Gaming Nomad vs. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Ahhhh, South Park…The ever-controversial, satirical, crude, and hilarious cartoon has been a staple of Comedy Central’s programming for the past 17 years. Naturally with its success, video games were made to cash in on the show, and like many games using licensed material, South Park games have a dodgy track record.
That’s why I wasn’t exactly following The Stick of Truth up until it’s release, ignoring all the 20 minute long gameplay trailers that were all over the internet. That said, I did get this game the day it came out and it’s shockingly good and enjoyable–and this is from a person who isn’t the biggest fan of the RPG genre.
This is the South Park game fans have been wanting since forever and a perfect example of how to do a licensed game. It does have some flaws, but is none the less an extremely enjoyable game. Let’s take a closer look at the madness in South Park, Colorado.
The game starts with a brief monologue by Cartman explaining the legend of the Stick of Truth, the power it wields, and the epic war between humans and the druid elves. He speaks of a prophecy of a ‘dragon born’ that will bring balance to the land. You play as the new kid in town, moving into his new home with his parents. His parents tell him to go outside and make some new friends. There, you run into Butters who is playing a LARP (live action role play) with all the boys in South Park. He leads you to Cartman, who is head of the human faction. You start playing with the boys as Cartman explains how the game works and shows you the Stick of Truth. What starts out as an innocent game between kids gradually becomes a big adventure that could hold the fate of the secret behind the new kid and South Park in the balance.
There are a lot of things going for this game. One of them is the story. It feels dead-on like South Park, as if you’re in an episode of the show. All the characters (and there are tons of them) act just like they do on TV, and the game is packed to the brim with South Park references with top-notch humor. It is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. It is also one of the most disgusting games I’ve ever played. Pure South Park: nothing is sacred. NOTHING. If you are easily offended or grossed out, then this game isn’t for you. But if you’re a fan of the show, you should know what to expect.
This is a game that definitely earns its M rating.
As for the story, the whole LARPing set up is very charming and leads to a lot of the game’s humor. They all use everyday household objects as weapons and armor, and it’s neat to see all the kids in town in on this game. Kinda makes me want to create my own LARP, but then I’d just be a bigger nerd than I am now… Anyway, the crazy and shocking events that you’d expect to see in any season of South Park happen in this game. I won’t spoil it–but there are aliens, Nazi zombies, poop, epic battles, and even Manbearpig.
The game feels like an entire season of South Park wrapped up into 15-18 hours. The only down side is that the game is on the short side compared to other RPGs. At just 10 hours for the main story and a few more hours if you want to do all the side quests. Personally, I’m okay with that. One hundred hour RPGs are kind of what make me dislike most of the games in the genre because I don’t really have the time or patience to play through all of that. The Stick of Truth gives you most of the enjoyment and content you’d expect from a big RPG in a smaller, easier to digest package.
The Stick of Truth’s combat is what stands out as the most fun about the game. It has turned-based combat system, which is usually turn off for me in other RPGs but South Park makes it fun and engaging with a surprising amount of depth. Combat requires you to press certain buttons at certain times to achieve maximum damage, to block, or to pull off a special move–way more fun than most turn-based RPGs that just have you clicking menus. It’s a lot like Paper Mario or Mario RPG. It does require practice to get used to, and you might find yourself getting beaten up quite a bit till you get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s a lot of fun.
You will usually have one partner with you. This is a little disappointing since I’d love to have more party members on the battle screen. But you can swap them out if you need to in mid-battle. There are all kinds of rebuffs, debuffs, stances, and powers that your party and enemies can use–far more than you’d expect from a game based on South Park.
You can choose different classes to play, such as Warrior, Mage, Thief, or Jew. I was a Jew.
They all have their own abilities to use and learn. You also have customizable weapons and armor that you collect through the game that you can add modifiers to–so you can have a flaming sword or an electrified whacking stick. There are a lot of options here; plus you can change the colors of your armor. You can also gain summons of loveable characters such as Mr. Slave, Mr. Hanky, and Jesus Christ himself. The summon attacks will devastate any enemies you face, pretty much giving you a free win. This is balanced by only being able to use the summon characters once per day, and you cannot use them during boss battles.
