I’ve reviewed a fair few cartoon based games over the past year or so and…boy, does it get tiring. I reviewed Bart’s Nightmare long before the Nostalgia Critic pissed off the Let’s Play community with it, I played Scooby Doo Classic Creep Capers and cried myself to sleep for weeks, and the less said about Rugrats Cattle Capers (or whatever) the better.
Then it occurred to me, there’s been surprisingly little video games based on prime-time cartoons. Sure, Futurama and Family Guy have had games based on them, both with disappointing results, but its surprising there haven’t been more. Unsurprisingly The Simpsons have been steadily releasing games on and off over the years, but interestingly, and unbeknownst to everyone now, for a brief period in the late 90’s, there were South Park video games, 3 of them on the N64 in no less than 3 consecutive years, each one tackling different genres of video games with a unique South Park twist. Unfortunately, all 3 weren’t particularly enjoyable to play and probably contributed to Acclaim going bust. Also the fact that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys from the movie Baseketball, didn’t like them no doubt put off the chances of them giving the licensing over for a long time. Which begs the question, just how bad are these games? Oh for ****’s sake, I’ve got to play them to find out, haven’t I?
Let’s kick off with the game show spoofin’ sextravaganza Chef’s Luv Shack, brought you by the sultry baritone of Isaac Hayes. Grab a chair, put on some sexophone music (preferably not the one in Starfox Adventures, unless you’re into that kind of thing…), things are about to get hot.
As already mentioned, Chef’s Luv Shack is a game show, hosted by the man famous for the hit song “Suck On My Chocolate Salty Balls” So if you were expecting a tasteful family game experience, you’d better leave now…
On that subject, it’s a surprise this hasn’t cropped up on later platforms, the quiz show genre has, I the event of casual gaming, appeared in droves with the likes of Buzz, You Don’t know Jack, and about a billion titles on the Wii. The thing is, these games tend to get tired fairly quickly, they’re great for that period following Christmas dinner and the Doctor Who special with your gran and your siblings, but beyond that you’ll only bring them out when you have a reason to, and most of these games only have a set amount of questions and it doesn’t take long to memorise the answers, leading to an unfair advantage to someone who’s played it before. Arguably this is no different from board games, but those don’t set you back £40/$60 however much a new game sells for.
And this is one of the main problems with Chef’s Luv Shack, the categories tire quickly and the questions become repetitive, although I have to give it credit for not going down the South Park Trivia route and some of the questions are genuinely interesting, but it’s not a game you can play for more than half an hour without getting pretty bored, especially if you’re playing on your own. Yes, you’ll be shocked to hear that I have no friends, the only people who added me on Facebook are adbots, so when I asked if they wanted to come over and play Chef’s Luv Shack, they asked me back if I wanted some Viagra. So now I’m playing a crappy videogame on my own with a boner that won’t go away.
It’s quite incredible how they managed to completely screw up the simple idea of animating sprites, the game manages in the main screen to push up the eyes of Chef and your character way into their hats, so they look freakishly weird and un-natural, people like these characters and to see them like this is beyond dumb. The characters animate jerkily and awkwardly and it neither looks nor feels right. Combined with the weird low quality (and obviously stock) voice clips, it just feels rushed and half-arsed.
However, there is one (or several) saving grace to this, which is that every 4th question jumps you to a gameplay round, eg, Mario Party esque minigames. They’re not perfect, some of the rules aren’t explained, but they’re surprisingly a lot of fun and it’s nice to see time and effort has gone into something, except the go cart one, that one kinda sucks with sloppy controls. There’s some eat parodies in there as well, one lampoons Balloon Fight, another riffs on Donkey Kong, and one parodies bad video games…or is just a bad video game, it really does blur the line.
And that got me thinking, is the game intentionally bad like a terrible game show? I can understand it being purposely cheesier than an episode of Catchphrase (ask your mum) but did they go out their way to make an unenjoyable game? Maybe not, maybe it was rushed out for Christmas as most of these tie-ins are and development suffered accordingly. It’s not funny, it doesn’t feel like South Park, yeah it has kinda sorta enjoyable mini-games, but that’s the extend, this is the gaming equivalent of that crappy consolation prize that gets handed out in game shows as a “thanks for playing”, the red wine to the winners speedboat on Bullseye, the stickmen statues to the coffee machine (and cuddly toy) on The Generation Game, the pool cues to the big cash prizes on Big Break. HAVE THE DATED 90’S GAME SHOW REFERENCES MADE MY POINT CLEAR?
Our survey says no.