South Park: Snow Day! (XS)

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South Park: Snow Day! (XS)

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Stephen LaGioia
, posted 1 day ago / 1,180 Views

Like a wild roller coaster ride at Cartmanland, South Park has seen its ups and downs over the decades when it comes to the gaming realm. On the positive end, you’ve got the Stick of Truth and Fractured But Whole RPGs. On the negative side, there’s, well… most other titles bearing the SP brand. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Question LLC’s action Roguelite spin on Parker and Stone’s edgy cartoon marks yet another dud on this front. Not only does it largely fall flat compared to the more amusing, (relatively) well-crafted RPGs that preceded it, but the vibe actually feels more akin to the spotty SP games of the ‘90s and early 2000s (with a few basic elements of Hades sprinkled in), rather than a AA title from 2024 representing a storied cartoon.

When it comes to the aptly-named Snow Day, it’s not all bad. Rather, this snowy South Park romp proves a mixed bag with positive aspects that just barely outweigh its detriments. Even then, one must delve into the multiplayer content to really draw some value and substance from the experience. It kicks off with a premise not unlike the SP RPGs of yesteryear, with a wizard-themed Cartman leading the charge to fight (or pretending to fight) the forces of evil — this time in the form of annoying Elven kids. After Cartman revels in the glorious prospect of a potent blizzard which brings school cancelations, these childlike games of pretend commence once again. But rather than taking the form of a humorous, rewarding RPG, this game of pretend yields a brief campaign of hack-and-slash action and co-op skirmishes against the same kiddie foes. 

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The idea of playing a make-believe “game within a game” may have been a fun and clever concept a decade ago, and indeed, was executed far better with the RPGs. In Snow Day, however, such a premise feels old hat and lazily done at this stage. When it comes to South Park, satire, social commentary, and juvenile toilet humor are key trademarks — and with regards to the video games, gaming trope spoofs as well. Is Question LLC’s execution at least solid on this front? Well, outside of some cheeky references to the toilet paper hoarding hysteria of the Covid era (TP is the main currency), a few funny Randy moments, a dig at NFTs, and a wacky fart power that blasts you skyward, these funny, witty SP staples are mostly lacking or tame. 

There are a few amusing show callbacks — appearances by Jimbo and Ned, Mr. Hankey, and the Goths, for instance — but one must be a major fan of the show to truly appreciate these. Given the plentiful comedy fodder within modern society, and endless show material to draw from, I can’t help but feel like Snow Day missed some great opportunities regarding the humor. Instead, we’re mostly treated to the usual jerky remarks from a bratty Cartman, as well as repetitive, unfunny quips from player avatars and enemies.

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Presentation-wise, Snow Day offers typical cutscenes in the classic cel-shaded SP style here and there. And while these showlike-moments bring some good comedy and entertainment, they clash stylistically with the bland, unremarkable 3D visuals of the in-game graphics. Any hints of decent aesthetics mostly take the form of lighting and particle effects. Overall, I felt like I was playing a SP title that never was from the early 2000s; a stark contrast from the more detailed, vibrant, and creative RPGs from years prior. Even the sound design was spotty in my experience, with popping and erratic changes in volume compounding the aforementioned annoying dialogue and sound bites. 

But what of the gameplay itself? Snow Day doesn’t pick up the slack much here either. This is especially true when it comes to solo play, as you’ll deal with a trio of spotty, largely unreliable AI “new kid” companions fighting with you. The experience is essentially a third-person hack-and-slash that resides in five snowy South Park-based maps. Each stage can be tackled in 40-50 minutes, assuming you don’t perish and have to start from the beginning of the chapter. Each yields a few segmented, linear regions crawling with Elven cosplaying kids wielding melee weapons and irritating bows. These levels offer a few minor “missions” which are mostly basic fetch quests or getting some “MacGuffin”; load up a cannon to break Randy from an icy cavern, or help Jimbo and Ned gather random goods for their shop, etc.

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Players set forth in battle with only a few choices in melee weapons. These include dual-wielding daggers, a basic sword and shield, and two-handed axe (unlocked later). At least in my playthrough, the daggers brought the most flow and fun to the combat (relatively speaking), though the axe provides some extra power. Not that it’s often needed, as the game’s difficulty scarcely got out of control on the “normal” setting. This is disregarding a few tense boss fights against Kyle and Princess Kenny, and a timed-bout where I frustratingly got run over by a snowblower for failing to clear the area of large, stubborn foes sporting hockey gear in the given time.

