South Park: Snow Day! review: repetitive action makes for a co-op stinker

Cartman in South Park: Snow Day!

South Park: Snow Day!

MSRP $30.00

“South Park: Snow Day! flushes a nostalgic multiplayer premise down the toilet.”

Pros

  • Fun premise
  • Throwback humor

Cons

  • Dull visual style
  • Repetitive combat
  • Roguelite hook lacks depth
  • Useless AI teammates
  • Sloppy bugs

As I trudged through South Park: Snow Day! like a kid forced to finish homework, a long-lost childhood memory returned to me. I was at my aunt’s house in Cape Cod when I found my cousin’s Nintendo 64. I had never played one before or even seen one in person, so I was eager to try it out. I had a few games I could fire up, including the excellent The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, but the thing that actually caught my eye was a South Park game. I was a huge fan of the then-young series and felt it could do no wrong.

No more than 10 minutes later, my excitement had faded. I was baffled as I tried to figure out the clunky first-person shooter, which had me awkwardly tossing snowballs at turkeys. Eventually, I gave up and plugged in Majora’s Mask instead, leaving with a formative life lesson: You can’t allow blind product loyalty to obscure your judgment, or else you’ll find yourself defending a lot of turkeys.

South Park: Snow Day! brings the cartoon’s up-and-down foray into gaming full circle. The co-op adventure underwhelms with sloppy action, repetitive combat, and a poorly implemented roguelite structure. Fans of the show’s first few seasons may get some laughs from its throwback humor, but the fun setup gets flushed down the drain like Mr. Hankey.

Goin’ down to South Park

South Park: Snow Day! opens on the right foot. Its opening cutscene, animated to match the adult cartoon’s signature style, plays out like a classic South Park episode. As a deadly winter storm ravages the town, Cartman prays that school will be canceled. He gets his wish, gleefully celebrating a snow day as a news report shows the dead, frozen bodies piling up in the streets. It’s the kind of plot line I loved growing up before the show’s hyper-focus on clumsy social commentary, mixing childhood innocence with pitch-black comedy.

Cartman and Kyle argue in South Park: Snow Day!
THQ Nordic

That’s the old school approach that developer Question goes for here, for better and worse. Rather than dating itself with timely riffs on current events (save for one Taylor Swift joke), Snow Day goes back to a more fundamental South Park well — and by well, I mean toilet. The bulk of its jokes revolve around poop, crap, and turds. It’s clinical potty humor for anyone who still gets a kick out of seeing someone showered in diarrhea, but it’s a shame that South Park’s more clever comedy is lost in that brown wave.

Snow Day feels like it was made by fans who grew up with the series but stopped watching around 2002. The premise plays on Season 6’s classic Lord of the Rings send-up, where Cartman donned his wizard robe for the first time. Characters like Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo and Jimbo are heavily featured in a five-hour story about the kids’ snow day hijinks. There’s a Chinpokomon namedrop in one mission. If you outgrew South Park two decades ago, you’ll feel right at home here. There’s a nostalgic charm to that, though it’s a strange decision in the context of the show’s evolved voice.

If you’re just looking to return to the cruder South Park of the late 90s, you’ll get your fill of crap here.

That might be on purpose. Snow Day does feel like it’s meant to be a spiritual successor to the Nintendo 64’s dreadful South Park game with its winter setting, emphasis on action, and a bland 3D art style that’s even more disappointing placed directly next to its animated cutscenes. Despite drawing on the show’s bobble-headed characters for its designs, the visual style trades in lo-fi charm for dull environments and characters that feel flatter than their 2D counterparts. It’s a disappointment coming off of Ubisoft’s two strong South Park RPGs, which nailed the show’s style so well.

Still, I’m Facebook friends with enough people who exclusively post nostalgic media from their childhood to know that this approach will have its fans. If you’re just looking to return to the cruder South Park of the late 90s, you’ll get your fill of crap here.

It’s not that deep

What’s a little harder to appreciate is Snow Day’s weak multiplayer-focused action. The story unfolds over five story quests with a loose roguelite backbone. Players start each gauntlet of hack-and-slash encounters with one of three weapons, a ranged tool, and some sub-abilities that are activated by using energy on a “Pissed Off” meter. In between stages, players grab upgrade cards that diversify their build. My healing tower can be altered to drop mines on enemies, while my daggers can be modified to increase backstab damage.

