It’s a bit of a strange one for me to be reviewing South Park: The Stick Of Truth, as to be honest, I’m not really a fan of the show. When I say not a fan of the show, it’s not that I dislike it, it’s just I never got caught up in the whirlwind of the show when it first came out, which was surprising considering it was all that everyone was talking about at school in the late 90′s when the TV show first hit out screens.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the odd episode, and who doesn’t know the art style, catchphrases or even its jokes as it’s all basically part of popular culture now. I have nothing against it. From what I’ve seen, I found it funny, sarcastic, and at times had a little heart in there too, even if that’s like the last layer below the swearing, sarcasm, racism, sexism and any other form of obscenity before it.
Enough of memory lane….
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is finally here. After numerous delays and no shows to the general public, very very limited game-play footage released, and the general hush around the game, it’s finally being released this week on the 7th March in the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australia, having already been released on the 2nd March in the US. Lets not forget, the whole release schedule has had shit luck. THQ was heading up proceeding in the release of Stick of Truth, but after THQ went bust, the game went into publishing limbo, and nothing for months, but fortunately Ubisoft took over at the reins, and at last Obsidian Entertainments RPG turn based TV tie-in title can be released to the masses.
You start off as ‘The New Kid’. You get the option to create your character in any style you want, in the mould of classic South Park characters. You, with so far a mysterious background, are sent out into the world of South Park by your unusual parents, to go and make some new friends. Then within a few minutes, it all kicks off. You are basically playing a game within a game, as you are sucked into a live action Role Playing game by Cartman, where its him and his group of human wizards in the KKK group (Kingdom of Kupa Keep of course!) vs Karl and his Elves.
We have a fantastic cinematic, over the top, beefed up Cartman doing war against the elves for the ‘Stick Of Truth’, which is the premise of the game. The Human and Elves are in a never-ending battle for this ‘Stick of Truth’ and everyone believes their side should have it, and its mainly down to you, The New Kid, or as everyone now calls you, Douchebag, to get it back from both sides, and return it to its rightful owner.
Antics are over the top and hilarious, even though you are just going round looking for a stick, everything in between is just filled with fantastic fan service and jokes, and events that will make you cry with laugher. Early scenes like your first real boss battle, Vs the Mongolians, seem like a great nod to the Bruce Lee film ‘The Game Of Death’, where you are going up levels of the tower to reach the top to scare off the Mongolian parents. Why is this all happening, well, Mr Kim from City Wok, feels the Mongolian kids are ruining the place, and have taken over the Tower Of Peace next door, and its down to you to rid these kids, and show the Mongolian parents, who never seem to want to leave Mr Woks restaurant, that this South Park ain’t a safe town to noboby!, except every other cow, alien, and Zombie Nazi around these places! The completion of this Mr Wok mission, leads to another fantastic part of the game play of South Park: The Stick Of Truth, and that the Summon skill for use during combat. It’s a great super move, which will summon a selected character to come and help you, and pretty much destroy everything in its path…..just not against bosses….Its another other the top, laugh-fest of a move, which can include anything from putting the enemies up someone butt, doing a war dance and slicing someone apart, to Jesus kicking ass with a machine gun… all in the world of South Park… and I’m loving it for it.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth is a RPG game at heart, with its turn based combat. It’s a lot like Double Fine’s Costume Quest from a few years ago (which I found excellent too), but just done to a much grander scale. Initially it might not be something you’d expect in a South Park game, but the way the game is, the way the game plays, and the way the game is written, by creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, is that you get a genuinely funny, and down right offensive at most times, ongoing dialogue between all the characters, be it after or during a battle, or just general conversation when walking around this place we call South Park, and these funny lines are used to great effect. In any other game genre, like a hack and slash for example, or a general action title, I really feel it would never have worked, as the dialogue is a massive aspect to this game world, so in any other genre it would have felt rushed, yet here, in a more slower, turn based style game, we have the time and patience, to let the genius comedy juices flow for everyone to hear. Just a simple ‘any spare change’ or ‘I’ll take what you have’ from the homeless ‘problems’ around South Park, whom you have to defeat is just downright funny, or a ‘f*ck you asshole’, or ‘this is where the magic happened, she had hand magic with 2 men’ as you’re walking around town or going into friends houses, is just hellish funny. Every character has fantastic lines, (apart from yourself, no no, you’re the silent protagonist) and its a joy to listen to.
