South Park Phone Destroyer featured

South Park Phone Destroyer fails to blow up

South Park Phone Destroyer – the mobile game released yesterday in the UK on Android and iOS – is almost good but quickly turns into an empty grind-fest.

The game starts in a similar way to The Fractured But Whole which got my hopes up as that was a fantastic game. You start by creating a custom character and you are then dropped into South Park to battle your way to victory with familiar faces along for the ride. If that would be enough to make a fun game for you – download it now.

South Park Phone Destroyer battle 2

Free to grind

Yeah go ahead, have a play – it’s “free”. Yes, those inverted commas seemed oddly placed – the game is free to download and you can continue to play indefinitely, but you will come up against some barriers. Rather than get distracted, let’s break down the two main elements of the game and how you progress:

1. Player vs Enemy (PvE) missions

These are the “story” where you face increasingly difficult enemies with a boss at the end of the stage (usually quite entertaining, but not as hilarious as most of The Fractured But Whole). The battle system asks you to drag cards from your deck onto the battlefield fight your way to the right where the boss will be waiting.

Each stage is played through once (at level one difficulty) and you can then progress to the next stage, or replay the stage at higher difficulties for more unlocks. Stage 5 – the end of each episode of the story – is usually blocked behind a requirement to win an increasing number of PvP battles (see below).

2. Player vs Player (PvP) battles

For the PvP you are pitched against an online player in a small arena for three minutes. Without any environmental differences in these battles, they are fairly samey and often come down simply to which player has better levelled cards.

You will usually have a couple of cards which are different from your opponent but most players seem to get the same starting deck (and levelling them up is grind enough so why bother experimenting?). You can get slightly better rewards for PvP but at the same time, you can fail to connect and then waste even more of your time (this only happened twice in the time I played, admittedly).

South Park Phone Destroyer mission map

Going in circles

The main game – blasting through the story missions – will have you replaying and repeating story missions to get card unlocks and currency. The difficulty is indicated once you open up the stage, so you can gauge whether to try that stage or to replay another earlier stage to make things easier.

This pretty much means working your way through multiple times until they become too difficult, levelling up cards where you can, then moving onto the next stage and repeating. You can get through a few story missions at once, but generally you will need to upgrade significantly before you can tackle the next few missions. Once you hit a roadblock in the missions where you are forced to play online then it pretty much becomes a grind to get lucky with the matchmaking.

South Park Phone Destroyer roadblock

The actual humour in the game is mainly limited to the very infrequent story videos. The videos are actually quite annoying in places because for some reason they turn the perspective from the usual landscape into portrait and that seriously detracts from the enjoyment of getting some jokes from Cartman, Kyle and Butters.

Aside from these annoying intrusions, you might get a chuckle from the end of stage bosses… the first time. However each story stage has 15 difficulty levels, so you will see them a whole bunch if you want enough currency and upgrades to progress to the final story missions or to find any success in PvP mode.

Every mission plays in a very similar way, with minor differences in the enemies you will face and environmental obstacles. When even the stage bosses were being recycled, I realised the game was coming in thin with content.

The cramped UI means that you can’t easily tell which cards have been upgraded and would be best to take into your next battle (not that it matters all that much). Without being able to sort or arrange cards (and with deck themes being another unnecessary concept chucked on top) then the whole deck-building experience feels a little messy. You can also get stuck in the menu causing the game to crash which just added to my frustration.

South Park Phone Destroyer battle

Battle in your sleep

Sadly the battles themselves reduce down to simply deploying cards and abilities in a continual move to the right. Genuine strategy (and much hope of humour) during battles gets lost in the noisy mess that becomes throwing all your best cards at a tough baddie. Everyone shouts witty remarks over each other and the character’s special abilities often don’t make too much impact (until you get to use rarer or higher-level cards which takes a whole bunch of grinding).

For the most part, I was half-playing battles, just paying attention occasionally when things looked bad and dropping a couple of cards who would do the hard work. The semi-automation (and limited strategy) gave battles little engagement and hardly any reward. They also seem to follow a surprisingly similar pattern, with an almost zen-like ebb and flow that runs like clockwork – baddies swarm in, special abilities power up, then you cast abilities and throw another card in the mix to turn the battle your way. The experience is not quite zen enough to prevent me getting annoyed by the roadblocks and shallow dialogue. When the final boss comes in (or during the last minute when playing online) then you throw everything you have at them and hope it will be enough.

For the most part, it’s pretty hard to fail with the PvE section, as you are continually working at your own level, but you can easily screw matches in PvP by not seeing a particularly brutal set of characters coming your way. It really pays to have the best cards, which is why the game encourages grinding for those post-battle rewards.

South Park Phone Destroyer loot lockers

That freemium T&P mobile game

On the topic of rewards, the main rewards from battles are opening loot lockers, which offer character cards, upgrade materials and currency. Sadly, the randomised nature means that you can come away from tougher battles with a handful of coins and one measly upgrade item, while a low-level mission could give you a new character.

It adds to the grind when your main aim is to complete more missions for loot (rather than aiming for something specific and feeling meaningful progression towards it). Personally, I felt a little disheartened by the locker loot but hey, it’s free shit so you can’t complain too much.

Then you have card packs – also containing a random assortment of items but usually some better shit. These are given out free – a crappy one every 4 hours (login bonus) and one decent pack per three PvP battles won (again every 4 hours).

