South Park: Phone Destroyer is fun and addictive. But even though it’s free, it’s certainly not cheap.
South Park: Phone Destroyer released on app stores in November last year. And let me just say, my excitement was palpable… actually no, I forgot about the game and only remembered to download it this year (oops).
But I digress, any one who has played the SP games will know that you play as the New Kid and once again are joining in on the adventure the other kids are playing.
This time the kids are playing a game on their phones and are seeking someone who dominates and spends more time on their phone than anyone else. It’s very cleverly done, breaking of the fourth wall and tying in with the story seen on TV and other games.
Cartman, of course, has his own agenda at play and does his utmost best to keep this hidden from you. For this particular game, he needs you for something special.
As the story unfolds, the kids add you to their messenger group and chat to each other in-between battles, calling each other out and heavily bantering each other – as we all do in messenger groups. Sometimes random characters will be added to chime in and then leave. The humour is South Park and it is wonderful.
The Thorn In South Park: Phone Destroyer‘s Eye
Unless you pay a bit extra, the narrative’s progression is one hell of a grind. And as a South Park fanboy I was willing enough to start paying to play for the first time ever in my gaming career (apart from vehicles in Rocket League). I know, right?
Now having done that, in order to unlock more and get ahead, I have to keep paying more. So I stopped, let the grind begin.
The game also features a PvP online mechanic where you battle other players to earn resources and cards to help progression in the story mode. Yes this takes a while, yes this gets frustrating.
The mechanics are similar to that of old school Pokémon or Trump Cards. Best set of cards battle to win. The nostalgia of collecting cards, excitedly peeling them open, really sets the nostalgia spark aflame. And then the loot boxes began.
The game’s RNG mechanic (of course it features one, it’s free!) presents itself as a set of lockers that players have to open but can only open three of them and only after winning a match.
The annoying part about this is that after the three are open you have to pay to open more using South Park$ (SP$) and those $ can best be replenished with real $ (surprise).
Another thing is the game’s community events that are thrown. Now, I don’t know about my fellow gamers, but what I am used to when it comes to in-game events is that you reach them by completing challenges or gaining certain accomplishments. Winning matches earns you more rewards. Such rewards system feels fair and not in any way like extortion. In South Park: Phone Destroyer however these rewards are only given to you through the loot-locker-boxes and you still only have three attempts to get them before having to pay real $.
The cherry on top is that the developers (a division of Ubisoft, of course) praise themselves as massive gift givers whenever these events come around. Especially if the event is what the community asked for. “Hey players here are all the extras you asked for, give us your money, aren’t we just the best?”
While we’re on the topic of in-game currency, let’s discuss the store, run by none other than Cartman. Here you can purchase more cards that are on offer at the time as well as other items for real world money, like most other freemium games.
The drawback here is that items you purchase individually get more expensive with each purchase. I guess the price goes up when the rarity increases? Or it’s so you can buy everything in one payment, thus shortening your money, leaving you to head back to spend more real world money.
A nice feature that I picked up rather late is that the game has more interactive features than meets the eye. For instance, it is somewhat satisfying poking Cartman in the face.
We explain the complexities of loot boxes here.
Not all bad
Now I know that I have talked a lot about the negatives, but South Park: Phone Destroyer is still really enjoyable. Where it drops the ball on the financial mechanics it makes up for with the gameplay and strategy. And this is what keep me playing.
Matches are random and the level of your opponent does not matter; the deck in their hand is what matters, and once you begin on a bad foot it is very tricky to climb back up from that. Unless your opponent slips up then it’s fair play.
Building a strong deck is part of the enjoyment, the mixing and matching and then experimenting is truly fun, and it keeps things interesting. As a result, playability is always there.
This fun does get halted once you reach a point that requires you to pay to get ahead in order to keep up with your opponents. Gone are the days that we can earn resources in games just by playing and completing objectives that aren’t intrusive on our time and our wallets.
But this almost becomes forgivable as the nostalgic feeling of buying cards and opening them with hope and wonder, just as our fond memories of Pokémon collection and Yu-gi-oh! trading cards.
To this day I am still playing the game over many of my other mobile games, and as the Minister of Mobile Gaming says: “We hook them with a simple gaming loop”. And I am hooked.
The random nature of facing opponents coupled with the experimentation of cards as you build your deck is the main source of hookedness…ness.
On the Whole
South Park: Phone Destroyer is a fun and enjoyable game. However, it is definitely not without its faults. The free nature of the mobile gaming industry is becoming more and more rare, with more micro-transaction and loot boxes being shoe-horned in, no matter what shape or form. This somewhat acts as a chokehold on creativity, and simply the experience of gamers who want to play a game and not be hassled to pay to get anywhere.
This, I feel will change in the future. However, it will take a lot more than pulling a Battlefront 2 and Shadow of War in order to save face by completely removing these traps from their IP’s. The mobile market has a crutch and that crutch dictates that the game was free and so these mechanics are valid because of this.
All this aside and you have a very fun, entertaining and enjoyable game in your pocket waiting for you to destroy other people’s phones.
If you are willing to grind for your rewards the game is rough but worthwhile.
For a review of South Park: The Fractured But Whole, click here with all your might.