Review: South Park: Snow Day!

25 Mar 2024

Ah, South Park. Throughout the span of the late nineties and early aughts, it was a show that was hard to avoid, what with quotes and catchphrases from the show abounding on the campuses of middle- and high-schools. It was a series that was never very far from sight in its heyday, and this is to say nothing of the theme song courtesy of funk rockers Primus.

Naturally it’s a series that’s also been no stranger to the video game scene, with its most recent notable releases in 2014’s The Stick of Truth and 2017’s The Fractured But Whole. Much like these titles, the upcoming South Park: Snow Day! puts players in control of the New Kid, a fresh resident in the titular town who becomes entrenched in a citywide pretend war to commemorate the joyous occasion of a snow day.

Developed by Question LLC and published by THQ Nordic for PC (the version reviewed here), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Switch for a March 26th, 2024 release, Snow Day! eschews the RPG stylings of its predecessors for the antics of a cooperative action roguelike. It also moves the action fully into the third dimension, but does it hit the mark?

No School!

Authenticity to source material is one of the most important parts of any tie-in game of this vein, and South Park fans can rest easy with Snow Day! in this regard. All the characters you would expect to see (and even a few you might not) are present in some capacity, and everything from dialogue to visual designs to the gags themselves feel very true to the cartoon. There are also quite a few nods to The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole, which were funny when they cropped up.

The game’s simple premise of the kids of South Park celebrating a snow day is a fun one and feels as though it could have been pulled directly from the show itself, and Snow Day! certainly works as a playable version of a South Park episode plot. However, there’s also a very tangible earnestness in the way it pokes fun at the joy and sheer impact snow days had when you were young. It’s hard not to reminisce about being a kid again when you’re playing as one and thwacking enemies with toy swords.

Still, there isn’t much to be said about the story outside of these points. The emphasis is very much on the jokes and humorous quips as you play. Cartman specifically calling out your gameplay flubs and the sillier roguelike gameplay changes is a case in point, and South Park’s crass brand of humor is intrinsically linked to South Park: Snow Day! Even if you aren’t all that familiar with the show, you probably know what you’re getting into here, and ultimately it’s going to come down to whether or not you enjoy South Park if it’ll work for you.

Snowed Out

As mentioned above, South Park: Snow Day! is a co-op action game with roguelike elements. After outfitting your character with the weapons and skills you’d like to take with you on your next mission, you’ll waltz from battle arena to battle arena, taking down your enemies or searching for an objective to return to a previous room. This eventually culminates in a boss fight to conclude the mission, after which you’ll return to the hub. Then, you’re free to take the Dark Matter you earned and spend it on passives that’ll carry over to your next run, as well as Platinum Pieces (PP) to unlock new cosmetics for your character.

The execution of the roguelike elements is one of Snow Day!’s more standout aspects for the degree with which they manage to switch things up. Each mission has you selecting a card to change your powers and their effects at multiple points, and it’s always successful in scratching that roguelike itch for randomness. The aptly named Bullshit cards are the most powerful, and feel exactly like a kid on a playground suddenly coming up with new rules for the game in their favor, like a debuff that swaps your weapons with pool noodles for a time. Your side gets access to similar cards too, like Super Size, which causes you to grow giant and your jumps to deal damage in a large area. The sheer variety of the card effects and the chaos they bring was a big part of what kept me playing.

Unfortunately, this success also serves to highlight that the title’s core gameplay is, rather tragically, where Snow Day! fails to find solid footing in its icy environments. The primary weapon choices and their move sets all feel pretty different from one another in the way they dish out damage, but they all share a floatiness that’s impossible to ignore. Attack combos will often push your character forward with no recourse but to whirl your camera back around and reposition yourself once again continue your offense, which is further exacerbated when your attacks fling the enemy you’re trying to focus down even farther away from you than the forced movement does.

This causes combat encounters to feel very stop-and-start, and it’s especially cumbersome when paired with the slow movement outside of them. Sprinting will move the New Kid forward at brisk pace while regular movement feels like a crawl, and needing to back off from battle and needing to toggle sprint just to get anywhere can be clunky. Movement-centric card skills like Fart Escape feel much more fluid and designed in such a way that makes you jump to use them when things get dicey, but the disjointed feeling between the player’s varying movement options can make for an uneven experience. Enemy variety and playful mission structure could have done quite a bit to elevate the experience further, but it misses the mark and lends itself more to repetition.

With all this said, it’s important to remember that Snow Day! very much pitches itself as a four-player cooperative game first and foremost. As with anything, the game is absolutely more fun with friends, and doubly so if everyone involved already enjoys South Park. But adding more people into the mix just makes the above shortcomings easier to put up with and not any harder to notice.

On the TV Screen

Much unlike the prior two South Park releases, Snow Day! eschews the two-dimensional style of prior releases for a fully 3D experience, and it leads to mixed results. Sure, the novelty of having the game look directly like an episode of the show is gone, but that isn’t a necessity—or at least it wouldn’t have been if Snow Day! was able to recreate the look of the show in one key area: color.

The characters and locales are on-model and it is evocative of the show itself, but the aesthetics are brought down by everything having this sort of soft, drab look to it. Character models suffer from this a lot more than the environments do, but they have their own issues with regard to design and layout. Some areas are more interesting than others, with verticality and geometry serving as obstacles to make your battling more varied, while others are more flat and overly open.

The artwork as a whole is generally a lot of fun. I especially loved the adorable illustrations found on the ability cards, but the overall presentation of the game is rather standard. It’s much the same for the whimsical orchestral score that goes in one ear and right out the other. The voiceover work is decent, however, and exactly as you’d expect with performances from series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Goin’ Down to South Park

South Park: Snow Day!’s most prominent issue is one of fundamentals. The game’s namesake is very much intact and handled exactly in the way you would hope as a fan of the show, but the meat and potatoes of the actual gameplay leave much to be desired. Its humorous, surprisingly robust roguelike elements and attention paid to its source material simply aren’t enough to offset the detriments to its simplistic combat and repetitive structure.

~ Final Score: 6/10 ~

Review code provided by THQ Nordic for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of THQ Nordic.