South Park: Stick of Truth Review
I was cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the South Park game. I have been watching the show for over a decade, and I was afraid that the game would not do the show justice, with both the way it looked and the way it felt. As release dates were pushed back and developers went under, I continued to lose hope that it would be what I wanted. I started to wonder if it would even come out at all, but when the March 4rd date was set, and came with no further delays, I could barely contain my excitement. And I was not in the least bit disappointed.
The game plays like an extended episode of South Park, complete with perfectly spot on art style, movement, and music. The characters, including the one you make yourself, and perfectly represented in the construction paper style that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have perfected over the years. The bouncing of the characters when they run up and down stairs feels familiar, and the recognizable guitar rift when you turn the game on is a perfect fit in the South Park world. The voice actors are the same as the show, which makes it feel fluid from the show, and everything from the music to the background noise and chatter feels right. Trey and Matt wanted to have a heavy hand in the creation of the game: not only does it show, it benefits the end result. For the first time it was made clear where each house and building was located in South Park – I’m sure I spent the first three hours just wandering around and opening doors and garages and exploring different houses.
The main story is pretty straight forward, and feels like a typical South Park episode – choose a side, and acquire the Stick of Truth to maintain control of the universe. Of course, there are many distractions along the way, including dealing with aliens, underpants gnomes, and feuding factions. I am not going to go into any details whatsoeveron the actual storyline: I don’t want to spoil even the tiniest thing, but trust me – it’s exactly what you would want. In terms of the expected tropes in an RPG, the South Park: Stick of Truth is pretty standard. However, the many optional side quests not only make your attempts to get the Stick of Truth easier (through summons, for example), but also add hilarious adventures to follow. My favourites would have to be finding Al Gore hiding in a bush to ask for help in defeating Manbearpig, and finding Jesus while he hides from you and “tee hee hee’s”. I was laughing the entire way.
The number of inside jokes like this are hilarious – too many times I laughed out loud, startling my husband doing work nearby with my cackles. Tom Cruise hiding in the closet (the different contents of all the kids closets, for that matter), music playing in the background, and different episodes of “Terrance and Phillip” playing on the TV’s. The Canada jokes. Scott Malkinson wearing a bandolier of insulin. They are everywhere, and endless, and placed perfectly in the background. There is never a moment where these feel like the game is screaming, “look at me! Remember this joke?! WASN’T IT FUNNY?!?!!” – they feel natural. You can tell that Matt and Trey worked closely with the developers in the creation of the game, and it does nothing but make it better.
The combat, while typical of any turn based RPG, still feels different and fun with the addition of mana powered farting, flinging of turds, and screaming enemies when they’re set on fire from burning arrows. For the first time the result of different affects in battle like this are displayed graphically: burn, slow, and “grossed out” are represented in battle by screaming, icicle bodies, and constant puking. The capability of being able to both use an item and attack in one turn is nice, and for once I actually used the buffing items I typically end up ignoring in other RPG’s. Eventually, however, it became to felt repetitive, and I found myself purposely skipping different encounters to avoid it. The potential to sometimes defeat enemies via the environment without losing any of the experience or loot was nice – I could fart, burn, or drop things on enemies instead, and then move on.
The need to choose a class when you first begin feels unnecessary for combat and equipment, as you can use any weapon and armour combination you want, as long as you are the right level. The only difference becomes between your special abilities: backstabbing, nut kicking, or what have you. My fighter ended up using a bow almost exclusively, and wore a combination of fighter, monk, and druid garb throughout. Character creation, although limited to males only, became infinitely customizable once you begin exploring. Very early on I had enough wigs, facepaint, and dyes to make my little mini me look exactly like myself – and then immediately changed it up to look like a goth for one mission, and Heisenberg for another. I enjoyed the ability to truly customize my weapons with addons that added shock, frost or fire damage, as well as move seamlessly from my Rod of Major Boobage to my Mongolian Bow without worrying about whether or not that matched my class. Quickly swapping companions was also appreciated – many times I realized the skills of my current companion didn’t match the opponent I faced, but with a quick couple of clicks, I was able to bring in another one.
The collectibles and trophies really hit the sweet spot in terms of replayability. I don’t mind the prospect of playing through the story line again to grab the Chinpokomon I missed, or trophies that require me to be a specific class (mainly, a Jew). I want to see what it’s like to choose to either side with Cartman or Kyle, and I want to continue to explore South Park and all the hidden inside jokes. A game that draws you into walking in the wrong direction and exploring every nook and cranny before starting even a single quest is a well made universe, and I already look forward to doing it again.
Although it had a shaky road to release, the South Park: The Stick of Truth does not suffer for it. The involvement of Matt Stone and Trey Parker made sure that the game rang true to what is expected from the South Park universe. It delivers in every way imaginable: it looks and sounds great, plays right, and has enough fart jokes, anal probes, hobos and gingers to keep any South Park fan happy. If you are a South Park fan, an RPG fan, or even a fan of giggling a lot while playing a well made game, then this is worth your money and more. Respect my authority – go and pick this one up.