South Park has come a long way since its inception. Aside from receiving great acclaim and becoming the second longest-running animated series on television, its also crossed over into other forms of media to varying success. Though today there are a few critically-acclaimed South Park video games, in 1998 the concept was brand new. The first such South Park game, released on the Nintendo 64, was a first-person shooter starring the quartet of foul-mouthed children. Though the game has its place in South Park history, only the most diehard of South Park fans might be able to revisit it (and even then only briefly).
The aptly-titled South Park was created by Iguana Entertainment, the same studio that Created Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Painfully, the game uses the exact same control scheme as Turok. The joystick looks around, the C buttons move your character, R jumps, A and B switch weapons, and Z fires. An addition has been made to the gameplay, however, as most of the weapons feature a secondary mode, with players able to switch the weapons’ functions by pressing up or down on the D-pad. In the end though, this only makes the control scheme that much more cumbersome.
The weapons at least fit in with the nature of the show. The basic weapon is a snowball, which has unlimited ammo, while some of the other weapons include a rapid-fire Nerf gun, exploding Clarence and Phillip dolls, and the dreaded Cow Launcher. By switching to the secondary modes, you can create yellow snowballs (complete with splash damage), switch between Clarence and Phillip, with one acting like a grenade and the other like a proximity mine (both explode in a fart cloud), and the Cow Launcher can either launch an exploding cow or launch the cow directly onto the enemy’s head (don’t make me spell it out for you).
Single player consists of five “episodes,” with each one featuring three or four stages. Each episode has a different gimmick, with the story being that a meteorite made of pure, concentrated evil is passing by South Park and making “all kinds of weird things happen.”
The first episode features evil turkeys as enemies, the second has mutant clones of the townspeople, the third has aliens and cow, the fourth robots, and the fifth has killer toys. There’s not much variety in the enemies, with one common enemy type in addition to one bigger “tank” variant in each category.
Tank enemies spawn the smaller ones, and can run away and escape the player if they aren’t quick enough to defeat it (leaving you to take them out after the level is complete). There are bosses in the last stage of every episode, but they’re pretty uneventful.
Not only do the enemies lack variety, but fighting them couldn’t be more repetitious. The enemies will just repeatedly swarm the player, and going through a level really does amount to little more than continuously hitting the fire button and walking to the exit.
The level design is all straightforward and linear, with none of the fancier objectives of Goldeneye 007 or other, more sophisticated FPS games of the time. There really is nothing more to it than walk and shoot.
Players can choose which character they want to start as in the single player campaign, with the obvious choices of Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny being available. You quickly find the other members of the group anyway, and switching characters oddly accompanies switching weapons (I guess some of the characters prefer certain weapons or something).
For those interested, the game does have a multiplayer option. It probably holds up better than the single player (you even get a wider range of characters from the show to play as), but the frustrating controls still make it a terribly aged experience.
South Park uses the same voice cast from the series, which might seem funny at first, but with the sheer lack of variety in voice clips, and how frequently they recycle, the game just ends up sounding really annoying.
Visually speaking the game looks more like a 1996 N64 title than a 1998 one. While this same year featured some of the console’s most visually polished games, South Park looked dated even on arrival.
Frankly, there’s not much incentive to play South Park these days. Fans of the show might have a good time in the multiplayer mode (if even out of irony instead of legitimate entertainment), but even that would be short lived. And considering there are now far more enjoyed video games bearing the South Park license, even the show’s biggest fans don’t have much to look forward to here.