The way the Turn Based combat works is excellent, as you get choices of multiple moves, from melee to ranged attacks, Summon moves to special moves and even some Magic fart moves thrown in for great pleasure. It’s a simplistic and easy game play experience, and I found it fun, brisk, and a great overall play through. When I say simplistic, I certainly don’t mean dumbed down or half assed, as everything you would want in a turn based game is there. As said you have Magic and Mana, to do various combat moves, you have healing potions (in the terms of taco bells, cheesey poofs and what not), revivals, attack and defence help, and various ways to complete a fight. You have moves that cause the likes of bleeding, gross out factor, or stunned effects, so its not always a simple, press A, and A again, you have to work your way through the harder battles, and work intelligently, using all your skills as possible. There is a Western feel to things though from Obsidian Entertainment, as they have thrown in some quick time events, during moves, and the combat to block or continue an attack is always in the hands of the player, so even if its not your move, you are to be at the ready, as you may have time to block that attack, and counter with one of your own. Its works as fantastic as you’d hoped, and it’s again another example of the standards of game play here.
Another aspect during the combat, as briefly stated, is the Special and Magic moves, and the art style changing to that over the top cinematic look to things (as you can see on the picture to the left, Butters is going all mental during one of his specials!), that again shows how much care has gone into the game, to make it as good as it possible can, and to throw things up, and make it as unique experience, and be such a fan service of a game that it could possibly be.
Talking about Butters, throughout the game it not just you against everyone, you do have a team with you. Initially you start off with just Butters, who has been told by Cartman to take you around for the opening of the game, but as you go on you unlock other members to use, like Princess Kenny (don’t worry, you’ll find out in the game why if you havn’t seen the TV episodes), Kyle, Cartman, Jimmy and more. You can also switch between these team members within the fight for 1 turn move, so you can mix you the fighting. It’s also 2 (you and a team-mate) vs how ever many. Its another part of the game that has been thought about, to keep the battles different, interesting and fresh.
Another game play aspect is the whole RPG side if things. As said, you can buy various Magic and Mana, but you can also buy the likes of upgrades, weapons, make-up (if you wish to become a goth maybe!) and clothes. In some cases, these are quest based, (like buy certain clothes) but others are either down to you if you want to buy, or normally a help to progress through the game easier, like added bonus on clothes that add armour up or deal more damage on certain hits and what not. There are again more layers, as most weapons can have a perk , or Weapon Strap-On, as named here, for added bonus during effect, so is you want to inflict bleeding to someone, buy a strap on that with give 10% more bleeding, or are you told Aliens are effected by electricity, add a strap on that will give extra shock on each perfect attack. Again this is not just a simple cash TV tie in, there are layers to this game which any RPG fan should appreciate, be it of course on a lesser scale than what a massively budgeted AAA RPG game would have. There are a few skill trees to work through, and a level progression to level 15 for the character, but it’s still a massively enjoyable RPG experience as well.
Overall the production that’s gone in here from the creators of South Park, is just South Park fan service 100000%. You are basically playing a good 15+ hour South Park episode. Everything you could have wanted from a South Park experience is right here. All the characters, all the locations, all the jokes, all the antics, all the obscenities, all the over the top madness, it’s all here. I love the funny integration of the menu system. It’s in a Facebook style, which throughout the game, its being taken the piss out of, ‘are you on facebook’ and what not, every time you meet a new friend. Its funny to scroll down and read through the mountain of wall posts (mainly from blooming Al Gore!) that its another part of the game, that didn’t need to be included, but the creators felt the more way to rip on something so main stream, then why not.
I could talk about the censorship in the game from all regions apart from the US region, but I’m not sure if i need to. Yes being an adult who can purchase a game, shouldn’t be censored to the odd anal probing joke, but that’s the silly world that we have come to live in, one person feels it needs to be censored, ‘think about the children (even though it’s an 18+ game)’ then it’s suddenly censored for everyone. It is a real real shame, however, the way that Matt and Trey have handled the censored scenes is just as blunt as you would expect, that the censored scenes do actually comes across as rather funny, they just show a blue scene with an image and text (like the image on the left) with what would have actually happened, ‘this is an anal probe scene, the computer doesn’t work, its probes him even more and more, he says try another button’ that you get the told what they wanted in text, but we can not visually see it. For some it may take you out of the scene which could have been even more hilarious, but I still got what I needed out of the censored scenes.. I’m sure the creators are fuming with the censorship, but hey, at least the Nazi’s weren’t censored……………yet.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a game that deserved to be played. If you’re not a fan of the TV show, well, I’d still recommend it. For a game to be this good, where this reviewer has no allegiance or preference over the source material, must mean someone has done a mighty good job. It’s never a bore, you will be playing with a smile on your face the whole time, and maybe even a little tear in the eye or a pain in the side, if something tickles you a bit too much, like I did for me on too many of an occasion. I would still say I’ve hardly touched the surface of the laughs, characters, and situations that you will come across in South Park: The Stick of Truth, as it really should be something you should come across yourself, otherwise I’d be spoiling it for you. So be aware, there is loads more laughs to look out for.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is a fantastic title, that could very well be one of the best TV Tie-In games to date.
Format Reviewed – Xbox 360
A review copy was supplied for review purposes.