Review: South Park: The Stick Of Truth Is A Love Letter To The Series
South Park: The Stick of Truth takes everything that makes the series so great and creates a faithful, incredible game with it all.
- Worth The Time?The easiest choice you could ever make as a fan of the series, and worth every second of time you spend with it.
- Things LovedIncredible, faithful recreation of the town of South Park and most of its characters. The amount of fan service is outstanding. The attention to detail in animations, items and character representation. Well written story with great voice acting to back it up. One absurd situation just leads on to the next. Varying and entertaining combat system that keeps you engaged even though it's turn-based. Out of combat puzzles are great and keep you thinking of ways to win without firing a shot. A focused, well-paced and long story that will keep you engrossed the entire way through. Side missions and social media system work well together. Who said licensed games were always bad?
- Things HatedCombat can be a bit too easy at times. Economy can break due to all the junk you're able to sell. Not much to do once you're done.
- RecommendationThis really should be a no brainer for fans of the South Park series, as it is easily one of the best uses of a license in gaming history. The attention to detail and the amount of love for this franchise is evident during every second of your adventure, and it will undoubtedly leave you feeling as though you've truly engaged with the characters in South Park, while experiencing your own little episode in its universe. Don't miss out on this, not for a second.
- Name: South Park: The Stick of Truth
- Genre: RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 and PS3
- Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R699.00 (PS3, Xbox 360), R445.00 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PC
There are a select few people in the world that don’t know what South Park is. The little, quaint town all the way up on the North tip of the United States, where four little boys go to school, occasionally do their homework and more often than not get involved in some over the top situations that spiral out of control, usually involving the government, aliens and Al Gore. South Park is very much part of pop culture, as it’s satirical episodes take shots at relevant, controversial world issues (some of the time) while others just poke fun and let the imagination run wild (Manbearpig anyone?). South Park: The Stick of Truth, faithfully and wholehearted sticks (hehe) to this winning formula, delivering not only a game that is fun and enjoyable to play, but also one that thoroughly recreates the universe it exists in, making sure that fans of the series feel right at home and more than welcome.
You are the new kid, a formerly unknown member of the South Park community who has just moved in with your parents. You don’t talk much, and not much is revealed as to why you and your family chose to move to the near isolated town of South Park, but it is made clear that something is special about you. It doesn’t take long before you’re let loose onto the sidewalks of the town, hoping to meet new faces and make a few friends on your first day. It’s not long before you stumble upon an elf beating down a human, which invokes the only real response from you; slap that little bastard in the face. And so begins your journey, which quickly lets you become acquainted with the humans of Kupa Keep, the faction of the fantasy game that is gripping the children of South Park, run by Cartman himself.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of South Park, you’ll know the drill for most episodes. Most events start out innocent enough, usually involving one or all of the four main characters (although the roster is massive) and things usually blow out of proportion before the first ad break. The Stick of Truth is no exception to this rule, as what starts out as an innocent role-playing game between Cartman’s humans and the Elves (we won’t spoil who’s leading them) quickly spirals out of control and becomes the backdrop to an alien invasion, government secrecy and Canadian politics. There is so much squeezed in here that it’s remarkable just how the entire narrative manages to continue linking itself, shuffling you from one absurd occurrence to the next. Of course, these weird adventures you go on have a purpose most of the time, and that’s what makes the entire situation that much more entertaining. Most of the time you’re just wanting to play the game everyone else is involved in, but often that includes jumping borders, going toe to toe with the military and sometimes exploring places no human ever should. Yes, they go there.
Along with this wonderfully realised narrative comes the writing and dialogue. I’m not over-exaggerating when I say I was crying from laughter more than a few times, as the typical banter between South Park’s most adored characters is nailed to a tee here. The dynamic between Cartman, Kyle, Stan and (Princess) Kenny is almost too good to experience in an almost personal manner, and having a character as a reflection of yourself embroiled in their arguments and rivalries engrosses you in this universe way more that the show ever could. You laugh at the situations the new kid, who is only known as Douchebag, manages to find himself in just a few hours after moving to this seemingly quiet city, and just how utterly oblivious and short sighted the entire populace is to what is happening around them. It’s something that fans of the show will truly appreciate, as most episodes instill the same sense of humour every season. This game was designed to feel like an extension of one of those thirty minute episodes, and from the dialogue and narrative alone it’s a resounding success.
