|System: PC, PS3*, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Obsidian Entertainment|
|Release: March 4, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
South Park games haven’t exactly been all that great. Aside from the fact that that they have to overcome the “licensed properties always suck” curse, they never quite felt like the show. They were first person shooters, tower defenses, platformers and even quiz shows, but none of these games actually felt like a South Park episode. They were just arbitrary games with a South Park coat of paint. South Park is a comedy featuring flat characters wandering a flat world and interacting with other flat characters. We already have a genre for that, the RPG, and that is why South Park: The Stick of Truth is so incredible.
You take on the role of a new kid who just moved into South Park. You get to customize your character pretty much as you would in any Skyrim or Mass Effect game, but it’s all really just aesthetic. When you meet up with the main characters of the show, they go through great lengths to never actually mention your name or appearance, giving you lewd nicknames just so that they never have to say your name out loud.
This is the first thing that makes South Park: The Stick of Truth so awesome: it makes fun of RPG conventions. It lampoons everything from fetch quests to trash loot and everything in between. Even simple concepts like HP bars get put through the South Park ringer and are referenced in delightful breakings of the fourth wall. They even do this phenomenal thing with rotoscoped cutscenes, which look like they are straight out of the old Lord of the Rings animated series. You’ll also find jabs at next-gen consoles, integrated social media in video games, inventory management, and more. Heck, they even take a stab at BioShock’s audio logs.
A good half of the humor of the game is aimed directly at RPG, DnD and fantasy fans. However, the other half of the humor is aimed squarely at fans of South Park. You’ll encounter a ton of classic South Park characters including Timmy, Jimmy, that Asian dude that works at City Wok, Butters, Mr. Mackey, Mr. Garrison, Cartman’s Mom, ManBearPig, Mr. Slave, Jimbo and Ned, and so many more. Nearly every item in the game has something to do with the South Park universe. You’ll find items like Chinpokomon, Tubs of Crème Fraiche, Cheesey Poofs, Brad Pitt’s Survival Gear, and plenty of other references that I can barely keep track of. It’s tasteless and racist and sexist and homophobic and filled with biting social commentary, just like an actual South Park episode.
That’s actually the best thing about South Park: The Stick of Truth. This isn’t just an RPG based on South Park. It’s essentially a 15 hour South Park episode! Everything looks exactly as it does in the show. Characters are flat and two dimensional, like they should be. All navigation takes place mostly on a 2D plane as you walk the three roads of South Park in order to get to your friends’ houses. All the animation looks exactly like it does in the show, from slap fights to people running around with their heads on fire. It doesn’t just look like South Park. It IS South Park.
As for the actual gameplay, don’t expect something along the lines of Skyrim or Dragon Age here. South Park: The Stick of Truth is a far more simplified RPG system, more akin to the Mario RPG series. You don’t really amass parties as much as you simply take one friend with you into adventures. When attacking, you complete a quick little mini-game, usually based on timing, to increase your damage. When defending, you do the same in order to reduce damage. Like the Mario RPG series, your “real” damage tends to be the damage you take when you get your timing correct and the same goes for your “real” defense. Sleeping on these timing sections will see you merely nicking the opponent and taking gobs of damage yourself.
Once again, I have to praise the graphics of the game, even in battle. When characters take damage, they react the way you would expect a South Park character to react. Characters snark at each other in battle and frequently there are in-battle scenes that look like something out of the show. It all feels very organic, with little barrier between the in and out of battle experience. That’s something that even non-licensed RPGs struggle with.