South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! Preview: Yellow Snowballs Added

The Xbox 360 gets closer to closing its Tower Defense Gap with the PlayStation 3 in October, thanks to a South Park tower defense game. Naturally, it's tower defense with a twist.

What Is It?
South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! is an October Xbox Live Arcade game developed by Double Six Games. It plays a lot like familiar tower defense games but with the added element of directly-controlled character-based attacks. Up to four players, linked online or offline, can control their choice of four characters from South Park, using them to build towers or directly throw white (or yellow) snowballs at an attacking horde. That attacking horde, like all tower defense enemies, wants to cross the screen. Other games made that horde a bunch of spiders or aliens. South Park populates that horde with the TV series' staple nemeses: Cows, ginger kids, woodland critters, hippies? I don't watch the show, people, but I believe those are some of the classic bad guys, yes?

What We Saw
I played a board set on a snowy sidewalk on a signature South Park street. I was Kenny for a bit. Then, yes, I let him get killed by mistake. So I took control of Cartman for the rest of the fight. A rep for the game controlled one of the other characters. We built towers, threw snowballs and stopped the pesky cows from reaching the right of the screen.

South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! Preview: Yellow Snowballs Added

How Far Along Is It?
The South Park game will be available on October 7 as a download through Xbox Live Arcade, which leads me to think it's just about done.

What Needs Improvement?
Perfect Level Design: There are many recent tower defense games, and several superb ones. The king of them on consoles may be the PlayStation 3's PixelJunk Monsters, a game that sets a standard of specific and delicately balanced level design. Each level feels distinct and artfully structured. South Park does not immediately prove that its levels have the same degree of craft to some of its competitors. I don't mean for this to be an unfair bit of skepticism. I've only played the game for five minutes. But, given the quality of games recently released in this genre, South Park's levels will need to be very good to be satisfying in terms of gameplay.

South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! Preview: Yellow Snowballs Added

What Should Stay The Same?
Character Offenses: I think it's a good idea that characters can not just build towers that shoot at hippies, but throw snowballs at them themselves. I think it should stay in there (of course it will — the game's out in October). I'm a little concerned that being able to chuck snowballs could undermine the genre's reliance on strategic deployment of towers. We'll see. In the level of South Park I played, I didn't just have the option to build a variety of cannons. I could run up to a cow and throw a snowball at it. Holding down an action button powered that snowball up so that it became yellow. So imagine a cow gets past all your towers. No problem. Chuck a snowball. Beyond that, each character has special moves. Cartman can execute a super move that makes him deal more damage. Kenny can cause enemies to drop money. Stan can heal the town, which otherwise takes damage if attackers have broken through to that right part of the screen.

More Lore: The game is full of unlockable characters, including Jimmy, Timmy and others a non-South-Park-watcher like me couldn't recognize when I saw them in silhouette in one of the game's menus. It also has more than 80 show clips that are pulled from the hit series. Those include a clip of one of the South Park kids masturbating his dog. A clip called Proper Condom Use. From Episode 307. Hmm...should I watch this show?

Final Thoughts
I had trouble judging how good the gameplay of South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! will be, but it looked like the game will offer a lot of fan service to the series' faithful. It's ribald and comprehensive. The four-player offline and online support is promising, too. Check it out in early October when the demo and full game hit the Xbox 360.