It's wrong how much I love South Park. Wrong enough for Trey Parker to write an entire episode about how disturbing it can be when a grown man loves a cartoon so very, very hard. And Butters is a particular favourite – I never get bored of the wild and imaginative ways in which the South Park gang torture him for no reason whatsoever.
I'm wearing a Cartman T-shirt right now that says "This is all a bunch of tree huggin' hippy crap!" so you can understand how excited I was to test out this all new South Park game. But my shirt, it seems, was unfortunately prophetic.
Here we take control of Butters in a mobile adaptation of the Imaginationland trilogy of episodes from series 11. Right away there's a seed of doubt, as these weren't the greatest episodes we've seen lately – they pushed the satire limits a little too hard and turned out kinda preachy.
It's not a huge surprise that developer Mr. Goodliving (awesome name, chaps) decided to take inspiration from those episodes, however, what with the vast array of colourful characters and settings portrayed. It is something of a surprise that very few have actually been utilised, however.
South Park Imaginationland might not take much of a cue from Stan, Kyle, Cartman or Kenny (or Butters, other than his chirpy visage), but it does take more than a few pointers from Mr. Goodliving's previous game, Turbo Camels: Circus Extreme.
Essentially, Butters's own game appears to take the majority of its gameplay mechanics from Circus Extreme. While we loved that game, however, Imaginationland doesn't work nearly as well. Much of the enjoyment of Turbo Camels came from the rag doll physics and spectacularly surreal big top show. Imaginationland feels, in comparison with its two year old stable-mate, a little bit flat.
You play Butters trapped in a bubble. To begin with, you can move around the playing area and scope out where the collectable rainbows are, and where the finishing point is (which is in the shape of a landing pad with a purple flag on it).
An arrow points the initial direction in which Butters will be catapulted, then he bounces off the walls, floor and ceiling collecting the rainbows until he comes to a stop – hopefully – on the landing pad.
Rows of mushrooms are arranged on the platforms of most levels, to act as a springboard for Butters to perform his high flying action. If you can get him to land on the mushrooms, each time he bounces off them (or a wall) his 'imagination dust' meter fills up. When there's imagination dust available, you can use some to shunt Butters in another direction.
If he comes to a stop anywhere other than the landing pad without any imagination dust, you've failed the level. Each level requires lil' Leopold Stodge to collect a certain number of rainbows before resting on the landing pad, then it's on to the next level.
A paper cut-out of South Park themes have been roughly stuck over the top of a more or less entertaining game, but little consideration has been given to threading any kind of recognisable nuances from the show into the gameplay. Ardent fans of Turbo Camels might draw some pleasure from a new set of rocket propelled (sorry, imagination dust propelled) levels, but its value as a South Park tie-in is severely limited.
It looks the part, as the simplistic South Park styling has translated very nicely to the micro-screen, and gameplay meets a certain minimum standard established by its predecessor, but this is a game that demonstrates very little effort to update the Circus Extreme gameplay or provide anything South Park fans will quite rightly be expecting. It's fine, in other words, but not nearly as good as it should be.
To think that South Park could have provided so much inspiration for a platform game makes it an even greater tragedy that the game reflects the TV show in appearance only. What Cartman would have to say about this, I can only guess…