Features// Replay: South Park: Chef's Luv Shack

Posted 2 Jul 2010 16:30 by
Did you know that SPOnG is more than a news site? Oh yes! We have a huge Game Museum archiving almost every single computer game you can think of. 'Replay' is a regular feature where we play through a title in our database – be it old, overlooked or simply niche – and give you the impressions of today.

South Park: Chef's Luv Shack - PlayStation
Released: 1999
Also available on: PC, Dreamcast, N64

Today, South Park is one of the most entertaining cartoons of our generation. It's acceptance by the general public in pushing the boundaries of comedy and taste is a stark contrast to the show's infancy in 1999, when tabloids were publicising its controversial nature and activist groups called for it to be banned. Meanwhile, schoolkids the world over were quoting Eric Cartman and Starvin' Marvin.

It was no surprise then, that Acclaim, who had the license to develop games based on the franchise, completely rushed half-arsed and unimaginative titles out of the door to satisfy demand. Chef's Luv Shack probably stands as the worst of these, presenting a multiplayer quiz and party game that lacked any kind of competence whatsoever.

To call it something of a Mario Party ripoff – as some reviewers did at the time – was giving it far, far too much credit. The production feels comparable to an astonishingly bad internet Flash game, from beginning to end. And when I say beginning, I mean right from the atrocious introduction movie.

You know something's wrong when you see smudgy sprites and fuzzy edges in a game where its art design requires next to no graphical horsepower. This was made on machines capable of 3D graphics – how difficult would it have been to have had clean 2D sprites? Hit the Start button and you go from lazy title screen to lazy menus to assign players.

After selecting characters and game length (decided by the number of rounds you want), you're all thrown rather unceremoniously into a booth while Chef asks you pointless and irrelevant questions.

It's hilariously bad if you're with a couple of mates, but it's depressing on your own. Going back on the 'lazy' theme, the the developers here were so lax they couldn't even be bothered to put in AI opponents for a single-player experience. You literally play through the quiz – and the mini-games – on your own.

It doesn't get better once the game actually begins. A quick look at the game's 1990s ELSPA ratings reveal that this game is good for those over 15 years old. In addition, you would imagine that people who would buy Chef's Luv Shack would care most about the South Park franchise. So why 98% of the questions pertain to science, movie or music trivia, I haven't the foggiest idea. Oh, and all of them are localised for an American audience too – expect to know what year Twinkies were first introduced.

Gameplay is broken down into rounds, with each round consisting of three of these banal questions, followed by a mini-game. To answer a question, players must hit X, before selecting an answer from a multiple-choice list in a specific time limit. At certain points, you get the chance to gamble a number of your gained points on upcoming questions, giving you double the amount back if you answer correctly. Randomly you'll be asked to spin a wheel, as well. This does something or other.

But the point is, you don't care, because by the second round you'll have lost the will to live, or you'll be wetting yourself with laughter amongst your friends. When you get to a mini-game, there's a random selection of cheaply-developed skirmishes that would have been booted off of Newgrounds ten years ago, let alone laughed at today.

They range through eating pies (where you eat pies with X and Square), finding a can of shaken soda as Chef mixes it in with three other cans, catching cans of Beefcake (by pressing left and right) and 'homages' to arcade games such as Donkey Kong, Paperboy, Asteroids and Super Sprint. Unfortunately, all of them are totally shit.

And that's about it. You go through this cycle, seemingly forever, until you reach the last round where... you do the same thing again for a final time. Along the way, you'll be given a helping hand by a voice over announcer who sounds like he's trying to hard to be a straight Big Gay Al. It's rather cringe-worthy hearing the scripted banter between the faceless guide and Chef, but it's even worse hearing characters talk over each other.

Bad programming just plagues this game, and at the very end the winner is treated to a smile from the appropriate South Park kid for five seconds, before the Game Over screen appears. But not just any Game Over screen – this one has text flying towards you, telling you that the programmers are 'tired' and they want you to go away and turn the game off.

Gladly, thanks.

The irony is, had any real effort of worth been put into this travesty, that little message would have been quite funny. Instead, it serves as a slap to the face of anyone who bought this game at full price back in 1999. As for me, being a die-hard South Park fan, I decided to give this a go for 99p at my local GameStation. If you ask me, it's 99p too much.

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