Usually, the term ‘licensed game’ held a negative connotation, but fortunately, South Park: The Stick of Truth is one of the new breed of licensed games that is actually fun to play. It also doesn’t hurt that South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were so involved in the game’s design and creation after this kick-ass announcement during E3 2012. While fans of the show will be the ones to enjoy it most, newcomers to the franchise will find it accessible enough to get a kick out of it as well.
The story starts as you, the New Kid, first move to South Park with your family. After being kicked out of your house to go make friends, you stumble upon Cartman and his Kingdom of Kupa Keep, the KKK, and after selecting your class – Fighter, Mage, Thief, and of course Jew – set out to retrieve the mystical Stick of Truth which gives whoever holds it power over the universe; for example being able to hold the door closed when the rules say that nobody is allowed to hold doors closed, or banishing someone from both time and space. South Park: The Stick of Truth is pretty much one giant city-wide game of LARP. This spins out of control and even leads to a real-life threat to the world.
During your travels throughout the town, you’ll run into every one of the show’s iconic characters and locations: from Mr. Broflovski and Jimbo to South Park Elementary and the interior of the spaceship of the anal-probing aliens from the very first episode. Like any other RPG, you’ll be doing a lot of backtracking to different locations, and this is made easier by using Sir Timmy’s Fast Travel Locations (a wagon strapped to the back of Timmy’s wheelchair).
South Park: The Stick of Truth plays like Super Mario RPG in that it is turn-based, but you have to time your button presses to deal extra damage or block enemy attacks. All equipable items, such as armor and weapons, have a charming cobbled-together look that you would expecting from kids. Swords are made from cardboard and dildo-shaped anal probes, arrows have suction cups tips, and armor can be as simple as an ugly Christmas sweater with a towel tied to the back to simulate a cape. You’re constantly picking up new weapons, armor, and equipment modifications like patches and “strap-ons”, and it’s in your best interest to switch out equipment frequently so you’re not struggling through the game.
Like in any other RPG, as you defeat enemies and complete quests, you level up and can spend attribute points; but the most interesting mechanic is permanent perks that you can only purchase by having a certain number of friends. Health, mana, and power point potions are substituted with chips, Chinese food, and sugary drinks. If you gross out an enemy kid by farting at them before battle or stun them with a ranged weapon, they’ll carry those debuffs with them into battle. Occasionally, you’re able to bypass combat completely by using environmental habits to take out enemy kids.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are known for their raunchy, foul humor and it shines through as the most entertaining aspect of the game. Within the first five minutes of South Park: The Stick of Truth I picked up a hunk of shit that I could use in combat to gross-out other kids. Later on, during a boss fight with The Bard, he used one of his special abilities that literally made me crap my pants. Throughout the entire game there are callbacks to details from over 200 episodes of the South Park show. Everything from collecting all the Chinpokomon, to Al Gore’s hunt for ManBearPig, to Butter’s transformation to Professor Chaos. It’s pretty impressive how many references are crammed into a game that only lasts about 10-12 hours. Parker and Stone make sure to take shots at all the gaming tropes that we’ve all become accustomed to such as: audio logs, QTEs, and turn-based battles. There’s one section about 3 hours into the game in particular that mercilessly screws with you.
I’m surprised at just how much South Park: The Stick of Truth is able to get away with. Complete enough side-missions and you’ll be able to summon special South Park characters to assist you in battle; the most disturbing of which is Mr. Slave forcing a kid completely into his ass. Anal probes look like futuristic dildos (and obviously the black ones are larger). Pretty much every hot-button issue is addressed in some way, including, but not limited to: homosexuality, racism, religion, abortion, and pedophilia. South Park has been mocking these issues for years, but it’s a little strange to see them in a video game; strange but not unwelcome.
The things that are unwelcome are what keep the game from being perfect. The load times get ridiculous fast. I played the game on an Xbox 360, and even after installing it to my hard drive I still had to deal with loading every time I left a frame, entered a building or room, or started a battle. The extremely cluttered menu system that paused for a second before flipping over to the next page didn’t help either. Battles can get a little repetitive; once you find a strategy that works, you’ll find yourself spamming it until you get to a section where you have to figure out a new strategy. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Trigger Warning: It’s South Park, duh. If you’re a person who doesn’t like the show and finds their humor offensive, this game definitely isn’t for you. Even I found the show references to be a little tiresome when the game constantly winks at you about them. Other reviewers have reported having problems with the game stuttering, not loading correctly, or even technical issues that prevented progress through the game. I didn’t experience any of that, though that may be due to the patch that was released yesterday.
With how ambitious this game is, I can understand why it was delayed so many times before release. It tries to play off of established RPG elements, while injecting its creators’ humor into them. This game definitely isn’t for everybody, but most people will enjoy it tremendously, and not just those who watch the South Park show. Personally, this game hit all the right notes, even though it hit a few bad ones, and with its’ relatively short playtime for an RPG, I’m planning on going back and playing it again.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is available today on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC; you can purchase the game HERE.
[+Infused with South Park humor] [+Does a great job of playing of traditional RPG elements] [+Simple and clean art style makes it look like a South Park episode] [+Tons of customization options] [+Traverse the length and width of the town of South Park] [+High replay value with four different classes to choose from] [-South Park humor isn’t for everybody] [-Load times] [-Cluttered menu system] [-Strategy tends to fall into a few moves repeated over and over]