South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: March 30
Licensed games are sometimes terrible, usually adequate and rarely fantastic, but almost always rely on the brand recognition to sell. South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge falls squarely in the middle category – it’s a satisfactory attempt at a platformer, but it’s the South Park coat of paint that will move units.
To the outsider, Eric Cartman seems like your everyday spoilt brat. But South Park fans know he’s a deeply disturbed individual, and you really don’t want to piss him off.
Ninth grader Scott Tenorman found this out firsthand. After tricking Cartman into buying a bag of his pubic hair, he copped the full force of one of the most sadistic revenge plots ever on TV – basically, Cartman had Tenorman unknowingly eat his own parents.
So yeah, if anyone has grounds for revenge against Eric Cartman, it’s Scott Tenorman. This game sees that revenge exacted with a well-aimed strike – he steals Cartman’s Xbox hard drive. Faced with the arduous task of again sitting through every cutscene of LA Noire, and replaying every level of Arkham City, Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny chase Tenorman through time (for some reason), fighting his army of Ginger bots. Oh, and it’s narrated by atheist otters from the future.
Yes, it’s weird, but this story sounds on par with most episodes as far as craziness goes. Fans of the show expect unusual storylines from South Park, but while episodes will satirize pop culture, politics, celebrities or current issues, the game’s narrative lacks any real sense of purpose.
The regular, exaggerated references to Cartman as the story’s hero, and labeling him “Eric the Awesome and Cool”, has potential for the story to turn out to be a self-serving work of fiction written by Cartman, much like the Woodland Critter Christmas episode. This would excuse some of the issues of implausibility and character inconsistency, but no: this is just happening, apparently.
The worst crime Tenorman’s Revenge commits is trying to cram too many fan favourite elements into one game, and not really handling any of them faithfully.
How can Scott Tenorman, a regular teenager, suddenly travel through time, build giant mechs of himself, and run factories that mass-produce robots? Why is time travel a major narrative element, when most locations are in the present anyway? And what do the future otters have to do with anything?
With cameos from popular characters like Mr. Hankey, Towelie, Satan, and a very bland boss battle against Manbearpig, it feels like clinical fan service: throw in as many characters, locations and items from the show as possible, and they’ll be happy. Never mind that without the trademark satirical edge, and almost no humour at all, the developers have missed the point entirely.
The dialogue between the four boys also falls flat, obviously lacking input from the show’s writers. With each cutscene, little effort has gone into advancing the narrative or maintaining the personality of the characters. Dialogue consists entirely of banal comments on previous or impending events: “I’m glad that’s over with”, “let’s keep moving”, etc. It adds nothing to the story, and has no relevance to the character speaking each line.
So with uninspired, almost detrimental use of the South Park license, one might wonder if the game could redeem itself with interesting gameplay.
One would be wrong.
Tenorman’s Revenge follows all the rules of basic platform games, but doesn’t attempt anything deeper. Players take control of either Kyle, Stan, Cartman or Kenny, with co-op play allowing up to four players at once. All the genre hallmarks are accounted for: floating platforms, ladders, switches, doors, crates, arbitrary pickups, enemies defeated by jumping on them, you know the drill.
Very little deviates from the formula, but the elements are handled well enough to make the game fairly enjoyable.
While exploring the levels, players can’t help but collect time particles, which are littered everywhere to the point of absurdity. Time Cores are rarer pickups required to unlock later levels, and collecting the three Mega-Man figures hidden in each level will raise your score.
The level designs are decent, but far from special. Multiple paths make things more interesting, and provide a rather clever way of encouraging both repeated single-player playthroughs and multiplayer co-op sessions. Each of the four boys has a special power mapped to the B button, which lead to areas only they can access. Kyle can pass through certain barriers, Kenny can perform a high jump, Stan throws footballs to hit out-of-reach switches, and Cartman can bellyflop to bust through some walls.
Then there are powerups that let the boys temporarily take on their superhero alter-egos, from the epic Coon and Friends saga. Kyle becomes the Human Kite, which allows him to glide; Stan becomes Toolshed, allowing him to drill through weak floors; Kenny becomes Mysterion, granting him invulnerability; and Cartman embodies the Coon, letting him scale walls.
Unfortunately, none of the powers are particularly fun to use. They’re practical, for getting around, but they aren’t inherently enjoyable.
Levels can be completed regardless of which character you play as, but these abilities and superhero powers lead to bonus rooms and areas that need to be explored to collect every Time Core and Mega-Man. Unfortunately, the bland gameplay doesn’t inspire you to go back to get everything. Only the most compulsive completionists will bother.
Even playing through levels the first time, moments of tedium will set in. Combat involves either jumping on enemies, or using basic weaponry like bats, crowbars or lasers. It gets old fast, and often can’t be avoided: frequently, you must clear spawning enemies out of an area before you can proceed.
Co-op is mildly more fun than single player, but it doesn’t contribute much to the game. It allows you to access multiple characters’ secret areas in one playthrough, but levels are not designed with teamwork in mind.
Visuals & Audio
The show has a simple but distinctive art style, and the game nails it. It looks like an episode. It might have a few less frames of animation, but it doesn’t hurt the papercraft aesthetic.
The characters walk with the jerky, bouncy movements of their television counterparts. Enemies are ripped straight from the show, with Ginger kids, the future atheists, mutant towels, and Mephesto’s genetically-enhanced, five-assed animals, among those that you’ll be fighting.
The settings for the levels will also be familiar to fans, as you chase Tenorman through the town’s sewer system, PiPi’s Water Park, Tynacorp (the company who created Towelie), the atheist/otter future, Heaven, Hell, and finally confront Cartman’s nemesis at his deranged Chili Con Carnival, where he almost exacted revenge in the epic 200th episode.
Their environments are faithful to the series, and they often feature cameos of related characters. The visual aesthetics give the basic platforming some appeal, but once you realize it’s essentially just different skins on the same gameplay, it does wear thin.
It wouldn’t be a South Park game without the original voices, and thankfully Trey Parker and Matt Stone have lent their vocals to the characters. It’s just a shame they didn’t offer their writing talents as well.
I suspect that the music was done by the same people who score the TV series, as it sounds very similar. It underscores the action in much the same way as on TV, while not being too imposing.
Tenorman’s Revenge is definitely only for South Park fans. There’s absolutely nothing here for newcomers, and even diehard fans may struggle to care enough to finish the game. It’s a very basic, somewhat flawed platformer, wrapped in a clumsy attempt to please fans, but it’s serviceable enough for a few hours’ entertainment.