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South Park: Snow Day review — Stick of Truth this ain’t

South Park: Snow Day screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

“Finally! A new South Park game!” We exclaimed when South Park: Snow Day was announced last year. That excitement dissipated a little when we saw it was 3D, not the cartoon-matching 2D of Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole. It waned even further when we realised it wasn’t an RPG like the other two, either.

South Park: Snow Day is, in fact, best described as a multiplayer PvE game. The fact that its Steam page still includes the tags ‘action’, ‘adventure’ and ‘action RPG’ is a bit of a kick in the face, really. Because it’s definitely none of those things. Take everything you loved about Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole and forget all of it, because you won’t find any of it here.

Well, almost. One thing that Snow Day has got going for it is original content written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It has the same, irreverent humour that South Park has become known for over the last 20-odd years and it has a handful of cutscenes that you’ll no doubt chuckle at, if you still have the sense of humour of a pre-teen boy. But even the best of these jokes feel reused from the previous games: we’ve seen it all before, such as Kenny as an anime princess, and Cartman as a power-mad wizard.

For the record, we enjoy a bit of ridiculous South Park humour as much as the next person. We aren’t so mature that we can’t enjoy a fart joke, and little cartoon kids swearing like sailors at each other is always enjoyable. Even if it’s not completely fresh, its story — or at least the small amount of it that there is — is perhaps the best part about South Park: Snow Day. It’s just a shame about the rest.

South Park: Snow Day screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

It’s broken up into five levels, each of which will take you somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes to complete, maybe a bit longer if you’re foolish enough to play on the hardest difficulty. Yeah: just five levels. That’s all you’re getting here. Each is essentially a huge fight to make your way through. Waves of enemies accost you as you move through various areas of South Park, with a big boss waiting for you at the end. Well, we say “big boss”: it’s just Kyle, Stan or Kenny, basically, annoyingly souped-up with various made-up abilities.

Related: South Park games, ranked From worst to best

Like the South Park games before it, Snow Day is essentially a big game of make-believe. Once again, you’re the New Kid, and you’re recruited by the Grand Wizard (Cartman) to assist in an epic fight against all the other kids. But… that’s it. There are no epic quests, hilarious set-pieces or detailed storylines this time. All that Snow Day cares about is the combat. And, unfortunately, that combat is woefully basic.

Tapping your attack button will hit your enemy, and holding it down will do a powered-up attack. You can fire an arrow or magic wand with your left trigger, and you have a couple of special abilities tied to your shoulder buttons. The special abilities aren’t great, at least to start with. You’ll unlock a total of eight as you progress through the game, but none of them are particularly game-changing. And without a great aiming system tied to them, your ranged attacks aren’t all that useful, either.

South Park: Snow Day screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

Your starting special ability is fart-based, because of course it is. Tap the shoulder button and you’ll do a powerful fart, sending you into the air and damaging enemies nearby. From the air, you can then crash into an enemy on the ground, doing more damage to them — or at least trying to. Aiming where you land isn’t exactly a precise science, so it’s more or less a 50-50 whether you’ll actually do any damage. At the very least, it’s a useful skill for traversal, helping you reach higher ledges.

You also have a healing ability, allowing you and your teammates to stand under a flag to regain some health. Later on, other abilities you unlock are moderately more useful, such as a gravity bomb balloon and a (fart-powered) bullrush attack, but they still won’t exactly turn the tides of battle in your favour. Most damage you do will be down to your main attacks, and wildly tapping the ‘attack’ button just isn’t that much fun. It’s hard to aim, the battlefields are usually that busy that it’s hard to see what’s going on and — if you’re playing with AI companions at least — your teammates generally get in your way to make things even worse.

You can dodge incoming attacks, but the dodge button sends you flying half way across the screen, making nuanced dodge-then-attack manoeuvres all but impossible. In other words, combat is very scrappy and considering it’s what you’ll be spending 90% of your time with South Park: Snow Day doing, it soon gets tiresome.

There are three weapon types to choose from — daggers, sword and shield and a two-handed axe — and although you’ll undoubtedly have your favourite, all are equally messy to use. You can’t directly upgrade or improve weapons, but there is a skill tree that can grant you permanent damage boosts, alongside other perks, like more health and more stamina. You’ll need ‘Dark Magic’ points to unlock these though, and even after finishing all five levels we only had enough to unlock maybe six nodes on the skill tree. There’s very little impetus to keep playing, too.

South Park: Snow Day screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew

During each game, however, you’ll get temporary upgrades in the form of cards that enhance the power of your weapons or change up your abilities. These form the main way to power up during a particular level, but of course it’s down to luck as to what cards you’ll be given. You’ll also have a “Bullshit card”, a so-called ultra-powerful ability that can only be used a couple of times each battle. But we didn’t find them to be all that useful. There only seems to be a handful of cards available too, and so you’ll see the same ones again and again. It’s a shame there’s not more variety. But then, it’s a shame about a lot of things in South Park: Snow Day.

You have three difficulty modes to choose from for each level — Easy, Medium and Hard — and so technically, you could play again on a higher difficulty. We’re not sure you’ll want to, though. Even on the easiest level, the scrappiness of combat means it’s easy to be overpowered by a mob and if you’re playing alone, you can’t rely on your computer-controlled teammates to revive you. Die, and you’ve got to do the whole level again. With a team of friends playing with you, you’ll at least have more skill on your side, but it’s not exactly enough to make proceedings that much more fun.

South Park: Snow Day is, ultimately, a huge disappointment. This is so far removed from The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole that it really shouldn’t be considered to be related to them in any way. Sure, there’s a glimmer of trademark South Park humour here, but it’s not enough to make the repetitive, dull and painfully scrappy gameplay any more enjoyable. This is a snow day you can safely sit out of: stay home and play Stick of Truth again instead.


South Park: Snow Day review – GameSpew’s score

This review of South Park: Snow Day is based on the PS5 version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.