You also pick from a few ranged weapons, which comprise a typical bow, a wand, and a staff. The latter fantasy-themed weapons tend to be more enjoyable, though prove sluggish and imprecise, so I mainly opted to pick off targets with the bow. It can be mildly fun hacking away at annoying baddies, picking some off from a distance, and experimenting with certain powers. When it comes to basic melee combat in particular though, the mechanics feel rather sloppy, floaty, and lack any real weight or tactility. Outside of a few elements like bleeding (which shifts the dynamics a bit and make foes more vulnerable), and limited-use powers, the battle system is fairly shallow and tedious. 

Before each chapter, you’re given a slew of these aforementioned powers, which you can bust out at any point in a heated fight. The more useful, satisfying examples here are a healing totem, a damage-peppering Snow Turret, and a fart blast. The latter SP classic launches you in mid-air and gets you get out of a sticky situation while doing damage in your gaseous wake. Unfortunately, you can only hold two of these moves at any given time, though they can be swapped out in-between chapters. 

Aside from basic melee combat and a few abilities, Snow Day offers bits of Roguelike elements. While these features can feel a bit out of place, they happen to be the strongest aspect of the game aside from the co-op. This is where any semblance of progression or tactical gameplay stems from, and also grants some rare replayability, as you can tinker with different options to prepare for a given scene.

Before a chapter initiates, you’ll be asked to select a few perks in card form, tagged by rarity. These range from melee power boosts, to greater loot drops, to multiple arrows at once. There aren’t a ton to choose from, but I’m fine with this, since it keeps things focused without getting too convoluted or overwhelming. At a few points in each run, Jimmy provides upgrades to existing perks, bringing a touch of varied, strategic gameplay to the mix. You can utilize a few “wild card” perks courtesy of the Goth kids, which grant a useful resource or buff often at a certain cost. An example would be a card that gives extra Dark Matter — a currency for permanent perks — but requires you to remove a card in use. 

These Dark Matter perks, which comprise a vast skill tree, are a welcome feature, as they’re really the only source of over-arching progression. Since almost everything resets every chapter, there’s really no other sense of reward or growth across all five chapters. Still, you’ll likely need to play through the fairly short campaign multiple times to afford most of the perks offered. 

Added to these elements is a game-changing “Bullshit” power that can be used in a pinch a few times per match — a sort of “Ultimate” move. These include the HP-melting Laser shot and a barrage of meteors. In a rather annoying feature, enemies are given these powers as well, which means your action-filled skirmish will abruptly be interrupted with the announcement that they’ve used a Bullshit card. Thankfully these annoying setbacks aren’t too frequent, but they can disrupt the game’s flow and throw you for a loop.

Snow Day’s enjoyment can mainly be found in its four-player co-op. Yet, things aren’t all roses in this area either, as there’s no splitscreen, and finding a good online match can be a challenge. I spent several minutes trying to get something going only to be launched into the same dead-end game multiple times. In said game, the team’s leader was either AFK or refused to budge, leaving the rest of us stranded in lobby purgatory. When I finally did match up with others, I enjoyed the frantic, combat-heavy gameplay far more than flying solo. However, there were bouts of lag stutter that took me out of the experience somewhat. To its credit, Snow Day offers an arcade-style option of seamlessly jumping in and out of a match, streamlining the process quite a bit. 

Snow Day is pretty thin when it comes to both style and substance, offering not quite enough of either to hold up long-term, even with decent multiplayer support and interesting Roguelike bits. While I’ve played worse South Park titles, this one stands out by following two far better games: The Stick of Truth and, to a lesser extent, The Fractured But Whole. The departure in both content and quality is apparent given that it alludes to their lore and positions itself as a spin-off or quasi-sequel to them. Yet, the experience often felt more like an obscure 2000s action romp with a South Park overlay. Glimpses of fun were had — like when wiping out several foes with my fully-charged dagger swipes, pelting Elf-kid hordes with my turret, or coordinating with other players to beat a tough boss. As a whole, though, this is a rare snow day I could have done without.

This review is based on a digital copy of South Park: Snow Day! for the XS

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