South Park itself is recreated for you to explore. It’s not nearly as big as most open world RPGs, but damned if they didn’t cram as much stuff into the world as they could. Everywhere there are things to break and loot, things in the environment to explore and interact with, things like Chinpokomon to collect, and tons of side quests involving many characters from the show. The side quests are fun too, with good incentives to complete them, like gaining new weapons, armor, and gaining new Facebook friends.
Yes, a major part of the game is to get the people of the town to become friends with you on Facebook. The more friends you get, the more perks get opened up to you that can you an edge in combat. One odd thing is that you do get your level topped off at just 15, which does feel very early and, if you level grind at all, you’ll find yourself able to plow through most enemies as the game progresses. It kind of made it feel like I was sequence-breaking at times, which leads to the chief complaint I hear about the game: It’s too easy. And yeah, it is pretty easy a lot of the time with the game giving you generous amounts of health items throughout, as well as allowing you to both heal and attack during your turn.
However, I didn’t find that it took any enjoyment away from the game. There are some parts with sudden spikes in difficulty like the boss fight with Al Gore. Also some new game mechanics that you encounter are not explained that well. There is a part that–I will not go into detail over because it’s kind of a spoiler… and just f@#king disgusting– where I found myself dying over and over again because the controls were poorly explained. This is also an issue with the game’s magic system (aka farting). You pull back on the control stick to charge up your fart then push it up to let her rip.
This honestly isn’t explained that well in the tutorials and, like with the combat, will require some practice first. There are some glitches in the game unfortunately that can be game-breaking at times. Personally, I have only run into minor glitches here and there that weren’t too bad, but I have heard reports of more serious issues. I have the PS3 version and I think there have been fewer issues with this version. A lot of these issues can be fixed up with a patch, I believe.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
The first thing anyone will notice about this game is that it looks just like the show. It uses the exact same paper cutout style that is used in the animation of the show. It looks great and is a big part of what immerses you into the game. The presentation for this game is just perfect. The characters all look as they should and your character is rather adorable with his awkwardly sad look and silence. The only issue visually that I have run into are some pretty bad frame rate/slow downs at some points. This usually happens after exiting a building and returning to the main over world, though it would usually clear up after a few seconds. This is again something that could easily be fixed with a patch.
The voice acting by Trey Parker and Matt Stone is spot on as you’d expect from the show’s creators with an excellent script also written by them. This once again adds to the immersion of this game. The humor, dialogue, and acting never miss a beat and is exactly what’d expect from South Park. The music in the game is surprisingly beautiful. I was expecting the usual twangy guitar from the show but it actually has some beautifully epic medieval sounding music throughout the game. It also has some other songs from the show like ‘Let’s Fighting Love’ and music from other Trey Parker and Matt Stone works like Team America appear in a few places too.
This game is the closest you will ever come to being in South Park.
Overall, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a must own for any South Park fan. If you haven’t played it yet, go get it! Now! It is worth its full price. It does have some technical issues here and there but I feel those can be easily fixed with a patch. The default difficulty it pretty easy but can be turned up. The multiple classes and a few choices you make in the game give it enough replay value to play through the game more than once. Even if you’re not the biggest South Park fan, you should be able to enjoy the combat, exploring the town, the plethora of laughs, even if you don’t get all the references.
If you hate South Park, well, then this game obviously isn’t for you then. For the rest of us, this is the perfect example of how licensed game should be done. Thanks for reading! Look forward to more game and anime reviews coming in the near future!
- Excellent presentation in every way, very immersive to the South Park universe
- Combat is a lot of fun but does take some practice
- Excellent voice acting and music, feels just like an episode of South Park
- Some glitches but should be easily fixed by patch
- New game mechanics not always explained well
- Might be too short and easy for some