Scott Tenorman has a right to be angry. After all, he was tricked into eating his own parents by one Eric Cartman. Seeking vengeance for swallowing bites of parental meat disguised as chili is understandable, and maybe even advisable. But Scott's vengeance covers such a wide area that innocent victims suffer just as mightily from his wrath. In South Park: Tenorman's Revenge, the foul-mouthed quartet (Cartman, Kenny, Stan, and Kyle) chase after Scott through time and space to snag the Xbox 360 hard drive he stole from them. Losing your saved games is certainly annoying, but the only people who are truly punished are those who play through this wretched ordeal.
South Park: Tenorman's revenge is a four-player, co-op-centric platformer that initially sounds appealing. Each playable character has unique abilities, and you access branching paths of stages by using their different move sets. For instance, Kenny can high-jump and Cartman can bash through flimsy walls, and there are even sections where you transform into their superhero alter egos to give more flexibility to your traversal. When Kyle dons his Human Kite outfit, he can glide to previously unreachable sections, and Stan digs through the ground when dressed as Toolshed. Collectibles strewn throughout stages give each character a purpose, and this is an intriguing setup for some four-player shenanigans.
But things quickly unravel from the moment you fire up the first level. Jumping, the most basic action in any platformer, is extremely sluggish. Characters leap through the air with the clunky grace of, well, Cartman. But while it may be canonically accurate to have these children move like they're fashioned from cardboard, it makes for a lousy adventure. Safely reaching platforms is tricky business because your stunted leaps land well short of your intended targets, and even jumping on foes to kill them is rife with problems. Most enemies require two leaps to finish off, but you ricochet wildly off their heads with a randomness that breeds frustration. And even when you land precisely, dodgy collision detection means that you might be the one who takes damage instead of your ginger-haired enemies.
Poorly implemented jumping controls give way to fundamental problems across the board. The level design is a complete mess. In similar (though far superior) games, there's a logical elegance to enemy and platform placement that leads to a satisfying flow. There's no such rhythm in Tenorman's Revenge. Every object is positioned with a haphazardness that leads to absolutely maddening situations. Moving platforms refuse to line up, putting you in harm's way while enemies throw bombs and shoot lasers as you wait for an opening. Spike-headed enemies stand at the edge of a platform, barring your path to the destination you have to reach. A flying enemy hovers just out of reach, targeting you with a sniper laser while you wait for a platform to arrive.
A challenging platformer with smart design and well-implemented mechanics could make for a great game. But the difficulty in Tenorman's Revenge is downright cheap because every element is so poorly realized. Aggravating knockback attacks, unpredictable physics, and punishing checkpoints ensure your time is full of frustrations. Even the camera, something that's easy to take for granted in 2D platformers, is a mess here. When you set off in single-player, the camera pans so slowly that you might not be able to see dangers that lie below you. Just cross your fingers before you leap because there's no way to see where you’re landing. And when you get hurt, or even die, because you simply couldn't see obstacles, you have no recourse but to scream at the injustice of it all.
You might think that these issues would disappear when you team up with friends. But Tenorman's Revenge is even worse in co-op play. The camera that is an annoyance when you’re playing alone is downright treacherous when it tries to juggle four characters at once. Because characters have unique movement abilities, it's easy to find yourself separated from the group. The camera zooms out in such a scenario, but not nearly enough. Enemies are all too happy to strike you down while they safely hide out of sight. It's preposterous that there isn't a smarter alternative to ensure everyone has a decent view of the action. This is most grating during boss fights. These take place in smallish rooms, so it should be easy to fit everything onto one screen. But if you get knocked off a platform, or your friend climbs a ladder more quickly than you, someone's view will suffer, and death will soon follow. And don't even try playing online. The atrocious lag provides just one more obstacle in a never-ending sea of failures.
You really have to pick your poison in Tenorman's Revenge. If you choose to play cooperatively, the camera is so bad that you just have to accept dying offscreen. But if you venture alone, you have to repeatedly replay levels to advance. Time cores sprinkled throughout every stage unlock later levels. But you can collect only so many on each playthrough because each character has different abilities. If you could switch characters midlevel, it would alleviate this problem, but such a solution is not offered. Instead, you just have to choose a different character each time you tackle a level. And in those places where you have to use Kenny's high jump after opening a door with Cartman's belly bash? You're just out of luck. Unless you use a second controller to drop in with Kenny and then kill him off right away, you're left pining for an item that's just out of reach.
The presentation is the lone bright spot for people who enjoy the television series. A wide cast of recognizable characters ranging from Butters to Satan reprise their roles, and their voices and mannerisms make the transition intact. It's hard not to smile at an otter from the future praising Eric Cartman like he's a deity, or the random expletives Kyle mutters when things take a turn for the worse. The flimsy story is certainly not much of a draw, and the backgrounds are devoid of life, but there is enough television charm to make for brief instances of entertainment and humor.
South Park: Tenorman's Revenge cowers behind the shield of its licensed property. Familiar characters are not enough to build an entire game around, and there are such severe problems with every element of the platforming that even South Park aficionados should stay far away from this adventure. Tenorman's Revenge is a messy combination of poor ideas and lousy execution. There's no reason Scott Tenorman's grudge should expand beyond the boy who killed his parents, but anyone who tries this game will suffer at the hands of this mad ginger.