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South Park has been trying to find its footing in gaming since the late '90s, having tried genres like first-person shooters, tower defense, and now platforming. South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge attempts to maintain the TV show’s funny, nonsensical, and often offensive tone, but falls short of creating the engaging multiplayer experience found in other 2D platformers, like New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s four player co-op.
The story starts with Cartman’s Xbox 360 hard drive being stolen by his ginger half-brother, Scott Tenorman. Not about to be deprived of their precious save data, the boys follow Tenorman through time portals and fight through his army of ginger robots while visiting notable locations from the show, such as Pi Pi’s Splashtown waterpark, Park County dump, and the depths of Hell in order to get it back. Jumping on platforms to collect items, killing ginger bots and the occasional four-assed monkey, and dodging some environmental hazards make up the game’s levels - but not much of it is all that fun.
Each of the levels follows the same basic template, only with a color-palette swap. In one level you’ll be jumping on futuristic floating platforms in a factory, and in others those platforms are clouds or slimy sewer walkways. The stages don't offer much variety to freshen up gameplay in terms of layout. Enemy types and item variety are static, and the backgrounds look bland and uninspired. It’s disappointing that there isn’t a constant barrage of nods and cameos from the show to liven up the environments – most of the time, you’ll just be looking at generic walls and backdrops.
On the other hand, there are more in-your-face references here and there, like a fight with Manbearpig, meeting Towelie, and riding the Poo Choo Express No.2, that fans will enjoy. The voice acting and cutscene visuals bring back memories of watching the episodes, although clever dialogue and ironic social commentary have been replaced by stale vulgarities and profanity. Some of the South Park “charm” is there, but only the parts that contain the “F” and “B” words.
Players can choose between one of the four South Park boys: Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny. Each has a special ability that allows access to secret areas. Cartman can bash through walls with his belly, Stan throws footballs to flip switches, Kenny performs a super-high jump and Kyle unveils his red hair to stun enemies and pass through ginger-only force fields. Every character can also take on their superhero alter-egos from the Captain Hindsight episode, and gain other abilities, like being able to climb walls as The Coon or drill through floors as Toolshed. Aside from that, each character controls exactly the same.
Using the characters’ unique abilities to find secrets can be fun. Occasionally, it will take players combining weapon pick-ups or special abilities to get to tougher areas, but a large portion of the gameplay involves fighting enemies. Jumping on heads or smashing gingers with baseball bats and crowbars gets old fairly quickly simply because you are required to do it all the time. There are often sections that send waves of enemies at you and dispatching them all just ends up being tedious.
Adding to the repetition of smashing ginger robots, the majority of time in Tenorman’s Revenge is spent meticulously collecting useless items. Spread throughout the levels are time molecules, time cores, and Mega Man (no, not the Blue Bomber) action figures. The more items you collect, the better your level score will be, earning gold, silver, or bronze medals, which do little more than unlock an achievement. Time cores are what unlock the levels in the game. No, you can’t just move on to the next level by completing the previous one, you “buy” it with the cores you’ve collected. This makes an already tedious game even more so, forcing players to backtrack through the bland levels they have already finished with new characters.
Playing co-op lessens the repetitive gameplay since you won’t have to replay levels as many times with multiple characters, but the action is generally the same. Playing with four players allows your group access to all sections of a level and is definitely the best way to play. We had a great time griefing other players by pushing them off ledges with the shoving attack or Cartman’s belly barge, but that just ended up being a great way to lose friends.
South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge falls short of creating a truly memorable gaming experience for the license with shallow, tedious platforming gameplay, while never fully utilizing the South Park world and characters to their full potential. With such a huge property, we expected a diverse cast of characters, vibrant environments, and much more varied gameplay, but instead it was limited, dull and repetitive. Playing with a few friends who are fans of the series could do well to occupy a night of gaming, but there isn’t anything to pull you back in for a second round.