SOUTH PARK / Acclaim / Nintendo 64
Matt Stone and Trey Parker have said in recent interviews that they are kind of embarrassed by the first couple of seasons of South Park, and I understand what they mean, but if you were around for their original broadcasts they also probably invoke some warm nostalgia for a time now long past (almost two decades!). This game was released about a year after the show debuted, and it kinda inspires some nostalgia too -- partially because it captures the tone of the show at the time, but also because it's a simple, functional and actually fairly basically competent FPS in the mold of late 90s favorites like Turok and Doom 64.

Perhaps the best thing the game does is managing to nail the look and feel of the show at the time despite transitioning everything to 3D models. Pretty impressive for the first attempt. While the level layouts are generally simple and sparse, the actual look of what buildings and cars are present is clean, colorful and generally appealing. And the character models are about as faithful to the show as you can hope for, with some obvious effort put into them.

You'll pick one of the kids to start, though this ends up being a bit pointless in single-player mode as you collect the other three up immediately in the first level. You can swap between them, though they all share the same life bar -- all this really does is to change their quips when they kill enemies and get hit. The game overall is divided into five sets of three levels, each of which is dominated by a particular enemy type. In between levels you'll sometimes get cinematics with unique voice acting from series staples, including Chef, Mr. Garrison and various other town denizens.

The actual mechanics are pretty solid; the only real issue here is that levels have a linear and usually fairly boring layout, and the enemy type du jour is the only one you see in massive waves. There is one unique feature here that I haven't seen yet in other FPS, however. Most levels contain a bunch of "tanks", or larger versions of the current enemy type. When you whittle a tank's health down to about half, they'll stop attacking you and make a beeline for the level entrance. If they manage to escape, or if you simply miss them while going through the level, you'll have to play a sub-level where they are gradually destroying the town of South Park and you have to kill them before they knock over all the buildings.

You're up against nothing but turkeys in the first set of levels, which gets things off to a rather tiring start. But the second set of levels is actually the best one -- you face freakishly mutated versions of the various South Park residents there. Sadly, that variety is abandoned for the remaining level sets, which are dominated by waves of aliens and cows similar to the turkey-fest at the outset.

I'm giving this one the 2/5 due to the single-player mode being repetitive and tedious, though there are actually a number of things to like about it, and on the whole it's actually not that bad of a game. You can maybe bump this up to a 3/5 if you're on an actual console and can make use of the multiplayer mode, which looks like it could be considerably more fun. And it's possibly worth picking up (at a cheap price) for big South Park fans just for its fidelity to the show.
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