South Park is definitely not for everyone. In the 17 years it has been on the air it has probably offended more people than any other TV show. Its crude humour ranges from Tom Cruise being locked in a closet and not wanting to come out to Kanye West being a gay fish and everything in between. It is a show that doesn’t pull any punches and yet still has such a following that after 17 seasons, it’s still going strong. After 4 long years in development Obsidian have delivered an excellent game that pays homage to the source material while delivering something fresh that could be considered an entire season of the show wrapped into a nice 14-hour RPG.
South Park as a franchise has had a long video game history ranging from first person shooters, to cart racers, to side scrolling platformers. When The Stick of Truth was announced as a RPG set in the open world of South Park it was a very ambitious idea. After the original publisher THQ closed down the project moved over to Ubisoft, pairing that with the many delays, the game went through development turmoil for a very long time and was finally released in March 2014. With Trey Parker and Matt Stone to both pen the story and provide the voice over work I had really high hopes for this project. As ambitious as it was there was confidence in that they could hit the mark and indeed they have.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth takes you on an outrageously funny, painfully crude 14-hour journey that will have you entering Mr Slave, fighting off gingers, travelling around an 8-bit Canada and battling underpants gnomes. For the first time ever South Park creators Matt and Trey have had to map out the entirety of South Park, granting you an open world with a myriad of familiar faces and places to enjoy.
The Stick of Truth puts you in the shoes of the new kid in the quiet little mountain town, a Silent Sam protagonist that is tasked to either fight with Cartman’s human clan or Kyle’s Drow Elves in order to regain and hold onto the all-powerful Stick of Truth. Along the way there are a healthy amount of side quests to take on such as tackling Jimbo’s Big Game Hunts, finding Mr Hankey’s children, and cleaning up the local homeless people problem.
Unlike most of the other South Park games that have come before this one The Stick of Truth has gone for a design that looks exactly like an episode of South Park, disregarding the very few button prompts that the game displays and some slight framerate dips it would be very hard to tell the difference between the two. As a pretty big South Park fan I couldn’t help but explore as much of the map as I could as soon as I was let off the leash a mere 15 minutes into the game. Searching through the main characters houses or exploring familiar sights such as the Police Station or the Mayor’s Office offer hours of entertainment just in themselves. Almost every piece of equipment, every piece of junk and every environment is a nod to a different episode, character or joke from the show. If you aren’t a big fan of the TV show or haven’t watched many episodes you might find that a lot of the references fly straight over your head. Luckily the hilarious dialogue still has many new jokes that will have any fan of crude humour in stitches.
After sinking about 20 hours into the game and moving through my second playthrough there are only a small number of issues I have encountered. Slight framerate drops are frequent on the PS3 when moving from one area to the other. I never encountered them during battle or during cutscenes so it was never too much of an issue, it was almost a bit of a wakeup call at times, letting me know that I was in fact playing a game and not just watching another episode. Along with the framerate issues often my character would get stuck after opening chests or interacting with NPCs, allowing me only to walk up and down and not side to side. After a few seconds it would revert back to normal which made it another issue that although not game-breaking, was quite annoying at times. Despite these minor issues Obsidian have done an excellent job at capturing what it would be like to be the new kid in South Park and have made a game which is probably just as much entertainment with or without the controller in your hand.
RPGs can often be daunting to get into, with the majority of them usually taking upwards of 30 hours which can be quite a commitment. Obsidian have done an excellent job to have the mouldings of an epic RPG while making the game easy to pick up for RPG newcomers. The Stick of Truth could be categorised as a turn-based RPG, although it is more like a turn-based RPG-lite. All the makings of an in-depth RPG are present: levelling up, a huge amount of weapons and equipment, upgradable perks, magic and special moves, and yet you never feel like you have to grind to level up, or worry too much about the gear you are wearing. This gives the player the option of how deep they will take the simple-to-use levelling system. At the beginning of the game the player has the option to play as 4 different classes, a warrior, a mage, a thief and a jew. I chose to go with the thief type but this ultimately amounts to nothing as you can wear or use any equipment or weapons when playing through the game and only the special attacks differ between the classes.
The turn-based gameplay plays mostly like other turn based games with the ability to choose between attacks, special moves, items and magic, with the added bonus of being able to block and counter opponents’ attacks by hitting a button with precise timing. This is also used when attacking; a perfectly timed attack will do greater damage to your enemy. This mechanic adds something different to the often repetitive turn-based style gameplay and will constantly keep you on your toes during battle. You can choose to fight alongside one other South Park kid at all times during battle and choosing who to fight with can net you an advantage during some fights whether it is Princess Kenny’s ranged attacks to hit the enemies hiding behind their friends or Butters’ Professor Chaos special move to blast away everyone opponent that stands before you.
The levelling system and menu comes in the form of an in game Facebook. Throughout your time with the campaign each person you can interact with has the capacity to become your friend on Facebook. This can be achieved through simply having a conversation with them or completing a side quest for them. This along with a huge number of collectibles, including Chinpokomon and a massive amount of wearable costumes, wigs and flair, are substantial incentives to go through this game with a fine-toothed comb and discover everything it has to offer.
In many ways The Stick of Truth gives South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone an empty canvas to create an insanely crude, extremely violent, uncensored colossal episode. No punches are pulled as you shrink down to underpants gnome size to enter Mr Slave or the amount of obscenities that comes from all of your favourite characters. Some scenes were even censored in a number of countries. Along with some countries in Europe and Asia, Australia has a censored version of the game and therefore I had to play through a version where 7 scenes were censored – both heavily involving either anal probing or abortion. Each time a censored section of the game begins a snapshot of a crying koala appears on the screen, apologising that we aren’t able to witness the scene and briefly explaining what happens during the deleted section. This ultimately doesn’t take much away from the game and even adds another small layer of humour with each censored screen being tailored to specific country. A handful of cutscenes were censored as well as one small mini game.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is easily one of the funniest games I have played. Being a big fan of the show does help due to understanding references and already knowing the characters, although I would recommend this to anyone with a crude sense of humour. All of your favourite characters and locations are sure to make an appearance as you make your way through this excellently crafted game. South Park plays extremely well, a small handful of technical issues aside, making light of the intense RPG shackles and making it easy for any fan of the TV show to pick up and play. Obsidian along with the South Park creators have made an excellent game worthy to be on the shelf of any RPG or South Park fan.