Everybody in the pool!
Love shack, that's where it's at
Huggin' and kissin', dancin' and a-lovin'
Wearing next to nothing cause it's hot as an oven!
The whole shack shimmies
The whole shack shimmies when everybody's moving around and around and around!
(* lyrics by the B52's)
Ahh, if only that were the case with Chef's Luv Shack. Chef's original plan was to use his gameshow idea to give young, vivacious, uninhibited swimsuit models a taste of his salty chocolate balls. Due to unforseen circumstances, no swimsuit models were available, so he had to make do with Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and (the reason the show is so popular) Cartman. Pity for Acclaim that they didn't get those models, because those crass-talkin' kids just aren't enough to make this gameshow a hit.
Since the animation in South Park is crude, you just can't expect much out of the graphics for Chef's Luv Shack. However, I expected a little more than I got. While the mini-games are well done, the main gameshow leaves a lot to be desired visually. Basically, it looks like a South Park episode, except that all the characters have a total of about 5 animations. The PC version is even worse than the others. Whenever Chef tilts his head to the side, it becomes very pixeled and badly drawn. How can you make animation worse than South Park?
Thankfully, the sound is great. From Isaac Hayes' smooth-as-silk voice to the high pitched whining of Cartman, it's all here. They even threw in the occasional beeped-out tirade. There are a good number of guest appearances from other South Park favorites as well. The game even opens with a quick rendition of "Simultaneous Lovin" by Chef himself. Ooh, baby.
The gameplay is split into two parts: the gameshow and the mini-games. The gameshow aspect is your basic trivia game. Playable with up to four people, you have to ring in before anyone else and answer the question correctly. The questions are categorized in much the same way as they are on Win Ben Stein's Money. With humorous categories but fairly serious trivia questions, Chef's Luv Shack is a bit reminiscent of You Don't Know Jack (the paradigm of PC trivia games).
Unfortunately, that's the only similarity between Chef's Luv Shack and YDKJ. Where YDKJ had 800 questions in its original incarnation, Chef's Luv Shack has significantly fewer. You can only play through the game about two or three times before questions that you've seen before return like the plague. The obvious lack of questions really hampers this game's replayability.
Where the gameshow fails, the mini-games shine. There are a TON of mini-games in Chef's Luv Shack. In between every round of questions, all the players play a mini-game to earn more points. On top of that, random single player mini-games will pop-up in the middle of question rounds. From tame pie-eating contests to the aptly named "Spank the Monkey with Mr. Mackey", to giving Cartman an anal probe, the mini-games are pure South Park. They even mimicked some classics (such as Championship Sprint, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, and Warlords), making the mini-games easily the best part of Chef's Luv Shack. M'kay?
The connection between the mini-games and the gameshow leads to a couple of problems. In order to play the mini-games, you have to play the gameshow, period; there's no option to just play the mini-games by themselves. I know for a fact that there are several mini-games that I have yet to play, but I just can't sit there reading trivia that I've already answered in order to play them.
If you're playing with a friend and are beating them handily, the game starts giving your opponent mini-games that you can't play in order to help them catch up. While a close score is a good thing in most cases, excluding a player from the game just to even the score is a lame tactic. You know, I could beat Kasparov at chess if he just didn't move for a couple of turns. Sheesh!
While the load time on the PC is better than the Dreamcast version, the PC version has some major bugs that should have been eliminated. For example, while the manual tells you the correct controls, the game itself will tell you incorrect ones. Think that "Insert" is your buzz-in key? Think again.
On the two computers this game was tested on, there were graphical and programming errors. On one, the top of the screen kept flickering. On the other, the entire ending was always skipped. While it may work perfectly on some computers, it might have some major problems on others. Can anyone say, "Rushed to Market?" Good, I knew you could.
When Chef's Luv Shack was first announced, I was expecting something along the lines of Austin Power's Operation Trivia (ie. with trivia based on the show). Thankfully, they tried to use actual trivia, although not enough questions. The mini-games are great, but since you can't choose which one you want to play, you often play the same ones over and over. Chef's Luv Shack is a decent attempt with some cool elements, but the game just doesn't have enough depth. When push comes to shove, Chef just doesn't make a very good gameshow host . . . maybe they should look into hiring Regis Philbin.