But it’s not just the narrative that has been meticulously crafted in The Stick of Truth. From the minute you step outside your house, you’re allowed to visit virtually any location in South Park, with has been incredible recreated in stunning, faithful detail. You’ll find the coffee shop Tweak’s family owns right next to the U-Store-It, which houses not only Al Gore’s secret Manbearpig base of operations but also Professor Chaos’ lair. You can visit the theatre and try get into Ass of Fire 2, or stroll on a bit upwards and go order South Park’s best Chinese cuisine from City Wok. Everything is there for you to explore at your own leisure, with most buildings being open for you to go into and discover from the word go. Of course, there are some cases where you’ll have to wait for a particular ability or piece of equipment to progress, but this never really gets in the way of exploration when you realise just how much ground there is to cover. Opening doors into house sometimes yield some surprising and rather explicit results, but looting garages and draws from nearly everyone in town is as fun in the third hour as it was in the first ten minutes.
It’s also interesting to see how the events of the narrative take a toll on the town around you. From one day to the next entire buildings can disappear and become inaccessible, while others will open up and give you more areas to go loot crazy. In reality, there’s sometimes too much to pick up in the town of South Park. The game manages what you pick up and sorts it into typical lists such as Equipment, Weapons and Flair (cosmetic items that you can equip to change your appearance) but more often than not you’ll be picking up junk from around the town to sell for more useful items. While it is great to see items actually appear in places you’d expect them to be, like Cartman’s Faith album being in his bedroom or an array of sexual toys in his mother’s room next door, you’ll more often than not forget about them and quickly mash sell when you find yourself at a vendor. Not only is this short exercise tedious, it breaks the game’s economy in a way, as I was ridiculously rich in the first few hours. Granted, the best equipment isn’t usually available in the stores, but it does diminish the importance of money somewhat. Thankfully it doesn’t kill the joy of finding canonically accurate items sprawled across town, which often hark back to some of the most famous episodes of South Park. There’s also 30 Chinpokomon to find, and you’ll struggle not going a little OCD looking in every little crevice for the hilarious parody plushies.
After all of that, it might come as a shock to hear that The Stick of Truth actually has some pretty solid gameplay to back up all of its faithfully recreated ideas and settings. The Stick of Truth is first and foremost an RPG, with turn-based combat and companions. Your first step involves picking a class. There are four options to choose from, namely the regular Warrior, Mage and Thief, and the not so regular Jew class. Naturally I chose Jew, because who the hell wouldn’t, and shortly after that a realised how incredible of a choice it was. Each class come with its own set of special attacks that are unlocked and upgraded as you level up. While a thief can sneak behind enemies and deal massive damage with a backstab, the Jew class is able to sling rocks from the Sling of David, or unleash a flurry of punches by mastering Jew-Jitsu. Hell you can even unleash waves of locusts, frogs and balls of fire, watching your foes burn and lose their lunch all over the floor as you gross them out on your way to victory. The four classes don’t make a real impact on how you play the game, or what weapons and equipment you’re able to use, but they do provide some visual, and hilarious, variety in terms of combat, and you’ll often find yourself hoping you have enough Power Points to use these skills as opposed to normal attacks.
Combat isn’t as simple as you commanding and watching the action unfold either. Each attack, including basic ones that just see you hitting your foes with your weapon of choice, require some form of input from you as the player. These range from simply timed button presses to a string of directional inputs, and even some Guitar Hero styled mini-games. The more powerful and devastating the attack, the more complex the action required, although once you become comfortable with most attacks you’ll rarely miss the opportunity to execute a perfect attack. Enemies also take up different stances that force you to change your tactics from time to time. Placement on the battlefield is key, as some enemies may block and protect ones that are behind them, forcing you to switch to your ranged option. Enemies can flip over to reflecting or riposting stances to further limit your options, while shielded enemies forced you to chip away at their number of damage free turns before you can really dispatch them. It all works really well together, especially when it’s just you and one of your companions, which eventually becomes a choice between 6 characters, up against nearly triple the number in foes. Unfortunately, combat often feels very easy, with only a handful of boss fights and random encounters really testing your strategic mind and asking you to be thoughtful about the order in which you queue up attacks.
