South Park: Tenorman's Revenge is the second of two scheduled South Park games for Xbox Live Arcade. While the previously released Let's Go Tower Defense Play! and Tenorman's Revenge are a pair cut from the same deal, they are two completely different games. As the name indicates, Let's Go Tower Defense Play! is a tower defense game with the South Park edge, but the latest installment anchors itself firmly in the platforming genre.
Licensed games and platformers have a tumultuous past, so when I found out South Park was going from a incredibly solid tower defense game to a platformer I had my doubts. However, I later discovered that Other Ocean Interactive,the team who created the amazing NES homage that is Dark Void Zero, would be developing the game. There was hope! Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that Tenorman's Revenge is incredibly middle of the road. For every positive thing I could say about the game there is a negative and at the end my stance on the game is almost completely neutral.
If your encounters with the South Park television show are few and far between, you're going to feel left in the dark. Knowing who Scott Tenorman is or South Park's take on ginger kids and atheists is going to directly effect how much you enjoy the game. This is a game that first and foremost rewards the fans.
Tenorman's Revenge is also the best looking South Park game to date. The character animations are sourced directly from the show and, thanks to the involvement of show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, everything from comedic tone to voice acting is spot on even if they come with a wink and a couple nudges.
The issues I have with the game start (but do not end) with the mechanics. You can't run, you don't have a whole lot of physics to work with, and it is not particularly deep. This is frustrating for me because Tenorman's Revenge doesn't seem haphazardly constructed. Instead, it mainly seems to be a result of aesthetic limitations. In order to maintain the show's look and feel, mechanics like running and precision jumping had to be sacrificed. This doesn't render the game unplayable, but it definitely lacks that "just right" feeling we've come to expect from top notch platformers.
You can play with up to four players cooperatively and if you want to collect everything in a timely manner, I suggest you do. Each of the four boys has a special ability and character specific power-ups that are necessary for accessing collectables and rewards. These powers also represent a missed opportunity as most of them are rarely utilized and feel underdeveloped. Why can't we get more out of combat as the Coon (another reason to know the show before going in) or Mysterion? There are also weapons to pick up, but they feel equally uninspired.
To complicate the mechanics issue, I found Tenorman's Revenge to be overly difficult in all the wrong ways. At several points the game will hurl hordes of enemies literally on top of you and when enemies hit you they have a tendency to knock you around like a pinball machine, often leading to more damage or even death. Luckily health and lives are handed out like candy on Halloween and it softens the difficulty substantially. Still, I feel as if skill is rarely a factor when it comes to success.
Like I said, this game will provide the most value for South Park fans. It's riddled with mediocrity on the gameplay level, but the jokes are funny, the references are great, and the game looks awesome. Fans should at least give the demo a try. Just understand that, while the game has the appearance of greatness, it also bears frustration.