Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: RPG Platform Played: PC
South Park has always been a controversial TV show, with its satire take on racism, homosexuality, teenagers, wars and pretty much everything between. Over its 17 year life span on television there is no controversial subject which Trey Parker and Matt Stone have left untouched. Everything is up for grabs in their eyes, and South Park: The Stick of Truth continues with that reputation of shock value comedy.
It was a rocky development for the game, with change of publishers, delays and various other setbacks, so there was always a little bit of doubt whether Obsidian would pull it off. Luckily they had the genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone to lead their creative ambition to pull off a fantastically funny turn-based RPG.
The story revolves around the battle for the Stick of Truth which whoever holds it controls the entire universe. You play as a mute character who has just moved into the small Colorado town of South Park, stepping into the middle of a huge LARP battle between the Elves and the Humans through the power of their imaginations. At the head of the Humans is Cartman the Grand Wizard of Kingdom of Kupa Keep or ‘KKK’ for short who is accompanied by Princess Kenny and Butters the Paladin. For the Elves, Kyle leads their army with Stan to try and reclaim the Stick of Truth. In true South Park style the story begins to escalate wildly and hilariously, running into conspiracies, aliens, Taco Bell and a paranoid Randy.
When you create your own South Park character in the creation menu you have the option of four different classes: Warrior, Thief, Mage and most importantly the Jew. The classes all have their own different moves but weapons and armour are free for all classes, as well as the perk system which you upgrade by gaining a massive following on social networks. There is a limited amount of options to create your own character, but as you gain loot you can get an abundance of different hair styles, make up options and facial hair too. You can even go to the Rhinoplasty, get plastic surgery and come out looking like David Hasselhoff. Seriously you guys.
The funny attempts at Cosplay combine so well with the cut-copy of the South Park setting and the Paper Mario-esque combat style. You parade around the town with a companion to aid in your combats against gingers, Nazi-Zombie adults and foetuses, aliens and many other crazy enemies. As you progress you can switch buddies to help give you an advantage in fights which have a surprising amount of depth to them. Enemies can block, riposte, reflect, buff themselves, debuff you which all combines for entertaining battles.
My favourite companions were Butters and Cartman simply because of how strong they are, with Butters Professor Chaos ability arguably the most powerful ability besides your Nagasaki warhead fart. I wish I could have had more companions simply because it was hilarious to hear Jimmy stutter along and hearing Cartman curse every time something doesn’t go his way. My favourite move just to look at however was Jimmy’s special ability to make the enemy shit themselves called the Brown Note. He climbs to the top of the mountain and blows into a giant horn to release the enemies’ bowels, which is another reference to one of the episodes. It was hilariously disgusting.
As for your own attacks and defences, you have quite a number of options to choose from. I played as a Jew which definitely had unique special abilities. My three favourite abilities were Sling of David, Circum-scythe and the Plagues of Jerusalem, they really don’t hold back with the Jew class. As you level up you can increase certain effects of your chosen special ability to perform more damage while you can use the Perk system to gain additional benefits like more health or more damage to opponent’s bleeding. It really adds a lot more depth to the game than I had originally anticipated.
In a crude parody of Skyrim, you learn the almighty power of special farts which are surprisingly effective. You learn the farts progressively throughout the game with the most powerful fart coming from an unsurprising yet still hilarious character duo (fans of the show will know already who I’m talking about). The controls to use the farts however were a bit cumbersome but I didn’t mind too much. You simply hold the right mouse button while finding your fart frequency with A or D and left-click when the frequency is ready.
The controls were similar for special abilities too, with some requiring mashing a button or using the arrows like in an arcade dancing game. You have to do the same with defending also, with blocking moves a very big part of the game. A white circle forms around you just as an enemy is about to attack which you have to time just right to block some of the damage. So you really have to be ready for any attack, because if you don’t react quick enough you will lose a lot of health.
To aid in shortening battles, you can also use the environment to your advantage before fights. For example in one of the sequences a payphone shines indicating you can hit it, which drew the enemy over. Once he was next to the phone, you can shoot the stack of chairs to collapse onto the enemy. It really helps to make sure fights don’t become tedious and to keep them short.
Now the references play a huge part in this show through small and large mediums. When you walk into a store you might hear the much-famed Taco Flavoured Kisses song playing in the background, or notice a picture of the giant poo Randy did on his quest to beat Bono or event collect your own Chinpokomons. You will encounter nearly every single major character throughout your journey who all have some funny things to say.
It is very clear Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted to squeeze in as much South Park references as they possibly could, all with mostly great effect. There were only a couple times that something seemed like it was forced simply because it was another reference but it was still cool to see those references at the same time.
Now there were a few issues I encountered which were a combination of the game simply not informing about a certain mechanic and general bugs. First of all when are you exploring South Park and you encounter an enemy, you actually have to hit the character first so you get the first turn in combat. It is a very important mechanic which really should have been explained early because when you encounter a party of 5 enemies, you and your buddy will most likely be on very low health by the time you get a turn. I didn’t learn that till I had actually finished the story and kept on exploring, it definitely would have been handy advice especially if you play on hard-core mode.
Another thing is the fact that there could have been a few more choices throughout the story, besides the one big one you have to choose. It would’ve been cool to have had a bit more of a say in certain sections of the game. It means that while the only reason for replay ability is to try other classes, or just for more enjoyment. As for bugs I encountered only a few, one of them being sometimes there was no sound coming from an enemy when they were clearly talking. It definitely isn’t enough to take away from the experience though.
As for actually exploring South Park, there are plenty of references and collectables for you to encounter. While it is open-world, not everything can be accessed. Some doors remain closed or not even there, for instance you can’t even see Ike’s room. When you explore you encounter hilarious side-quests like finding Jesus or helping Al Gore with his quest to hunt down Manbearpig, I’m super serial. After helping out people or even just clicking on them you get friend requests to help build your social network army. Like most open-world RPG’s, you have to explore it before you gain all the fast-travels. So when you encounter a flag with a horn, you press on it and the Timmy Express will take you to your desired destination.
The roughly 14 hours of simply outrageous scenes, satire references and intelligent absurdity seems like the perfect length. I definitely wish some of the other characters had more screen time like Towelie who only appears in the loading screens and the Christmas Critters who have a very small cameo in the forest. But, it allows them to utilise these characters more influentially in later DLC’s for the game which I reckon might take place in the South Park Mall considering it was closed off the whole time, before and after certain events. Also despite the character being mute, the way the game is written it makes up for it and still makes your character feel important.
Is this a game for people who aren’t fans of the show? Perhaps not, but it is definitely a must-play for anyone thinking about getting into South Park and long-time fans. If you are easily offended, well you probably already know to steer clear of this game because the nothing is held back here besides certain scenes which didn’t make classification rules in Australia and EU. Instead of watching Randy get anally-probed by aliens I instead got to see a crying Koala with didgeridoos playing in the background (Yes I’m Australian) with a written description of the event. It is essentially a season within itself and offers a lot more depth than most people would imagine. It is all I could ask for in a South Park game, without using everything to ensure fresh content for future DLC’s. You aren’t playing a South Park game; you are playing IN South Park.
+ Exact cut-copy of the South Park world
+ Hilariously gross yet intelligent story and side quests
+ Huge weapon variety, from alien probe swords to basketballs
+ Lots of character customization throughout the game
+ Tonnes of references for long-term fans to enjoy
– Not a huge variety between classes besides moves
– Fails to mention certain mechanics
– Occasional sound bugs