As anyone that played games in the 1990’s will know consoles were the home to a plethora of shoddy rush job licensed titles. Every games publisher out there seemed to think that the surest way to make a quick buck was to churn out any old piece of rubbish under the brand name of a popular property and it would sell… and for the most part they were right.
Still, despite this inescapable fact, that doesn’t mean that every single game based on a popular franchise was tripe. Originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, South Park Chef’s Luv Shack, a quiz game based on the popular Comedy Central TV show, holds the distinction of being not only a fairly decent licensed title, but, in my view, it is one of the funniest quiz games ever made.
The game opens with Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, singing his orgiastic song Simultaneous. To anyone unfamiliar with the song it featuring the lyrics “Baby you know you’re the one for me…. You and me. And her and her! Simultaneous loving baby, two or three… and Winona Ryder!” perfectly setting the tone for this tongue in cheek classic.
The (rather flimsy) premise for the game is that Chef has taken to South Park Local Access TV to present his own sexy game show, featuring Super Model contestants. Unfortunately their nonexistent budget could only stretch as far as having Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny as their contestants.
The basic aim of the game is simple; you must earn as many points as possible by answering questions, gambling your points, and winning at minigames. Yeah, on paper it sounds a little bit like Mario Party – and I suppose in a lot of ways it is – but in my view it is far better down to the high quality of the writing.
At the start of each round one player gets to choose the category of questions. Each category had a amusing title, such as “Limeys, Teabags and Frogs, Oh My” – questions mostly about Europe – and “Patrick Duffy” – questions about the Dallas actor that also acts as the leg of South Park monster Skuzzlebutt. The range of questions, including general knowledge, popular culture, and general South Park trivia made this a game that could be played by fans of the series as well as people that had never watched an episode of the show in their lives.
Once the category has been selected, and the first question asked, the player that chose the category can either answer the question or “Shaft” another player of their choice. While not exactly revolutionary, Shafting involves passing the question over to another player and forcing them to answer it, adding a tactical element to the game. Should they answer the question correctly then they are awarded bonus points, however if they answer incorrectly then they will lose a massive amount of points.
Between rounds you would take to The Wheel of Fortuitousness that, once spun, grants access to either more points or one of the game’s dozen or so minigames. As the result of each spin is random this adds a much needed level of uncertainty, potentially allowing players that are lagging behind the opportunity to catch up.
Although crude and simplistic the minigames are a real highlight. These range from parodies of famous arcade games – such as the Asteroid-inspired Asses in Space, starring Terrance and Phillip – to more generic button mashing games that have you spanking one of Dr Mephesto’s four-assed monkeys, or evading a rampaging stampede.
As this is a near 15 year old game some elements of the production leave a lot to be desired. While the game’s art style and voice acting are completely authentic to the look and sound of the TV show, there is a disappointing amount of voice acting. All of the main characters only really provide basic and generic sound bites, with very little in terms of organic dialogue. Likewise, Chef does not read the questions out, instead you had to read them yourselves, which gives players with a quicker reading speed a (potentially) unintended advantage.
The Dreamcast and N64 versions boasted four player multiplayer locally (although the Dreamcast was the first home console to support online play unfortunately this game didn’t support online multiplayer) while the PS1 version can only handle two players. The PC version, which was released some time later, only allows you to test your mettle against an AI opponent, and as such is probably the weakest of the bunch.
By now the same formula has been repeated over and over again, but in my view Chef’s Luv Shack still holds even now. The gameplay may be simple, but this is a genuinely amusing quiz game that is always fun to play at parties as well as for random ten minute bursts.
- Luke Mears