‘South Park: The Stick of Truth’ Review

Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS3, XBox360

If you’re a South Park fan looking for opinions on whether you should play this game, stop reading and get a copy now. This is the perfect love letter to the fans and shows what a licensed game can achieve if the creators actually give a damn. It is chock full of references and titbits that fans will get laughs out of that people who haven’t watched the show in its entirety will completely miss. The type of humour appeals across all seasons of the TV show. Even though I’m not a big fan of turn based RPGs and even less of a fan of quick-time events that the game’s combat comprises of, the simpleness of the gameplay and the incredible ‘authentic South Park’ script kept me going.

Gonna see if I can unwind.

I find myself comparing the start of the game to the golden seasons of 6-10, the middle of the game being heavily jammed with the shock value from early seasons 1-5 while the end of the game proved to be completely off the charts in the crazy chaos and mayhem mirroring the latest season 11-17. If you are a fan and decided to finish the paragraph before running off to get it, thanks but you should really get into the game before some more bastards posts spoilers.

The rest of the review will cover gamers and people who aren’t fans of the show. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the game and going on to say they’re not a fan of the genre or the show. Why the hell did you buy this game? I’m saying it now, if you don’t like turn-based RPGs, quick-time events and/or the television show this is not the game for you. It doesn’t matter that IGN gave it 8 out of 10 towels or that reviewers are calling it the funniest game they’ve ever played. Taking my fanboy mind out of my body and trying to look at the humour objectively I just don’t think it’s funny enough. Sure, the first hour is hilarious to anyone, but after that you fall down the swirling funnel that is essentially a 10 hour episode of South Park.

Taking a well established universe and turning it into a game is normally a ballsy move. Look back at the mediocre game that was EA’s ‘The Simpsons Game’. It’s not that it was bad; it just didn’t reach the expectations from fans and gamers alike. When South Park: The Stick of Truth was first announced it came backed by the actual creators of the show Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Knowing they take great pride in their film projects, the concept that they were a huge part of the video game meant it was sure to be excellent. Stakes were pretty high when it came to being a fan of the show. This fan’s opinion is that it has definitely delivered.

What got me laughing and really enjoying myself with this game wasn’t the gratuitous swearing or extremely confronting scenes. It was that these characters were just some kids who were have a fun time playing around, just being kids. Everything accelerates into complete madness the further you get into the game but it’s amazing to think back to when you started playing and how simple everything was. The kids play with cardboard weapons, random pieces of armour, and a mind full of imagination.

In the eyes of a child.

But when it got down to the humour, the game flew the South Park flag and I can see a lot of people being offended and just not finding the game funny. References drive a major part of the humour but when the game is trying to make a joke it looks back to an early South Park of farts and shock. Considering how much modern South Park relies on current affairs each week, the game’s humour will probably be more relevant longer than any of the current seasons. It’s funny if you’re looking for it to be funny. If you want the game to make you laugh you’re going to have a bad time.

The game features some standard RPG elements. You select your class from Fighter, Thief, Mage and Jew and have a world to search and interact with characters, with battles taking place in turn-based quick-time fights. You explore the over-world and collect items and goods to help you in battle. You can also attack and knockout enemies before even entering battle by interacting with the environment. You can use your bow to fire arrows and glistening points on objects in the environment as well as harnessing the power of your farts to make even out the battlefield. Clever planning before going in offensively is key.

In most parts of the game you can select a buddy to fight alongside you. You start off with Paladin Butters (who with his powerful attacks and healing ability I found to be my main choice of friend throughout the game), eventually reaching a selection of Kenny (archer princess), Stan (swordsman), Jimmy (bard), Kyle (Jew) and Cartman (Grand Wizard King). While you can switch between friends mid battle, you’d be wasting a turn for that buddy. Seeming that most battles aren’t overly difficult with proper field preparation, the switch between Stan to Butters is essentially a waste of time.

Yet to realise the darkness in their soul.

Within battle you have HP, PP and Mana. HP is your hit points and can be restored with a range of items while PP can only be restored mid battle through certain perks and armour/weapon powers. HP and PP also heal once the battle is over, so I really tried avoiding the use of items. Mana is what you need to control your fart powers and requires you to consume things such a burritos and apple juice to build it up though I rarely used the fart techniques in battle. The payoff didn’t seem worth the item use, as well as seeing your character crap their pants if too much mana was gathered and not put to use. PP lets you use special attacks which are highly damaging moves that can be upgraded through levelling and each class has their own sets to use.

Fighting in the game is similar to combat seen in Mario and Luigi or the recent Child of Light. Timing the press of the button is the key to winning. However, I found myself relying heavily on weapon effects such as Fire and Gross-out to take out my enemies. The damage dealt by these special effects would sometimes be more than the damage my weapon was doing in the final stages of the game.

The town of South Park I found to be quite small, though this does keep the game relatively lively with someone ready to talk just within steps. Exploration is made fun with a number of collectibles and optional quests, easily found with the map in the menu. I original found the menu as a whole, cleverly based around Facebook, a little overwhelming (not being a huge RPG fan) but soon got use to it. Map wise, travel is made easy once you find fast-travel points, though walking between each would take you less than a minute. Chinpokomon dolls are scattered across the map and finding them all does not necessarily provide you with any reward. Making friends with people can be useful in quests but outside of that just provides reference based collectables. Extremely light puzzle solving will get you to chests; frequently contain items that make the effort worthwhile.  Side quests normally end with you getting a special summon where the character you’ve helped out will come to battle and OHKO an opponent (available once a day and not usable against bosses). These aren’t necessarily important to completing the game but are definitely worth following if you want to prolong the game’s relatively short experience. It took me 12 hours to find most collectibles and finish the game’s story and side-quests.

The map takes South Park landmarks and places them in such a way that the flow is very natural.

From a gaming perspective, South Park: The Stick of Truth borrows a lot of elements from other games and does them better (and sillier). The whole game feels much more compact than it probably should be, but that intensifies the experience. The story is satirical of games in general and I think most gamers would get a kick out of it. Combine that with being a tight game in general and we have a winner. For the content you’re getting, I feel the game is worth picking up if you can find it cheap. If you love the show I’m already assuming you’ve bought it. Because you should have four months ago.

7/10 Towlie Action Figures
(images from GameFAQS)

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