South Park Rally Review

Its gameplay is so flawed and so unenjoyable that the end result actually seems like a practical joke at the buyer's expense.

South Park Rally is the third South Park-licensed game, and it's terrible, just like the first two. It's a simplistic racing game that successfully captures the look and style of the show, but its gameplay is so flawed and so unenjoyable that the end result actually seems like a practical joke at the buyer's expense.

South Park Rally looks and sounds deceptively good. Beware: If you didn't know any better, you might think the quality of the graphics, and how well they capture the cardboard-cutout look of the television show, are suggestive of the overall quality of the game. You'll instantly recognize all the various characters in South Park Rally if you've seen them in the show before; their simple forms and clean, flat colors come across perfect, and their faces animate just as expressively as they do on TV. Each character drives his own unique little vehicle, from Chef's wood-paneled station wagon to Officer Barbrady's cop car, often complete with a personalized license plate. The tracks in the game also look quite good; they're holiday-themed, and look just like sets from the show.

Then again, it's not like South Park is best known for the high quality of its visual style; as such, the best that can be said for South Park Rally's presentation is that it looks like the show. By any other standards, the game's simple 3D shapes and flat lighting effects would be merely average. In addition, although South Park Rally does feature original dialogue by the South Park cast, there isn't nearly enough variety to the sound effects, and they're poorly sampled on top of that. For example, the game's announcer speaks far too loudly compared with the other characters, and some of the other speech in South Park Rally is incomprehensibly muffled. The game's twangy and dissonant soundtrack is reminiscent of the show's signature title track, and it'll grate on your nerves as you keep listening to it over and over, unless the other elements of the game get to you first.

It wouldn't seem as necessary to point out the relatively minor problems with South Park Rally's graphics and sound if the game actually played well. However, it plays so terribly that its other problems end up standing out even more. South Park Rally is supposed to be a fun and simple racing game just like so many other go-kart-racing games out there. Just like so many other kart-racing games, South Park Rally lets you drive around or across a circuit while picking up power-ups that are designed to sway the race in your favor. The power-ups include rats, Cheesy Poofs, and more. However, most of the power-ups are utterly worthless aside from their comic value; some work like landmines, which you must drop blindly, as you have no rearview mirror, let alone any onscreen indication that a rival car is coming up from behind. Some of the other power-ups are much too inaccurate to be of any real use.

But the real problem lies with your computer opponents, who recover from your attacks easily and carry on around the track with unstoppable resolve; yet if you're on the receiving end of one of their weapons, you may as well start over because you're never going to catch up. In addition, the game's open-ended track design means that you can easily get stuck or lost, and if you lose so much as a second of time, you've lost the race. South Park Rally is entirely unforgiving - you need perfect driving skills and a lot of luck to finish first, and unless you finish first you can't advance to the next stage. The game's driving mechanics are grossly simplistic - all you do is press a button to powerslide around corners - and the game's sprawling track design, which features hidden shortcuts and items that you don't actually have any time to find, is completely irritating.

Maybe all the glaring problems and misguided design decisions in South Park Rally are deliberate; it's difficult to explain or justify its lack of a difficulty setting and a save-game feature otherwise. South Park Rally isn't necessarily impossible to win, but it seems intentionally designed to be impossible to tolerate for very long. There's no point playing it against the computer since you'll keep losing, yet you have no option to save and a limited option to continue. And there's no point playing it against your friends, thanks to the bad track design and ill-conceived power-ups; there's not even a draw in trying all the different characters, since all of them control exactly the same. Maybe South Park Rally is a self-conscious work of comedic genius that we'll praise one day for its blatant defiance of every convention, much like the irreverent show that inspired it. Or maybe not; it's more likely that South Park Rally is actually nothing more than a blatant attempt to quickly and greedily cash in on a still-successful but waning franchise. It's an utterly terrible game and Acclaim's third strike with the South Park license.

The Good

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The Bad

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