South Park games have been making a comeback recently, after disappearing from the market for about nine years, following Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s displeasure with Acclaim’s thoroughly ‘meh’ treatment of the licence. They re-appeared with South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defence Play! in 2009, and now we have both a South Park RPG in the works this year along with a new 2D XBLA platformer – South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge. It’s a tough, online co-op voyage through many of the (relatively) newer South Park episodes, and while fans will appreciate the care that’s gone into making it all look just like the show, they probably won’t when they’ve lodged their controller in the screen.
As the name suggests, Tenorman’s Revenge focuses on the wrath of Cartman’s ginger half-brother, Scott Tenorman, who was previously forced to eat his own parents as chilli by Cartman. Somehow, Tenorman has acquired an army of robot ginger kids, has conquered the future and more importantly, stolen Cartman’s Xbox 360′s hard drive. Naturally, Cartman along with Stan, Kyle and Kenny, leap into action to reclaim their game saves. This is all told, by the way, as a fairy tale being read to a group of sentient beavers in the far future. This is all classic South Park weirdness, and there are some funny moments in the cutscenes as the kids are thrown throughout different time periods (with no explanation, of course), but generally the dialogue is pretty by-the-numbers. Tenorman will show up, threaten you, the kids will be mildly annoyed, and so forth. It’s not anywhere near as funny as the show can be, but with that said, it captures the general feeling of South Park quite well.
You’ll visit several familiar locations in your time-travelling adventure, including the Atheist-ruled future from ‘Go God Go’ and Pi Pi’s Splashtown, the urine-filled water park from ‘Pee’. There are a lot of references and in-jokes for both sharp-eyed fans and gamers, including hidden Megaman dolls and a boss that looks suspiciously like the Human-Reaper from Mass Effect 2 (or Contra). Some levels are a lot more standard, like a sewer level that goes on for far too long, with only a brief encounter with Mr. Hankey and the Poo Choo train as a reward for slogging through it. Every level has a time-trial element in place, and you can collect time particles (this game’s main collectible) to reverse time and ensure a better score. The more important collectibles are the ‘time cores’, which unlock future levels.
Tenorman’s Revenge can be played in single player mode, or in co-op with local or online multiplayer. You can play as all four kids, who all control similarly, but have different power-up moves (Kenny can perform a boost jump, Kyle as a ‘ginger daywalker’ can pass through ginger force fields, etc). They all also have super power-ups, and can transform briefly into their superhero alter-egos from the show, such as Mysterion and The Coon. These superpowers can be difficult to use, as The Coon’s wall-climbing ability requires you to continually (and slowly) jump away from, and back to, walls and Mysterion’s immortality ability allows him to pass through deadly obstacles – this is great, unless you’re required to jump on top of these obstacles to get through the level, which then renders this power useless and annoying.
I’m not exactly the most hardcore gamer, I mean, I haven’t beaten the first hour of Dark Souls yet, but I think I can still say with certainty that Tenorman’s Revenge is balls-hard. I should have expected no less from Other Ocean, the developers of the horribly unforgiving War of the Worlds, but this is just a really difficult game. You’ll often be assaulted by way too much on the screen, whether it’s a combination of ginger kids, Mephisto’s experiments or more, as well as having to contend with acid sewage, electric force fields and pee-water. Just manage to dodge that army of ginger kids and take out the last robot by jumping on its head? Guess what, it’ll probably explode soon after, knocking you back into the swath of red-heads. Head up the wrong path in a vertical climb with multiple options? Prepare to get drowned by sewage. Miss a jump by a fraction? Not only will you have to climb back up, you’ll probably have fallen into an instant-kill electric field. Or you’ll have a horde of missiles heading for your ass. It really is one of the toughest platformers I’ve played since the Super Nintendo days, although it’s not as addictive or streamlined as some other teeth-grinders out there like Super Meat Boy. In co-op, the difficulty becomes a little more tolerable, but it’s still a challenge with the somewhat stiff controls.
As you can tell from the screenshots, Tenorman’s Revenge looks virtually identical to the show, which goes a long way towards giving a feeling of authenticity. You know how these characters look and animate, and the fact they’ve replicated this perfectly on-screen is a great feat. However, I do wish the camera wasn’t so zoomed out at some parts, as you lose detail on the character models. Trey Parker and Matt Stone return to voice all the characters, and unsurprisingly do an amazing job. The music sounds a lot more epic than standard South Park fare, especially in the sewer levels where it seems unnecessary. From time to time, glitches can sadly rear their heads, including one that locked me out of respawning at the correct checkpoint, putting me further back in the level with no way to advance, requiring a restart.
South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge is a challenging game, but the fans will eat it up. It looks and sounds just like an episode of the TV show, although it isn’t necessarily as funny as most of them are, and there are enough references and callbacks to keep them grinning. The difficulty may dissuade some from completing the whole game, so this might be one that’s worth demo-ing first, if you can, and then downloading if you’re think you’re hard enough.