South Park: Snow Day! Review – It Needs More Defrosting

Too cool for school.

South Park has been engulfed by a life-threatening and highly dangerous snowstorm; blocking off roads and supplies, and sending the town’s residents into a frenzy over toilet paper. This can only mean one thing – school is cancelled, because it’s a Snow Day! A winter wonderland awaits Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny as you fill the shoes of the New Kid, venturing through the town of South Park as you engage in battle against swarms of kindergarteners and older kids, upgrading your powers and weapons and seeking to save the world from evil.

Combining action-adventure gameplay with some very lite “roguelite” elements, South Park: Snow Day is a departure from the installments that came before it, moving into the realm of 3D and stepping away from the turn-based gameplay of The Stick of Truth and The Fractured but Whole. According to Cartman, you (as the New Kid) got too powerful each time you finished an adventure, and so the kids all had to change the rules and start fresh. With a focus on co-op, you and three other ‘new kids’ can take on the hordes of enemy kindergarteners – but if your friends aren’t able to join in, allied bots will take their place. This co-op aspect has both good and bad results. Your friends can easily jump into sessions to form a strong team, each with their own layouts and powers, but the negative is that the bots can be quite hit and miss, leading to a lot of failed missions depending on difficulty.

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South Park: Snow Day’s combat is fairly straightforward. Your loadout can be customised before a mission, consisting of a melee weapon and a ranged attack, as well as two support powers that you can strategically play. These support powers are endless, but powered by a ‘Pissed Off’ meter which grows as you battle enemies, and range from tactical shields and snowball cannons to jet farts and bulldoze farts, each with their own secondary effects as well. A card system forms the basis of upgrading all of your weapons and powers – you’ll meet up with Jimmy at intervals during a mission who will offer you modifier cards which vary from common to ultra-legendary, and can add bonus damage or modifiers to your weapons. My personal favourite was the axe tornado which sucked enemies into your axe spin for massive damage. Once you collect these cards they take place in Butters’ Book of Laws for revision, but they aren’t permanent. Each mission run-through starts fresh, and so no two plays are the same.

Both you and your enemy commander pick “Bullshit” cards before each chapter commences, which act as strengths and weaknesses which can be activated to turn the tide of war. Player Bullshit includes things like summoning extra warriors for a short period of time or using laser eyes to blast your way through opposing forces, whereas enemy Bullshit turns their forces into vampires or forces your weapons to do zero damage. These can be a gift and a curse; forcing you not to rely on one single method of attack or to shift into a different strategy when you’re fighting off reanimated enemies. Enemies also have access to upgrade cards similar to yours, which affect yourself as opposed to their forces, so it is always best to pick a balanced set of cards prior to commencing a chapter.

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The game’s roguelite ideas manifest in a number of ways. A scarce commodity in South Park during this crazy blizzard, toilet paper is your most important currency when it comes to upgrades. Found in battling enemies as well as bins, bags and pretty much anything destructible, the more toilet paper you collect, the better of a chance you have at upgrading your modifier cards when you meet up with Jimmy at the end of a stage. While toilet paper is lost should you fail, Dark Matter is more persistent and can be used to unlock perks, making your character stronger or increasing things such as your health meter or Pissed Off meter. Dark Matter can be refunded and shifted into other perks, so each unlock isn’t permanent but will stay with you for each run.

The lack of pre-release availability for online play meant that most of my time was spent playing solo, which clearly isn’t the ideal way to play as the ally bots weren’t always able to support or revive me. This definitely feels like a game that’ll be better enjoyed with a squad of friends on a Saturday night as a bit of fun. With AI allies it’s also harder to tell who has what support options, as there’s no options to customise your bots, they just jump right in to fight. If you’re looking for a good solo experience, you’re not quite going to get it here.

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Throughout the game’s chapters the difficulty levels often felt uneven and would spike suddenly, and so often I found I would be scrambling to survive while being swarmed by ranged attacks or heavy opponents. Understandable toward the end of the game for it to get a bit harder, but the way the difficulty ramps up never feels natural. Given its roguelike nature, failing any one segment sends you right back to the start of the chapter, which can be extremely frustrating if you’re already halfway through and have upgraded a fair bit of stuff only to be hit with a huge increase in challenge.

Of course even with so-so gameplay the big draw here is South Park itself. Each chapter starts with an interaction between yourself and your side, and the opposing general, and as you fight through the game you’ll encounter tons of classic South Park characters. Tolkien runs the armoury while Henrietta has her own dark magic card shop and can be found intermittently through different levels. You’ll have to save Randy Marsh from a frozen cavern, or help Jimbo and Ned find their missing stuff before you’re granted access to new powers. You’ll also have plenty of opportunity to kit yourself out with fun cosmetic gear featuring tons of references from the show. The game feels just like a big, playable South Park episode, which is obviously a huge positive and a good enough reason for superfans to get into it.

Conclusion
An alright little adventure for South Park fans or for those wanting a casual game to play with friends, South Park: Snow Day has all the charm of an episode of the show, but its roguelite nature becomes a tad frustrating with wild difficulty spikes and a lack of checkpoints. Chock full of references and jokes without filter, the game is definitely entertaining; but with a lack of a roadmap or post-release content, some players may be left in the cold thanks to a short story and repetitive loop.
Positives
Classic South Park humour in spades
Wide range of fun customisation options
Music and voice cast is on point
Negatives
Ridiculous difficulty spikes
One-dimensional ally bots
Very short story
Surprising lack of expanded weaponry
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