Combat doesn’t only occur when you’re face to face with enemies. A lot of South Park is interactive, and once you learn your first spell, which involves controlling a massive amount of flatulence, the environment really opens up. Flaming lanterns or open fires can now be turned into massive fire bombs, which immediately take out enemies nearby and save you the trouble of having to enter combat. A lot of the time the answer isn’t so clear cut, and there were a few occasions where I only saw a particular puzzle solution after I was forced to enter combat with a large number of enemies. This mechanic is great because it keeps the pace from just shuffling you along from one combat scenario to the next, encouraging you to slow down, look around and think about what you could use to your advantage. It’s especially useful in situations where combat is difficult, allowing you to dispatch a few foes before having to risk your own life in combat. Companions also come in handy during these segments, with each having their own special ability that can be used to either distract enemies or lure them into traps, heal allies so that they can fight a few foes for you and more. While these are often not utilised in every situation, there are enough of them littered around for you to actually make use of them on a fairly regular basis, especially Butter’s handy healing ability.
But what’s the point of playing at all if you’re not able to look like a relative badass while doing it? The Stick of Truth features a wealth of items you can collect and equip, including a main weapon, ranged weapon and three different items of armor. Of course, items all feature different damage ratings and special perks, such as increasing your armor, adding fire damage to attacks, or even allowing an extra turn after you kill an enemy. These passive bonuses can be boosted further by modifying items with patches that you collect, and once you hit a high enough level you can grant weapons the ability to leech life after attacks, increase the amount of stacks a particular debuff has or improve your chances by adding some shield at the beginning of combat. There are a lot of combinations to mess around with here, and when you take the time to analyse foes and discover their weaknesses, you might find yourself chopping and changing between patches just to make your life easier. All of this is embedded in an awesome inventory and menu system, which doubles up as a social media application. Meeting new people and adding new friends helps you unlock passive perks, and encourages you to go and discover what South Park has to offer. Some people will only friend you once you have a certain number of friends, while others will give you short side-missions to complete in return for a friend request. The “newsfeed” generated by all your friends is hilarious to just read at times, and sometimes even ties into the quest you’re currently undertaking, giving you advice and directives from time to time. Just don’t friend Al Gore. Never add Al Gore.
All of this is really held together by some of the finer details The Stick of Truth has to offer, and really that’s where fans have been catered to most. Just the way characters move and interact will have people guessing as to whether you’re playing a game or just watching an episode, as the look and feel of the game is just so darn perfect that you probably wouldn’t notice too much of a difference should you have the TV running an episode in the background. But it’s great to see that The Stick of Truth doesn’t hinge on this and use it as a crutch to hold up a less than stellar game. It uses this in conjunction with a well thought out and implemented combat system, that works hand in hand with the type of game the boys are playing. It’s almost breaking the fourth wall at times, especially when Cartman is explaining to you how to make use of health potions (which are essentially food items) and how the rest of the guys wouldn’t allow him to have five bags of Cheesy Puffs in one turn, much to his disappointment. The little mini-games that you are forced to complete at specific parts of the game are both hilarious and related to an episode one way or another, and it’s sad that some of them have ended up being censored out of the final product by Ubisoft, just because they added so much more to the South Park experience.
That said, there’s not much that can really keep this game down. There’s just so much passion poured into this title that you can see it oozing out of every possible place it can find its way out of. This is one of those rare projects that wasn’t just a cheap, licensed tie-in that uses a name to sell copies. Obsidian, along with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, wanted to create a game that faithfully recreated what an episode of South Park would be, and make that entire experience a fun, engaging game. That, in essence, is what The Stick of Truth is. It’s one of the best licensed games ever created, and easily a shoe-in for the most ridiculous, out there, offensive RPG you’ll play in your lifetime. It’s a game that fans of other license wish they would get, and one that will fail to disappoint the thousands addicted to the TV series.
“Taste like crab, talk like people. Crab people. Crab people.”