You can get packs with a little waiting, but then again, you can spend cashmoney on real rewards beyatch. The in-game shop is pretty brutal with the shiniest single pack costing over 20 of your British pounds. While micro-transactions can often feel slightly cheeky, these come as part of a packaged freemium game that would make the Canadian Devil proud.

South Park Phone Destroyer character

What’s going on?

The final major problem is your character, which although you level up in both level and PVP rank, has no bearing on the story or gameplay. You have no meaningful development, other than unlocking some costumes and gaining a couple of HP and attack. You don’t especially join in the battles, other than calling in the other characters, minor zaps and blasting enemies away when you take a lot of damage.

I didn’t really get any enjoyment from putting time into levelling up this character, or having a better “rank” than others. The grind was too great for me to consider putting any more time into this game (around 15 hours so far) so after getting a significant way through the “story” then I was pretty happy to put the game down. It wasn’t a bad 15 hours, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat it, due to amount of repetition already involved.

The story was also not especially present, with the majority of dialogue being “Grrr… here’s my best card, I bet you can’t take it down” (which you obviously can and swiftly do). The enemies change slightly (except for excessive repetition) but never really build to any serious challenge, or any need to think carefully about how to approach them. Just upgrade your cards using cash and loot lockers to get to the story missions with higher numbers.

South Park Phone Destroyer enemy

Both console games had collectables and items which even through short text descriptions were able to carry more depth and humour than anything in Phone Destroyer. In reducing the battles, story and content to fit onto a phone (and work in shorter bursts) much of the joy has been left behind. Even some more abilities (like supers or special summons being unlocked) could have given battles that extra edge and depth (along with giving more to unlock as you progress). The bosses feel half-hearted at times, basically just dressing up the show’s characters in silly outfits which loosely fit the theme (without any real variation or truly funny combinations).

This is very much a “quick level grind” mobile game, closer to Candy Crush than previous South Park titles and – in spite of the character creator and battle system – shares little with its RPG brothers. The experience felt sadly hollow here, with dialogue and characters feeling like shadows of the bigger screen hilarity.

With many annoyances, some thinly-spread humour not doing enough to redeem the experience, and a heavy focus on grinding through samey missions and PvP battles, Phone Destroyer fails to impress on almost every front.

Plays loads of terrible games. Makes websites and videos in my free time. Often spotted hanging around on street corners (capturing virtual locations).

  • Tarik Berkhof

    Southpark phone destroyer is a pretty wel made game. As someone with some experience in card games i found it a fresh breath of air. I think the reviewer is neither experienced in card games and/or was expecting a more in depth southpark game. (Like the fractured but whole) For a card game, the pvp combat system is good. At the higher ranks strategy actually gets pretty in depth and you have to think quickly. The freemium aspect of the game is much less prevelant than in heartstone for example. (You get lots of stuff and quests each day compared to the one quest HS gives)

    So i usually dont comment, but what im trying to say is that this review is absolute garbage. Even for someone who doesnt like it, if you evaluate the basic criteria for its genre ( card game) it should at least get a 6/10. Personally i would give it a 8/10; 1 point deduction for the sometimes unbalanced state of the game (manbearpig at level 6 wtf) and another point for the fact that this game cannot be competitive untill you got max leveled cards (unlike heartstone where a simple 1000 dust shaman evolve deck can easily get rank 5, in southpark you will spend a few days leveling your cards before you will actually encounter real competition.

    • Sadly, this was my experience of the game. The PvE/story mode was a repetitive mess, with enemies and battles needing several wins before you get any good loot back.
      The strategy and gameplay are very light – without any sort of variety and no balance – it just comes down to which cards you have unlocked (by the way, you can buy cards for all the money).
      With something turn-based like Hearthstone, the possible options at each stage are limited, but varied.
      With Phone Destroyer’s multiplayer (more akin to Titanfall Assault in the gameplay) then you just pick when (and roughly where) to throw an automated character who will battle for you.
      The absolute bombardment of paid opportunities – hammered through the various stores, pop-ups and timed-resets – and this is *exactly* the sort of pricing model the show itself ripped to shreds (so I am happy to hold up that mirror to the developers).

      If you would like a complete breakdown of the points scoring, which seems to be the main issue, then here we go:

      – Story – loses 2 points for being totally bland, repeating enemies, and being a grind. I felt no incentive to actually progress in the game.
      – Graphics – loses 1 point for forcing portrait perspective during cutscenes, but overall one of the better parts of the game.
      – Sound – loses 2 points for the horrible noise of characters shouting catchphrases over each other, and the music regularly dropped.
      – Gameplay – loses 2 points for being unrewarding, breaking up progress with unnecessary blocks (win 6 online matches to continue) and generally being low in strategy and generally poorly conceived.
      – Multiplayer – loses 1 point for putting me to sleep and forcing me to repeat the same battles and hope that I have better cards than my opponent.

      Starting from a score of “10”, with those deductions the game comes out with 3 out of 10.

      I stopped playing before the end, and have not wanted to load the game back up – it did not impress me at all, as reflected in my low review score.

      Thank you for your comments though – we are looking for more writers at Last Life Club – feel free to drop us an email if you fancy writing a few (more) reviews of your own (matttiernan@lastlifeclub.com).

  • Jeffries’s’s

    This game is awesome for about 2 hours and then it’s too hard and lame and sucks completely. What idiots made this game?