading turrets, as well as collecting money from fallen foes, as in other tower defense games, but the boys also get in on the action themselves by throwing snowballs at enemies. This makes the game feel almost like a hybrid between a tower defense game and a shooter.

There is also some strategy to picking which boy to play as, as all four have different abilities. For instance, Cartman (unsurprisingly) is the slowest of the bunch, but makes up for it with raw power. Meanwhile Stan is faster, but his shots produce less damage. Most stages will give you access to multiple characters and you can switch between them at any time. When not being controlled, characters simply act as an additional turret firing snowballs mindlessly at passing enemies. And when one character is down for the count - which happens when they are touched by an enemy -- you simply have to walk over and revive them.

Though it was tough to determine what story, if any, is featured in the game, it's clear that the show's trademark humor is in full force. Enemies range from dirty hippies to evil ginger kids, as well as the occasional cow for good measure. And despite the fact that most of your firepower consists of snowballs, fallen enemies often explode in a gush of cartoony blood.

The game takes players through a number of iconic locations from the show - we were able to glimpse each of the boys' house as well as familiar spots like South Park Elementary and Hell's Pass hospital -- and, at least in the early stages, the difficulty ramps up nicely. If the game is able to keep up a similar pace throughout this could end up not only being the first good South Park game, but one damn addicting experience.

Sep 30, 2009

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