A kid fights enemies in South Park: Snow Day!
THQ Nordic

It’s a familiar enough format, but one that’s totally devoid of substance or depth. Combat itself is a weightless mess. My melee swings hardly feel like they connect with enemies, while ranged arrows do such pitiful damage that I hardly use them unless I find some impactful upgrades. While there’s a dodge roll, a shield, and some status effects at my disposal, every battle comes down to me pressing the same attack button repeatedly without feeling any impact in return.

That’s where a roguelite upgrade system would usually fill in the gaps, but I hit the bottom of that system shockingly fast. In my first run, I’d buff my daggers to deal extra diving damage and raise how many arrows I’d shoot at once. When I started my second run, I’d almost exclusively see the exact same upgrade cards every time I was given a choice of three. I made some slightly different choices, but it hardly felt like I was making a build. I’d get different choices when I equipped other abilities, but every weapon’s upgrade options are disappointingly limited. Even the game’s selection of “Bullshit!” cards, which give me an ultimate power like turning giant or summoning a meteor storm, is incredibly slim.

Was I really expecting more from a poop game?

Snow Day tries to tease that out more with gradual unlockables, but that progression system is too slow for its short story. There’s a permanent upgrade tree that I can spend “Dark Matter” on (take one guess as to what that might be), but those gains are slow and lack impact. By the time I beat the story, I’d only unlocked 11 of 30 upgrades, the bulk of which were gradual health or attack boosts that I could barely feel. Some new cards and cosmetic options for my avatar unlock via challenges throughout, but nothing I get changes or improves the hollow action.

All of that makes for an unrewarding action game with tacked-on roguelite progression. By the end, I was moving through the repetitive battles on auto-pilot, hoping for a post-game twist, like its free day one DLC update, that would require even a hint of strategy. The final joke was on me; was I really expecting more from a poop game?

Don’t trust a bot

If you’re going to find fun in Snow Day, your best hope is to bring along some friends. Even then, your antics in voice chat will probably do a lot of the heavy lifting. With no real depth to combat, there isn’t a lot of potential for team synergies, something that powers co-op titles like Back 4 Blood. There aren’t even four melee weapons to choose from despite it being a four-player game. Abilities like a turret or cat piss (finally, a change of pace) add some mild variety, but nothing will change the team dynamic much.

I was left wondering if the system was one elaborate troll created by Cartman himself.

And if you can’t convince some friends to hop in, run for your life. When playing solo, Snow Day pairs players with three useless bots. There’s no AI coordination nor any way to wrangle the braindead tykes as they aimlessly run around attacking patches of enemies at random. My frustrations would come to a head when enemies knocked me down in one mission. Players can revive one another by standing in the blue circle that appears around their body for a few seconds, but my teammates didn’t seem to get the demo. I had to restart one level from scratch after watching my one living bot teammate run around in circles for a good two minutes, refusing to revive any downed character until he died. At some point, I was left wondering if the system was one elaborate troll created by Cartman himself.

That sloppy chaos gets compounded by the occasional run-killing bug. One mission had me running from a flame-spewing snow plow. To progress through a gated area, I’d need to kill enough enemies in the area before the truck reached me. I was too slow in one attempt as the plow pinned me up against a gate. My team didn’t wipe, though. Instead, my dead teammates and I were pushed through the wall into the next area. One bot survived, but he, unfortunately, was on the other side of the fence and unable to get to us. I quit the run as soon as I finished pulling my hair out.

Kids walk down a snowy hill in South Park: Snow Day!
THQ Nordic

It’s very clear from the opening menu’s rudimentary UI that Snow Day is likely meant to be a budget game. It’s retailing for $30 at launch and is very limited in scope. I have no problem with that approach; in fact, I embrace more bite-sized multiplayer experiences like this that aren’t built to make players log in every day. But Snow Day ends up feeling like an alpha build of an IP experiment; it’ll take a lot of loyalty to the South Park brand to squeeze some raunchy fun out of it.

As I sat down to get this all out of my system like some bad Cheesy Poofs, I decided to return to the infamous South Park game of my youth for the first time in over 20 years. Maybe I would come to find some misunderstood charm there that would help me appreciate the appeal here. It only took minutes of fiddling with clumsy controls and brainlessly pelting turkeys with pee-stained snowballs to accept that I hadn’t missed some secret complexity as a kid: It would always be a bad game from my childhood that taught me a small but lasting life lesson.

I hope South Park: Snow Day! will hold the same nostalgic spot for some edgy 12-year-old navigating their relationship with media today.

South Park: Snow Day! was reviewed on PC and Steam Deck.

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