South Park: Snow Day! review: No RPG, no problem

South Park: Snow Day! moving away from the RPG mechanics and 2D graphics of its predecessors caused a lot of fans to worry about the game’s quality, but fear not—Snow Day may be different, but it’s just as enjoyable.

South Park: Snow Day! is a 3D co-op action game, which may be too drastic of a change for hardcore fans of The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole, but if you get past the initial shock, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the new-look town of South Park.

South Park looks nice in 3D

The South Park Community Center in South Park: Snow Day! with a truck to the right.
South Park in 3D is a sight to behold. Screenshot by Dot Esports

Snow Day! remains true to the familiar formula of previous games in its story structure, which goes about much like an episode of the show. A raging blizzard has hit the town, and you and the boys gradually make your way toward discovering the truth about what or who caused it, and we all learn something (today) at the end. It directly refers to and resolves a story beat from the show, making me curious if it will remain canon.

While the story is what you might expect, Snow Day abandoning the trademark 2D presentation of the show and previous South Park video games has been a contentious topic— arguably more than the genre switch. As a lifelong show fan, I found the transition to 3D seamless. The constant snowfall, satisfyingly crunchy sound effects, mellow soundtrack, and familiar town landmarks combine for a very cozy atmosphere. I got lost in it so fast that I didn’t even register that it looked different. I felt like Harry Potter the first time he entered the wizarding world, only instead of Portkeys, folks use farts to get around.

Prepare for action, lots of it

Once you get used to the new look, you have to get used to the action, too, and there’s a lot of action. In fact, the only time you’re relieved from battles outside the hub is right after you clear a wave of enemies or defeat a boss. The core gameplay loop is this: Start a chapter, kill all enemies, complete a fetch quest, kill the boss, move on to the next chapter—rinse and repeat. It’s as pure an action game as it gets, which means a lot rides on its combat.

For a first foray into the action genre, South Park: Snow Day! nails its combat system. It’s deceptively complex but not confusing, and more importantly, unapologetically South Park. You have melee attacks, ranged attacks, attack upgrades, special powers, special power upgrades, and special special powers called Bullshit—of course. The gist of the combat isn’t mechanical skill, but learning to use all your tools to create an advantage over the enemy.

South Park: Snow Day! new kid sitting on Princess Kenny's throne.
South Park: Snow Day!’s boss battles are as grand as they are silly. Screenshot by Dot Esports

You and your three buddies have all this at your disposal, but so do the enemies. South Park: Snow Day! is not a terribly challenging game, but the various enemy types can team up to deliver some heavy blows. How challenging the game is is determined by your difficulty selection and whether you play solo offline or with real people. You always have three teammates with you, with the AI taking up any slots not taken by humans.

AI companions aren’t terrible, but much as in real life, they’re not exactly on the level of humans yet. The biggest issue by far is their unwillingness to use the game’s revive mechanic when you’re downed, resulting in some very avoidable deaths. It is extra frustrating in this game because you have to restart a chapter from the beginning each time you die.

Overall, the combat is engaging and varied enough to avoid becoming boring quickly, and you have more than enough at your disposal to not have to resort to fast reactions or pure mechanical skill. South Park should be entertaining first and foremost, and the combat accommodates that perfectly.

South Park‘s new direction is off to a good start

South Park: Snow Day! does a fantastic job as the introduction to what will hopefully become a series of action games. The new presentation style is not the culture shock some may fear: The combat is polished and easy to grasp, the story is serviceable, and (as usual) holds a little message toward the end we can all learn from. Snow Day is a fun, relaxing experience that deserves a chance from South Park and action fans alike—and is a must for fans of both.


8

Pros

  • Nails the presentation
  • Simple, yet satisfying combat
  • Playing with friends is immensely entertaining

Cons

  • Some weird terrain interactions
  • Short main quest

A copy of South Park: Snow Day! was provided by THQ Nordic for review. Reviewed on PC.

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