South Park: Snow Day! review - Mr Hankey would be proud of this stinker

South Park: Snow Day! review - Mr Hankey would be proud of this stinker
Images via THQ Nordic

Written by 

Joshua Boyles

Published 

25th Mar 2024 16:00

Among the several repetitive battle cries that you’ll regularly hear from enemies in South Park: Snow Day! is “This is getting booooring!”. After a handful of hours with the pseudo-sequel to Ubisoft’s RPG adaptations of the tongue-in-cheek cartoon, it’s not long before that earworm begins to manifest in this mindless rendition of a co-op shooter.

There’s a smattering of redeeming qualities in the gang’s latest outing, this time making the transition from 2D to 3D. However, much of what THQ Nordic has attempted here sadly leaves much to be desired.

GGRecon Verdict

The state of South Park: Snow Day! is a little easier to swallow when you consider the vastly reduced price tag of £24.99 - almost a third of what most AAA releases will cost you these days. Given the budget price, some of the bits that are rough around the edges can almost be forgiven. 

What’s unforgivable is that, at its core, South Park: Snow Day! isn’t remotely fun to play. Its combat and progression systems aren’t engaging, and only the most hardcore of South Park fans will find a glimmer of hope in the bulletproof humour that’s borrowed from the cartoon.

Whiteout

Main character in South Park Snow Day
Click to enlarge

Picking up mostly where the previous two games left off, you play as the New Kid, plugging yourself right into the cast of South Park. The town has befallen a complete whiteout, with a snowstorm causing chaos in the area. Much the delight of any kid, school’s closed, paving the way for the iconic entourage to stage some mischief.

After designing your character using the basic but functional creator, you’re sent on a brief tutorial to pick up the basic gameplay mechanics. There’s a basic and a charged attack, a dodge button, and pressing the bumpers activates a couple of abilities, denoted by cards that you can swap out later down the line.

Once you’ve got a ranged weapon, your arsenal is complete, and it’s not long before you’re taking down hordes of Elves, Jocks, and other enemies that Snow Day throws your way. Defeating enemies and destroying parts of the environment will award you TP, which is used as currency in this game - a hilarious and harrowing callback to the pandemic years.

After the tutorial is complete, Snow Day! Revolves around a central hub area, a little like the Tower in Destiny. Here, you can speak to Cartman to choose your next mission, or vendors to buy new weapons and upgrade your skills.

These are all staples of modern co-op shooters, coated in a South Park wrapper. Sadly, the pop-culture sheen is the only aspect that’s likely to keep players hooked, as the game does little to innovate or expand upon these tried and tested mechanics.

Tale as old as time

Combat in South Park Snow Day
Click to enlarge

The ensuing gameplay loop of Snow Day sees you entering preset levels that are generally uninspiring, featuring the same general structures as you progress. You’ll encounter numerous open combat arenas connected by short corridors and load screens, capped off by a boss fight that’s usually borrowed from a template you’ve no doubt witnessed before in other games of this kind.

Levels are punctuated by occasional vendors where you can upgrade your card abilities. These card abilities are the biggest selling point in Snow Day, with them dictating what your bumper abilities are, and an ultimate-equivalent ‘Bullshit!’ card that can be called in to change the tide of battle. 

I started out using a card that let me launch myself into the air with a massive fart, poisoning groups of enemies below. By purchasing upgrades from a vendor, I was soon able to upgrade this to suck in enemies in a close vicinity, which was admittedly rather satisfying and pretty funny to pull off.

The Bullshit! Cards can be called in a set number of times when things are getting tricky, and things can get pretty heated on the higher difficulties. My favourite card called in a meteor strike, raining some much-needed fire from above onto the pesky Elves causing me grief.

Card system in South Park Snow Day
Click to enlarge

With Snow Day designed as a co-op game, there’s a little bit of room to build your characters to complement each other. Some cards offer bonuses to healing items, whereas others are much more attack and defence-minded. Sadly, these upgrades feel rather minor, only improving your abilities by a few percentage points at a time - buying new ones is hardly an exciting prospect.

What’s more, the combat mechanics in general feel extremely tiresome due to feedback feeling entirely floaty and inaccurate. You can never be quite sure what you’re hitting, so it’s mostly a case of mashing X while occasionally using your ability cards with the bumpers. There’s no real thought behind the combat given how basic the combos are, and there isn’t enough depth in the class building to feel properly synergised with your team.

Additional weapons like the Sword and Shield, and Mage Staff add some variety, but these feel just as basic as your starting equipment and thus quickly become just as mundane. It only takes a few minutes of chipping away at the same enemy types, lost in a cloud of UI elements, before you begin to think about why you’re wasting your time.

There are some positives to Snow Day, though. For the most part, the South Park humour is nailed, getting a good few giggles out of me during its runtime. It even looks pretty good, despite my early apprehensions about the classic 2D art style making the jump to 3D. While the previous games could easily have been mistaken for episodes of the show, that’s clearly not the case here - but that’s not to its detriment, as the game is generally very pleasant to look at. It runs fairly admirably on Steam Deck, too.

Sadly, the overall package of Snow Day feels remarkably unpolished. I regularly had moments where my character got stuck in the environment, or UI elements would stay on screen long after they should have disappeared. I once had a ‘Bullshit’ card graphic remain on screen for the entire remainder of a play session, and only disappeared upon exiting back to the menu and reloading a save.

Have its cake and eat it

Boss fight with Kyle in South Park Snow Day
Click to enlarge

What hurts the most while playing Snow Day is that, in the transition from Ubisoft to THQ Nordic it feels there’s been a fundamental failure to understand why those previous Ubisoft RPGs were so great. They took traditional RPG and turn-based mechanics and innovated on them while taking shots at other games that used them as tropes.

A similar style of humour has been attempted here, with Snow Day regularly making a mockery of games with card-based mechanics, waves of bullet-sponge enemies, and tiresome boss battles. The difference is that it also leans heavily on these tropes in its own gameplay. There’s a dissonance in how it actively mocks games of a similar genre, while firmly existing within the same space as the likes of Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

As such, I found South Park: Snow Day! to be a completely tiresome experience. Sure, it’s more fun with friends - but so are most games. It feels as though THQ Nordic has relied on the fact that players will be chatting along with mates in the background in the hope that the mundane nature of the game will simply pass them by.

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The Verdict

The state of South Park: Snow Day! is a little easier to swallow when you consider the vastly reduced price tag of £24.99 - almost a third of what most AAA releases will cost you these days. Given the budget price, some of the bits that are rough around the edges can almost be forgiven. 

What’s unforgivable is that, at its core, South Park: Snow Day! isn’t remotely fun to play. Its combat and progression systems aren’t engaging, and only the most hardcore of South Park fans will find a glimmer of hope in the bulletproof humour that’s borrowed from the cartoon.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a new co-op shooter to sink your teeth into with a few pals, do yourself a favour and pick up Helldivers 2 instead, which guns for a similar style of team-up gameplay but with far more innovation and charm.

2/5

Reviewed on PC, code provided by the publisher.

Joshua is the Guides Editor at GGRecon. After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Broadcast Journalism, he previously wrote for publications such as FragHero and GameByte. You can often find him diving deep into fantasy RPGs such as Skyrim and The Witcher, or tearing it up in Call of Duty and Battlefield. He's also often spotted hiking in the wilderness, usually blasting Arctic Monkeys.