Fan Service , South Park Style . . .

User Rating: 6 | South Park: Chef's Luv Shack N64
I am a big fan of South Park the show and, generally speaking, of the franchise itself. However, it seems that anytime Comedy Central licences their bread-and-butter trademark for a video game, it turns into a complete and utter disaster. It seems as if Activision, who have exclusive distribution rights to the franchise, is more concerned with marketing the South Park name than actually making a good, solid game. Chef's Luv Shack is no exception to this general rule, but unlike the other South Park titles out there, a focus on running gags and blatantly fan-pleasing antics save the game from the complete wash status of other titles in the franchise. While I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who hasn't seen the show, it is a fun and entertaining effort for the devout fan . . . At least for a while.

The general premise is that of a game show on the Park County Public Access Channel hosted by everyone's favorite soul singing ladies' man, Chef. The game is crammed full of the sort of raunchy, absurd humor that has kept South Park fans coming back for more season after season and features cameos from almost every resident of the town. From major characters, such as Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and of course Eric Cartman, to a whole slew of incendiary characters, like Officer Bar Brady, Ned and Jimbo, and the “Visitors,” no matter who your favorite character is, they're bound to appear at some time. However, after the initial novelty and fan appeal wear off, the game quickly begins to become redundant and even tedious. At that point, its only saving grace is the lasting multi-player appeal. Here's a more detailed breakdown for those of you devotees still interested in giving this game a try.

Plot / Premise 5/10
Okay, so there's no real plot here. The game takes the format of a television game show, hosted by Chef. That really is all there is to it. I have nothing much to say about it either way.

Gameplay 6/10
Up to four players can participate. You have the option of playing as Stan, Kyle, Kenny, or Cartman. If nothing else, it is fun to play through at least once with each character to see what they say and how they respond to different situations. The game follows a quiz-show-like format. You begin by spinning a wheel that determines your next action. Most of the spaces lead into a trivia round where you can pick from a number of humorously titled topics, which range from general south park trivia, to pop culture parody, to just plain randomness. Most of the questions are absolutely hilarious the first few times around, but a severe lack of variety makes them loose their initial appeal very quickly. Each set of questions has a set amount of points that are given for a correct answer and taken away for an incorrect one. The other options on the wheel include the option to double down the point value, and various randomly appearing specialty rounds. However, the game's true appeal is the Double Dare-like challenge rounds, where you compete in a randomly selected mini-game for mad points. There is a large variety of these challenges, and each one is very unique and funny in its own right. The only down side to this is that, being randomly generated, it seems that the funnier games and the most fun ones, come up much less often than some of the others. The most drop-down-hilarious part of the game though, is a special lightening round, where a player has to answer a certain amount of questions correctly to prevent Cartman from getting “the probe,” however he is screaming and cussing at you the whole time. Most of the time, however, it's more fun to answer wrong on purpose, just to see the little Satan-spawn get what he deserves. Needless to say, the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. With so much going on, you might think that I would give a higher score in this department, but the truth is that there are two major problems that severely cripple the enjoyment factor of the game. The first of these is that it MUST be a party game. I mean what's the point of competing against yourself when there is no chance for you to loose? The other major downside is that after a few sessions, Chef's Luv Shack becomes incredibly redundant and thus boring. I could play the “Spank the Monkey” mini-game all day, but other than that, there's really not much to keep anyone playing once all of the jokes have been heard and the initial novelty has worn off.

Graphics 9/10
Despite problems in the departments of gameplay and premise, Chef's Luv Shack features some absolutely spot on visuals that look as if they were lifted right off of the television show. Of all the games in the franchise, this one is, by far, the most visually impressive. There are a few very minor problems with severely clashing colors, but that's more a result of the system than any real game programming problems.

Sound 9/10
The sound is great. The N64 never did have the best sound capabilities, but this game does a really good job of utilizing the tools it is given. The music was pulled right from the show, and the opening theme song of the game (sung by Isaac Hayes as Chef) is absolutely hilarious. The character voices are done by the same people who do them for the show, and all of the trademark lines and catch phrases are present and clearly heard. In fact, the sound is probably the single best element of the game and a large part of its humor. The only problem is one that occurs in many N64 titles, but not all, which indicates that it is a problem with the game rather than the hardware itself. That problem is that the entire thing sounds like it is being listened to from down a long hallway through a closed door. Still, the sound is well above par when compared to the game's peers.

Replay Value 7/10
The game does stand up to repeat playthroughs, but only a limited amount. All things considered, the only real reason for the relatively high score in this department is the simple fact that the game itself is so short.

Content/Extras: 2/10
I have a problem here for the simple fact that there no extras. With this type of game, you expect to find a ton of unlockable things, such as mini-games and characters. However, the lack of unlockables itself is not so much the problem as it is the fact that just a few little bonuses could have bumped the overall and replay appeal quite significantly. This was a grave oversight on the part of the designers.

Overall Rating: 6/10
Simply put, There is nothing inherently “bad” about this game, but there definitely isn't anything incredibly “good” about it either, which makes for a bland and, ultimately, completely unmemorable gaming experience.

If you are a diehard South Park fan, by all means, buy this game. It offers a nice piece of nostalgia. However, If you aren't a devotee, don't even bother with it, your time and efforts are better spent on other titles.

Bottom Line:
Chef's Luv Shack is nothing more than fan service South Park style. It is fun for a while, but quickly becomes redundant. It as a merely mediocre game that could have been really good if just a bit more effort were put into it.

Reviewer's Score: 6/10, Originally Posted: 03/09/07