South Park: The Stick of Truth
(PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
In the 17 years since its debut (Wow, I am old), the always controversial Comedy Central juggernaut that is “South Park” has only spawned a handful of major video game releases and — until now — none of them have managed to properly capture the perfect blend of crass crude humour, absurd surrealism, and biting satire that has made the show such a smash hit for nearly two decades.
“South Park: The Stick of Truth” delivers for gamers and fans of the show. — Submitted image
We’ve had kart racers, party games and first-person shooters, all with trappings of the show, small slivers of it worn like decorations on a Christmas tree. But never has there been a game that has worn the show like a skin, taken fans in for a long, close look at its world — until now.
“South Park: The Stick of Truth,” having survived the collapse of its original publisher has finally made it onto store shelves, and man, if you’re a gamer and a fan of the show at all, you’re in for a treat.
Developed by the solid hands at Obsidian Entertainment, and written by showrunners Trey Parker and Matt Stone, “Stick of Truth” is both a parody of RPGs and the many tropes contained within them, as well as a pretty damn fun RPG in its own right.
Players start out by crafting a “new kid” in town, who is soon swept up into a game of “Fantasy War” between Eric Cartman’s humans and Kyle Broflovski’s drow elves. Of course, things very quickly go off the rails, and what results is a journey to save the world down the most disturbingly hilarious road possible.
I won’t spoil a single moment of i. Suffice it to say that those with any experience watching “South Park” will be holding their sides in pain from laughter, and anyone else will either be disgusted or horrified.
It captures the look, sound and feel of the show brilliantly, looking exactly like an episode during cut scenes, featuring the entire voice cast and even using the “back from commercials” guitar riff when a saved game is loaded up.
There are four starting classes to choose from, three standard choices of Fighter, Mage and Thief; along with one more that I won’t name in this article. While these classes all start with their own sorts of weapons and abilities, through use of “strap-ons” (South Park’s take on add-ons), and patches gained by making friends around South Park’s small but incredibly detailed map, it’s easy enough to mold your character into whatever you want him to be.
Other party members are frustratingly locked down in the sense of their abilities and equipment, but can be swapped out on a whim both in the thick of battle and out. “Stick of Truth” is not nearly as in-depth as most RPGs, but is far beyond the depth one would expect from the material, or a licenced game in general.
Of course, it is as gentle and easy to play as the humour is savage. Combat is only kept interesting through the use of “Super Mario RPG”-like QTEs to activate attacks and skills. Some may have you mashing a button as hard and fast as possible; others might involve a Street Fighter-styled scoop motion.
Any player who is at all thorough in their play will find that the game presents little to no challenge. There is a near constant flow of loot, items and cash from vanquished enemies and discovered chests, so the “new kid” is given just about everything he needs to get through this adventure from start to finish — but, isn’t that the entire point?
“Stick of Truth” was brilliantly crafted to act like a 15-20 hour long story arc of “South Park” itself, so instead of being stupidly hard, or wearing out its welcome, it transitions from one gag to the next with a sense of leisure.
By the time one joke is starting to get tiresome, it’s on to the next shocker.
One might be mistaken by my enthusiasm that I am a diehard follower of “South Park” — I am not. I’ve seen maybe 10 episodes and the movie in 17 years, but I will argue that, at its best, it is brilliantly written, wickedly funny satire ... and “South Park: The Stick of Truth” is certainly the phenomenon presented at its best.
The side gags, pop culture references and digs at gaming cliches number in the hundreds, and all are attacked with military precision.
There are downsides to playing through this, as the combat system (and really any “game-y” aspects of the game) are stripped down and streamlined to avoid any challenge or complexity, and most gamers will find zero reason to play through it ever again after they’ve stopped laughing.
But pound for pound, there hasn’t been a game this funny in as long as I can remember. Just please don’t let your younger siblings or kids anywhere near it.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC (360 version reviewed)
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release date: March 4
Rated: M for Mature.
Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué