In a future filled with ginger robots…
In the future, South Park’s Cartman will be revered as the super-cool, totally awesome savior of humanity. Don’t take my word for it—just ask the atheist otter, narrating the latest South Park game, South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge.
If the name Scott Tenorman doesn’t mean anything to you, you likely aren’t this game’s target audience. A long-time nemesis of the bundle of unpleasantness that is Eric Cartman, Tenorman stands as one of the most sympathetic villains in South Park history. Sure, he’s a little creep, an older red-haired student who embarrassed Cartman and incurred his wrath, proving once and for all that Cartman isn’t just a rotten kid—he’s actually evil.
You see, Cartman has Tenorman’s parents killed and feeds them to him in a bowl of chili. This made Tenorman cry in front of his favorite band, Radiohead, causing them to mock him. Cartman licked the tears from Tenorman’s face exclaiming, “Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness! My-yummy!”
In a subsequent episode, it’s revealed that Tenorman’s father is the same Denver Bronco that sired Cartman, making the two half-brothers. Oh, the horror! Cartman had his own father killed and he’s—GASP!—half-ginger!
That’s some pretty f****d up s*** right there.
As you might have guessed from the game’s name, Scott Tenorman is back, and this time he’s gone way too far. He’s stolen the boys’ Xbox hard drive and escaped into a time warp. Now, Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny must chase Tenorman down, lest they have to sit through all of the cutscenes in L.A. Noire again.
As you might guess, Tenorman’s Revenge adheres to the show’s sensibilities, which is a good thing. It’s a 2D side-scroller, so the closest game I can compare it to is old-school Mega Man, but without the whole “get your enemies’ powers” thing. So, what makes it like classic Mega Man, you ask? This game is hard. Seriously, hardcore-gamer hard, complete with the one-hit environmental kills, timing challenges and tricky puzzles that’ll kill you until you figure them out.
After the first level, there’s little handholding—as Cartman notes so succinctly, “Instructions are for pussies!” Your success or failure will depend on your ability to actually play the game. For an old-timer like me, it’s refreshing to encounter a game like this, last seen in Capcom’s wonderfully retro Mega Man 8 and 9. I’m sure there are players out there that will disagree with this sentiment and will loathe the game because of it. To them, I reference Cartman’s quote above.
As is necessary with a hardcore platform game, the controls are tight and jumps, while difficult at times, never cross the boundary into unfair. It might require some practice to get through the levels, but if you’re determined you’ll get the patterns down and will find yourself flying through them in no time.
And by “no time,” I mean that you’ll finish before you start—an important factor if you want to land those elusive medals. Levels are chockfull of time orbs that turn back the clock. Most levels require you to collect enough orbs to finish with a negative time in order to medal. As I’ve not been able to do this, I will testify to its difficulty.
The levels themselves are well designed, loaded with secrets and paths only accessible by the right character. Each of the boys has his own special abilities: Cartman can burst through weak walls with his belly; Stan throws a mean football at switches; Kenny can jump really high; and Kyle use his Daywalker abilities (revealing his hidden ginger hair) to get through portals accessible only by gingers.
Additionally, each character has a superpower that can be activated by finding the right icon, turning into The Coon, Mysterion, Toolshed, and The Human Kite. This opens up even more areas on the already huge maps.
In case you didn’t guess, playing through Tenorman’s Revenge alone will require you to play through every area as each character to find all of the secrets. You can, however, go at it with up to three friends in co-op mode to scour the levels faster, either locally or online. Co-op’s great fun, though occasionally overwhelming, with action coming at you from every angle. It helps dial down the difficulty a little, though, which ain’t a bad thing.
There’s more than 20 levels with 80-plus branches to explore, quite a lot of content for a $10 (800 point) XBLA game. You’ll travel through time and visit the South Park of the future, Heaven, Hell, and even the poopy underworld of South Park’s sewers. Mr. Hanky, we’re coming for you. The better you know the previous South Park characters and storylines, the more you’ll enjoy Tenorman’s Revenge. The game pulls from 15 seasons of insanity, and as with the show, you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next.
The game’s biggest shortcomings are the difficulty and occasionally repetitive nature of the levels, particularly those packed with ginger robots to defeat. Even if you’re having good times with weapons, there are times the onslaught gets annoying, particularly when you just want to grab some time and get out. Fortunately, the designers seemed to know when to throw in a boss encounter or other diversion in order to break up the jump-jump-jump, kill-kill-kill monotony. But like I said, it’s an old-school platform game, so be prepared. Also, checkpoints could come more frequently, as it really does suck to get through an elaborate platform maze only to be knocked into the sewage and die at the end, and then having to start over.
Still, if you’re looking for a solid, well-designed South Park game, Tenorman’s Revenge certainly fits the bill. Which is a relief, since it could’ve just been lame.
SUMMARY: An old-school 2D platformer that perfectly complements the South Park aesthetic. Overflowing with references to the series and filled with huge, well-designed levels, players will have a blast leading South Park’s four main characters on a most urgent quest to retrieve their stolen Xbox hard drive. With more than 20 levels, each with multiple branching paths, Tenorman’s Revenge might be one of the most value packed XBLA games ever released. At only 800 Microsoft Points ($10), you’ll even be able to buy a big box of Cheesy Poofs!
- THE GOOD: The game totally captures the look, sound, and feel of the television show.
- THE BAD: Sometimes the level objectives are obscure and difficult to figure out.
- THE UGLY: Cartman is as offensive as ever here.
South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge is an Xbox 360 (XBLA) exclusive.