I must admit I cringed when THQ, pixels bless their souls, revealed that they were working on a South Park game. I love the show and have even entertained the crappy games that attempted to push the show beyond its success only to slam on their faces in a lump of turd that is best left forgotten. The last I wanted, nay, the last thing any South Park fan wanted was to struggle through another half-assed project at a critical time for both the show and the gaming industry.
I watched the first trailer. I laughed. I watched the second (or was it the first?) gameplay trailer trailer at E3. I split a rib. Obsidian, it would seem, have done the game justice and I can only wonder what this game could have done to salvage THQ. I recently read somewhere that the game needs to sell two million copies at the least to break even. If all aligns right, and anal probes are pointed in the right direction, the game should sell heavily. It’s a fantastic approach to the South Park mythos, and possibly the best way to experience that little town in Colorado. Yes, Stick of Truth is that good.
I won’t lie and tell you that I know all the ins and outs of the show, or that I recognize all the characters I encountered in the game, but Stick of Truth does a beautiful job at presenting fans with an homage by dropping more references than I can count, and new comers an excellent way to discover the world of South Park.
The original show was never a stranger to gaming and so it’s a wonder that it took this long for a decent South Park game to surface. Abandoning the silly diversions of platformers, FPS’s and quiz games, Stick of Truth adorns an RPG robe and gracefully sits upon a throne that though demands to be revisited in the future via a sequel or spin-off, will probably stand alone as a shining moment in TV-to-gaming crossovers. Having the game fully situated in the town of South Park and involving every identifiable character that the show introduced, and whose original counterpart did not heavily sue, there is little else to revisit in regards to sequels. DLC’s are hinted on the title screen, but so were they on Duke Nukem Forever. Hint: It never happened.
Embarking on your adventure, you take the role of an unnamed, voiceless newcomer to South Park who comes off as a recluse but actually throws quite a few nods at a certain crowbar swinging hero. Your home is adjacent to that of Butters who joins you and implores you go with him to meet the wizard. When there, you are brought up to speed regarding the KKK’s struggle (that’s Kingdom of Kupa Keep, what else did you think it was?) with the Elves, and their need to protect the Stick of Truth from them. Elves attack, stick goes missing, adventure starts.
You are given four classes to choose from for your character: Traditional Fighter/Mage/Thief classes, and then there is Jew. I usually love playing the mage, specially as a support class, but this is not your average RPG and though I hesitated, my curiosity got the best of me and I picked the Jew class. With no description to as to what each class’s abilities are, I took a gamble that ultimately turned in to an awesome choice. Also, no matter what you call yourself, you will be know as douchebag. Fitting and hilarious.
Stick of Truth has you travel around the whole of South Park in a move that is a first for fans and casual visitors alike. For the first time, you are given the liberty to explore the village in its entirety, visiting classic spots that appear in the show, encountering the characters and more importantly, finally seeing where each spot exists in relation to another. In the show, when our band of merry kids leave school to go somewhere else, for example, they are teleported to their destination by the magic of TV, advertisers and limited air time. In Stick of Truth, you actually travel from one place to another, granting you the pleasure of discovering that Cartman lives two roads down from the church.
Being an open world RPG, the game is structured around simple adventuring elements, with heavy emphasis on exploration and combat. Where the latter is a joy and will come natural to anyone who’s played the excellent Costume Quest, with actions depending on basic QTE based button presses and maneuvers, the former can get repetitive and you will find yourself resorting to fast traveling soon enough. Movement is clunky and constricted to sidewalks and intersections which means that though you are free to roam, you are only allowed to do so on a fixed grid. It’s very disorienting seeing your destination but not being able to get to it unless you follow the game’s rigid X/Y grid. Perhaps one way to look at it is that your reliance on fast traveling simulates the feel of the show, but that’s a stretch by an standards.
As you explore, you will be followed by a choice of one companion who can be swapped with a press of a button, each with their own set of unique scripts and talents that will benefit you in and out of combat. Though I had unlocked quite a few companions by mid-game, I found myself resorting to only one for all save a few unique situations that require the talents of another companion. People complain about this element of reliance stating that a game that gives you little reason to explore other strategies once you’ve established your style is at fault. I for one disagree with that view and believe that a game is built for you to enjoy it, and if that means bolstering your talent with a set of determined skills throughout the whole game, so be it.
Sadly, there will probably be little to look forward to in regards to future better games, what with the whole town and its references being covered, and Obsidian will probably not be able to pick up where this game leaves off, but Stick of Truth truly plays like an extended episode of the show and goes through its downs while celebrating its highs.
The story may not be out of the box, and most side missions are lazy attempts at offering options beyond the main storyline, but the overall experience is one that I highly recommend for lovers of South Park and casual RPG’s alike. Stick of Truth would have require some more ironing to reach its full potential, but for what it offers, it’s a work of wonder that will have you live the show in the best possible way.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is available on PC (reviewed), PS3, Xbox360 and was made available to us via a review code from RED Entertainment.