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South Park: Snow Day!

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: March 26, 2024


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PC Review - 'South Park: Snow Day!'

by Cody Medellin on March 25, 2024 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

South Park: Snow Day! is a 4-player co-op game where you join Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny, in three-dimensional glory, to celebrate the most magical day in any young child’s life - a snow day!

South Park has been around for a very long time, and like any good franchise, it has seen many video game iterations dating all the way back to the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 era. The first game sold well mostly due to name recognition, since the game wasn't good. The rest of the games during that era were even worse, effectively killing any attempt at making any more South Park games for an entire console generation. The series came back in video game form with a great tower defense game, and while the following platformer wasn't so good, the duo of RPGs was excellent. The series has returned with South Park: Snow Day!, which deviates from the RPG formula in a few ways, and the result is good but not as exciting as the previous RPGs.

A giant blizzard has broken out in the town of South Park, and it is so bad that the news is calling it the worst storm in a very long time. Casualties have piled up, and people have gone mad trying to stock up on toilet paper. None of that matters to the kids; the massive blizzard means that it's a snow day, so there's no school. Cartman, Stan, and the rest of the kids have banded together to come up with a new game, and as the new kid, you get to join in. The story provides a good contrast between the dire situation the town is faced with and how it appears to a bunch of fourth graders. One real nice touch is that the game overtly references the previous titles. Granted, it's done in a way where Cartman blames you for ruining both The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole for being the kid who went OP, but it is a nice touch seeing that those games are recognized as being canon.

As mentioned earlier, Snow Day! makes the transition from a JRPG to an action RPG, but it is more apt to call the game a lite action RPG. There's no XP to be gained, but you get currency to level up the skill tree and the ability to re-spec it without any penalties. Your full arsenal consists of three melee weapons and three projectile weapons, with only a cooldown to ensure you aren't depending too much on the latter. The action plays out like any modern hack-and-slash game with simple combos to execute and some dodge-rolling, but don't expect to be dependent on reading enemy tells; simple button-mashing gets the job done. The enemy variety includes archers, summoners that conjure large thorns, and tougher older kids. The simpler combat system is easy to pick up and enjoy but remains challenging enough that you'll want to do more than button-mash if you plan to play on a difficulty of Normal or above.

The game also has a smattering of roguelite elements. While the objectives, bosses, and a few key areas to a level remain the same, the rest of the battle area is a randomized assortment of areas. The beginning of each level has you and the enemy army picking out passive powers and Bullshit cards that activate temporary powers like wielding laser swords or calling on extra minions of darkness or nullifying ranged weapons. Those powers and cards are all randomized, as are the cards you encounter throughout the level to buff up stats for the run. Like any roguelike, losing means you keep your currency and nothing else, but completing a level also resets card statuses.

One welcome element is co-op play, which hasn't been seen since the series' entry into the tower defense genre more than a console generation ago. You can have a party of four people with you in every skirmish, and from the few online sessions we encountered during the online period, the experience was relatively lag-free throughout. The game doesn't scale according to how many players are present, so it adds ally bots to balance out the hordes of enemies coming at you, even during offline battles. The AI allies are good, as they do well in fights and at reviving you, but they sometimes do things like get stuck in a death spiral. We wish the game featured local multiplayer, as hack-and-slash action RPGs tend to lend themselves well to both local and online play. The setup currently makes that difficult, but it would've been nice to have that feature.

While the ideas behind Snow Day! are sound and make for a fun title that's easy to pick up and play, there are a few caveats. The first is the distance for the game's camera. On the surface, the camera seems to be at a fairly ideal distance for a third-person, over-the-shoulder game. However, this is a hack-and-slash game with enemies everywhere, and your combos cause you to leap around, so the camera becomes unruly as it zooms close whenever you pass an object. The camera is close enough that you can't see some enemies attack you, which also causes you to die in close-quarter areas. You can move the camera to get a better view, but when the action really gets frantic, this would've been more playable if the camera were pulled back a bit.

The second caveat is that the game is relatively short. The developers have pegged the average playtime at around five hours, and that estimation is just about right; each of the game's five levels can take roughly an hour to go through unless you run into difficult spots. The randomization of cards and levels makes multiple runs over the same levels worthwhile, but the short playtime combined with the aforementioned camera issues and paltry weapon selection makes it less likely that you'd want to make multiple trips through the same levels unless you have friends who are up for multiple runs, want to play the free DLC that enables horde mode, or want to completely max out the skill tree.

There's some good news and bad news when it comes to the online performance. The good news is that the game has no performance issues. Every interaction made online was smooth, and even with the action being frantic with four players online at once, there were no signs of character warping or lag. The bad news is that the game has no cross-play support. It would've been nice to have it, especially with the game being on just about every platform at launch, and hopefully this gets patched in to ensure the player base is as large as possible.

Even the worst of the South Park games have had a great sound package, and Snow Day! is no different. All of the original voice actors of the series reprise their roles, and since the writers of the series are also present, none of the dialogue sounds out of place or done with a half-hearted delivery. The one drawback is that lines spouted by foes get repeated quite often, but it is humorous to hear little kids asking for a do-over after defeat. The fantasy themes are good, mostly because it still feels quaint to see them in a modern town setting, while the effects are as solid as ever.

Graphically, the return to 3D hasn't hurt the game. The show has a simple art style, but it took until now to get 3D versions of the characters that don't look like a lower-resolution version of the show. Animations are fine except for a few jerky transitions, and even though the environments can all feel the same because of the constant snow, they look great. Particle effects like moving snow and blood splatters also look good, and the game can easily hit 60fps or above without the need for beefy hardware. Those with ultrawide monitors will like the fact that support for those screens isn't half-baked, and Linux desktop users will like that the game works fine with the latest version of Proton.

Steam Deck users will be glad to know that the game runs quite well on the device. Snow Day! already defaults to 1280x800, and all of the graphical settings are already set to low; this is a good sign since many recent games simply read the settings from the save file regardless of the device. During gameplay, the frame rate hits 60fps fairly consistently, with only a few dropped frames. The only time you'll notice any significant drops is during busy areas with a ton of combat, but it doesn't last very long, and it isn't painfully slow. All of this good news comes at a cost, and that's in the form of battery life. With a full charge on the LCD version of the Steam Deck, the battery lasts around 90 minutes before you need to plug in the device. That's a pretty short duration, but it lets you get through a good bit of the game considering how short it is.

South Park: Snow Day! is a good South Park game, but it's just a fine one when viewed without the license. The action is good, as is the inclusion of roguelike elements, but the camera distance can make the gameplay feel cumbersome. The inclusion of multiplayer is great, but the lack of local play is disappointing. While the different card combinations and level elements add some replayability, the presence of only five stages make the game feel short; the disappointment is lessened by the lower-than-expected price tag. It's a fun game, but you'll want to temper your expectations.

Score: 7.5/10

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