South Park: The Stick of Truth almost ended up being vaporware due to the bankruptcy of THQ who held the original rights.
Thanks to Ubisoft it now serves as a perfect example of what happens when a franchise writes a digital love letter to its fans.
Find out why after the jump.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Systems: PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release: March 4, 2014
South Park is one of those shows that you either love or hate; there is no in-between. If you look past the animation and crude humor you will find a show that touches on relevant social and political issues. The Stick of Truth developers, Obsidian, managed to adapt valid gameplay concepts while series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker succeed at poking fun at traditional game concepts such as the silent protagonist.
The game’s plot revolves around your created character having just relocated to South Park after a major incident that you no longer remember. Your parents urge you to go out and make new friends which leads to you becoming embroiled in the cosplay battle between Cartman’s group of humans and Kyle’s group of elves. Over the course of the game you will play on both sides of the war for the Stick of Truth and be given the option to choose a side before and during the final battle between the two forces. I’ll try to avoid as many spoilers as possible in this review but the climax of the war of humans vs elves is simply the halfway point in a story that involves alien anal probes, a virus that turns the infected into Nazi zombies, and enough plot twists to satisfy any RPG fan.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fine hybrid between the adventure and RPG game genres. As you navigate all the classic locations from the show you acquire new abilities that allow you to interact with the environment in traditional adventure game style. A broken anal probe lets you teleport to obscure portions of the map while explosive farts allow you to destroy obstacles in your path and distract enemies. Unlocked abilities not only allow you to progress further in the game but can give you an advantage in combat or let you eliminate the enemy without even stepping in a battle scene. In the game’s “dungeons” enemies will usually situate themselves around environmental hazards that can be exploited. An open flame can let you take out a group of elves with one fart while a loose ceiling tile can help you even the odds against a mini-boss by taking out his minions via a careful shot. You receive full experience for taking enemies down outside of combat and sometimes it feels way more satisfying to go this route.
The RPG aspect of the game is felt mainly in the turn-based battles. Here the stats you acquire from leveling and equipping gear come into play along with perks and special abilities. Perks are earned by befriending the residents of South Park on Facebook. Doing so can be as simple as talking to the resident or as difficult as completing an optional side quest. Special abilities are unique to the class you choose at the beginning of the game with your choices including fighter, mage, thief, and Jew (the latter of which has druid-like abilities). Gear results in cosmetic changes to your physical appearance in addition to stat boosts. Most gear will also possess traits that do things like increase the amount of damage you do to grossed out (stunned) enemies or allow you to regenerate health anytime you successfully land a perfect attack.
A battle starts when you run into enemies on the overworld map and proceeds in traditional turn-based fashion. You can be joined in combat by one buddy represented by a member of the main characters of the show. Each buddy has a different class such as Butters with his paladin skill-set or Jimmy as a bard. Before you or your buddy attack you have the option to do one action such as consume an item or have a buddy use his special skill. Examples of the special skills includes Cartman launching a magic missile by throwing a feminine hygiene product, Stan summoning his gay dog Sparky, or Butters giving you a pat on the back to regenerate HP. During non-boss battles you can also use a summon if you have them unlocked. These are limited to one use a day (in game time, not real time) and will instantly kill every enemy on the screen. In the case of the Mister Hanky summon, it is literally an “Oh Shit” button to be used when a battle gets out of hand. Standard attacks can have normal or power hits that are determined by the button you press. You can also choose to use fart magic by itself or as part of an attack combo. Special abilities tend to require multiple timed button presses to deal their full damage and consume energy that can be replenished by items or at the end of the battle. When enemies attack you have the option to reduce the damage they inflict via pressing the action button right as their attack connects. Overall the combat is fun and contains more depth then random button-mashing.
There is a lot to like about this game if you are a South Park fan. You get to explore Stan, Cartman, Kyle, and Kenny’s home and their closets are loaded with items referencing past episodes. The animation is made via the same process used to create the show and really gives you the impression that you are experiencing an episode. If you haven’t kept up with the show you might be lost on some aspects like why Kenny insists on cosplaying as a princess or who Professor Chaos is but these past events are applied in a way to appeal to dedicated fans without hindering the enjoyment of the game. I was amused by the references to real-world celebrities and products. Facebook and Taco Bell are mentioned by name instead of referencing via an imaginary product or company. Celebrities like David Hasselhoff are depicted via public domain images. The entire presentation is true to the source material and feels like a continuation of season 17’s three part finale.
I do have some criticisms with the game. While the itemization is cool I feel like the game does not force you to use the system in place. I pretty much went through the game only changing gear when I was forced to via the story. I would replace my melee and ranged weapon regularly but only because I had a habit of checking to see what the damage rating was when I picked a new weapon up. You can mod weapons and armor by adding removable stickers to them but I found deciding what stickers to use involved more time then it was worth. The average battle can be won by just spamming your special abilities until you are out of PP. The fart magic was powerful but I rarely used it due to magic power having to be built up via items or passive abilities. PP and HP regenerate to full after a battle but magic points remain empty until you replenish them. The summons seemed like a cool way to involve fan favorites like Mr Hanky and Jesus. The problem is the fact that, as I stated earlier, they can only be used once per game day. There are only three days in the game and the Mr Hanky summon is the only one not available until day 2. At best you have a total of 11 combined uses of the summon system. This leads into how short the actual game is. Despite having an RPG leveling system grinding is not required. It’s possible to blow through the entire game in roughly a 10 hour setting.
If you are a South Park fan in any way then I feel the game is worth your time and money. There is some re-playability via the different classes and small choices you can make. It feels like a lot of work went into this game and it avoids the mediocrity of past South Park game releases.
The game contains some light nudity but it’s there for the purpose of shock value instead of eroticism. This is a South Park game so there is a heavy focus on gross out factor and general crudeness. This includes being able to take a shit and use it as a ranged item and Princess Kenny enfeebling enemies by flashing his man boobs and then giving them herpes with a kiss. A major story line battle involves your character being shrunk down to the size of an underwear gnome and battling it out with the gnome warlock underneath your nude parents as they are having sex. You actually have to dodge your father’s swinging balls as he trusts into your mom via random quick-time events as your mother’s boobs bounce in the background.