Review | 4/23/2012 at 11:27 PM

South Park Tenorman's Revenge Co-Op Review

This time, revenge is a dish best not served at all

Before I get too far into this review, I want to put out a disclaimer of sorts. I am not a huge South Park fan. I've watched only a handful of episodes in the many years the show has been around. Personally, I find the potty-mouth element distasteful, and that mars the humor for me. That said, this is a video game review, and I certainly enjoyed the South Park tower defense game quite a bit, so I did my best to approach this title with an open mind. South Park lovers may disagree, but coming from a non-fan's perspective, I believe Tenorman's Revenge is a below average game at best.

I have a long list of negatives and complaints, but there are a few things that the developers did right. Perhaps most important was using the voices from the show; creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone contributed their talents. The cut scenes that deliver the story are top notch, looking exactly like an episode of the show. In a bit of meta humor, the titular antagonist, Tenorman, has stolen the hard drive to Cartman's Xbox 360. The four buddies must chase Tenorman through time in order to recover the precious device. (I guess Cartman doesn't use cloud saves.)

Other than the voice actors, and the presentation of the story, the other major highlight is the continuity of the art style. Even in the gameplay sections, the primitive animations that give the series part of its charm are in evidence. The boys walk, jump, climb, and crawl just like they would in the show. The environments and enemies wouldn't look out of place on Comedy Central. Even the game elements and icons share a similar style. It all comes together aesthetically quite nicely.

Unfortunately, the rest of Tenorman's Revenge ranges from merely boring to outright excruciating. Perhaps the most easily noticable problem is the imprecision of the controls. There are some very challenging platforming sections, where multiple exact movements are required. Trying to complete these areas with a mushy control scheme is very difficult. Difficulty on its own is not a bad thing, but when the game is hard because the controls are working against you, it just feels unfair. 

Another serious problem is the size of the levels. Each level is huge, with sprawling sub-sections that often overlap. You might spend several minutes navigating a particularly tricky spot, then make a small mistake, plunging down into a previous section. Losing several minutes worth of progress because you zigged instead of zagged is no fun at all. This is particularly true when you have to repeat a section full of enemies, which have a tendency to respawn at the exact wrong time, often right on your head or where it is nearly impossible to avoid them. So large are the levels that there are loading screens when you enter doors to sub-sections, something I found quite irritating.

By far, the biggest problem in Tenorman's Revenge is the method by which you unlock new levels. To progress, you must find a set number of time cores, found scattered throughout each level. Some of these can only be obtained by specific characters. For example, you might need Stan's football toss to flip a switch, or Cartman's belly smash to remove a wall. Unfortunately, there is no swapping of characters on the fly; the fewer players there are, the more of these time cores will be tantalizingly out of your reach. 

There are super hero power ups, where characters can assume their alter ego to get to special areas. If you come upon a section for The Coon, and you don't have Cartman in your group, that's just one more time core you will lack. Thus, unless you play with a full group, you will have to repeat levels often. Replayability is not a bad thing, but when it's forced in such a strongarm manner, it feels wrong. You might have to trudge through a very long level twice in order to reach a 30 second section with a new time core you need to unlock a new level. Not fun.

Local co-op supports up to four players, but there is no drop in/drop out. Online play includes up to four as well, and local players can also play online, which is always a plus. However, there is a significant amount of lag when playing online that pretty much kills the experience. Making the sluggish controls even worse leads to frustration. Apart from simultaneous play, there aren't really any teamwork focused moves or puzzles, either.  Co-op feels just as lazy as the rest of the game.

Given all the problems in Tenorman's Revenge, I cannot recommend it. Those who really enjoy the show might find these issues more tolerable due to the quality of the presentation. For non-fans, the artificial difficulty, too-long levels, and boring progression system are serious problems that the merely average platforming and mundane co-op elements do not make up for.