South Park: Imaginationland for IPhone

Fans of the TV series South Park will recognize "Imaginationland" as the three-part episode arc that won an Emmy Award in 2008. It's also been turned into a game for the iPhone and iPod touch. And though it has the feel of a game assembled by a committee of executives with an eye toward promoting a franchise, South Park: Imaginationland ends up working well as a platform/puzzle game.

Oh, Hamburgers: Make Butters bounce and fly to collect rainbow tokens in South Park: Imaginationland. But run into bombs and spikes, and Butters could suffer the same fate as the oft-killed Kenny.Taking a cue from the classic South Park episode, players help Butters bounce and fly through more than 60 levels while collecting rainbow tokens within a given time limit. Butters also has to avoid traps, such as bombs and spikes.

Even if South Park: Imaginationland seems like the product of a corporate directive--the game is published by RealArcade, with the imprint of both Real Networks, and Comedy Central--it's executed well. Great graphics coupled with good sound and voice acting provide an immersive experience for the player.

The controls make the game interesting, and there's a sense of guesswork to Butters' movements that makes the game fun. While you can control the characters' movements to a degree by tilting the handset, you can also bounce off mushrooms or other surfaces to gain Imagination power. Once enough Imagination has been built up, you can use a swiping motion to fling Butters in a controlled direction to help navigate the level.

Unfortunately, the game has a few shortcomings. While Imaginationland runs extremely well, the controls feel as if they need work, causing some frustration. Finally, a dearth of sounds leaves Butters yelling the same things whenever you lose a life--it can get pretty tiring.

Still, as frustrating as the game can be, it's easy to return to Imaginationland. A well-designed portion of the game saves your progress, allowing you to quickly pick up from where you left off. A combination of unlockable levels and prizes keeps the player coming back, but there's a certain hit or miss factor here--South Park fans may love the game while others will probably look elsewhere for gaming fun.

Finally, there's the matter of price. When I bought the game, it sold at a "limited-time" price of $1. While that price remains in effect as of this writing, the game has sold for as much as $10. Whether or not that's a fair price depends on the hold South Park has on your heart and your DVR.

South Park: Imaginationland is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.

[Chris Barylick is a Macworld contributor who isn't sure how to jump off mushrooms to collect rainbow tokens, but has resolved to keep trying.]

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