After growing up with a handful of god-awful South Park video games during the late nineties (some of which I actually enjoyed as a kid), the series hasn’t lent itself too well to a virtual territory. It’s a shame too, as the cartoon contains a huge amount of material, consisting of over-the-top humour and obscene characters. I’ll be honest, I was over the moon once I heard the creators of the series were making a game true to its roots. But that excitement slowly diminished, as the title left THQ, got bought by Ubisoft and then proceeded to get delayed. That is, until now.
It’s Super, Thanks For Asking
I’m pleased to say I’ve never found an RPG experience as engrossing and funny as I do with the Stick of Truth, and that’s not just because I’m a fan of the show and its humour. What creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have managed to accomplish (alongside developer Obsidian), is create a game that combines their witty writing, colourful characters and multi-layered fart jokes, wrapping it all together with fun and addictive RPG gameplay.
You begin your journey as the new kid on the street, moving to the quiet little mountain town with your parents, unaware of the mayhem that paves the road ahead. The story sees the kids of the town playing a game of elves vs. humans, in a quest to secure an item known as the Stick of Truth. For whomever holds the stick controls the universe. Between both factions, Kyle leads the elves and Cartman leads the humans. In essence this game is a parody of your typical medieval RPG, namely Skyrim. Since you’re the fresh-faced kid amongst the series’ veterans, you need to initiate yourself. As you’d expect, your first task is to create a character, being able to select from a multitude of different styles and features. Once you’ve dressed for the occasion, it’s time to explore the town and its inhabitants.
Like Looking In A Mirror
It’s striking how much Obsidian have nailed the look of the show, since there were many times I just stared at the screen waiting for something to happen, only to realise I was in fact meant to be controlling the action myself. It’s fair to say that nothing has been omitted from the crappy, animated style the series is known for. From the start you’re given free will to explore, except for a few paths that may be blocked off until you acquire the correct ability. This means that you’ll be able to visit many memorable locations from across the series, including the houses of all the main characters and other notable landmarks. This is also the first time the town has been mapped out, though its structure is surprisingly solid, given there is so much to discover. Even the entire map of Canada is represented, however, expect some adjustments to be made to its landscape.
After setting off out of the house, I bumped into Butters, who was in the middle of getting beat-up by a kid dressed as an elf. After exclaiming that his poor efforts were because he didn’t realise the elf had a health potion, he introduces himself as ‘Butters The Merciful’. He then suggests I meet the Wizard King, who’s apparently been spreading word of my arrival. Once you meet the Wizard King (Cartman), he proceeds by inviting you into the Kingdom of Koopa Keep (KKK for short), helping you pin down the finer details. Despite being ordered to give yourself a name, no matter what you put down you’ll always be referred to as ‘Douchebag’. You then get to pick between four different character classes: Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew. Since I prefer stealth orientated gameplay I went for that class, though Jew was certainly tempting.
Rules Of Engagement
Once you’ve procured a weapon from the nearby armoury, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the rules of engagement. Taking the style of turn-based combat, it’s up to you to assess the situation, before plotting the best way to attack and which consumables – or power-ups – may assist you in battle best. If you come across an enemy throughout the town, then head up to them and hit them with square, this will initiate battle and pit you against one another in traditional Final Fantasy esque combat.
At the start of each battle you’re given a power wheel, here you can select special abilities, alongside short and long range attacks, power-ups and magic. Below your health bar, which can be replenished by eating snacks such as Cheesy Poofs, you also have a bar for Power Points, as well as another one below that for Mana, which you obtain later in the game. It’s with PP that you’ll get to use your special abilities. These will consist of high-powered actions that may cause damage to one or multiple opponents, or may focus on increasing your team’s attributes; increasing your damage or decreasing an enemy’s attack.
Each time you choose to attack an enemy, you’ll be prompted by a small series of white flashes allowing you to press either X, square or triangle, depending on the attack. The power and effect of your attack will mostly be dependant on your timing with these prompts, so pay attention. The same premise is taken when you have to block an incoming attack, with a small shield icon highlighted beneath your character before impact. If you press X at the correct time, then the enemies’ move will be greatly reduced in power, leaving you to fight for that little bit longer. At first I was a bit letdown by the mechanics and felt that it hardly left any depth to the experience. It didn’t take long, however, before I was thoroughly enjoying each and every fight, paying attention to my enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, finishing them off in style.
What I loved most about the combat was its multifaceted approach. This comes into its own with your power-ups, which allows you to leave long-lasting effects on the enemy, such as grossing them out by throwing a turd at them or using knife attacks and leaving them to bleed out during combat. You can also revive a companion via shoving a Tacco down their throat, or if you’re under multiple different affects, drink a bottle of water to wash them away and start a fresh.
At first you enter fights solo, but later in the game you’ll also gain the help of a companion: whether that be Kyle, Kenny, Stan, Cartman, Butters or Jimmy. Making things even better, each of your partners have their own unique abilities and attacks, meaning that you can be strategic should the occasion call for it. Just remember that if you do want to change between companions during a battle (once you’ve unlocked enough members) it will cost you a turn, so make sure you’re prepared for the enemy’s following turn.
Time To Explore
If you decide to step away from the main story for a while, then feel free. Outside of the main quest you’ll be greeted by many friendly faces, most of whom will have their own unique quests for you to undertake. Some of the most engrossing parts of the game for me were set aside from the main campaign entirely, as I explored every home, opened every cupboard and pillaged every single piece of loot I could find. It goes without saying that each house you enter will contain references to countless memorable episodes and gags, providing even the biggest South Park fan with more than enough content to enjoy.
With all that being said, there are a handful of problems I incurred as I battled through various quests. Firstly were the controls, as with multiple actions set across only a few buttons, I did find it hard at times to comfortably get to grips with the control system. One particularly frustrating part were the tutorials on how to perform certain farts. However, funnily enough, it was only the tutorials I had the most problem with.
If I ended up performing the action wrong, I’d have to sit and watch my teacher perform the supposed action again, before trying it myself, again. All I wanted to do was fart! Another slight issue I came across was a small amount of performance problems (no, not those performance problems), as I made my way across the town and the game struggled to keep up. It wasn’t much of a problem, plus there will most likely be patches available, but I’m sure if the game ends up being made for the newer set of consoles, we’ll be in for a far smoother experience.
The only other major problem I came across was being located in Europe. Yes, unfortunately for us unlucky sods, the game has been heavily censored in multiple parts of the game. Instead, Matt and Trey have put a place holder in their absence, explaining the scene in detail. I won’t give away too much, but let’s just say that you won’t be performing any rectal examinations in mini-game form, anytime soon. Saying that, the game will be released uncut throughout North America, so if you really want to experience every obscenity the game has to offer, you can always import it. Nevertheless, there’s plenty left in the game to make even the most loyal fan drop their jaw in laughter.
- + The whole of South Park is available to explore and pillage
- + The writing and jokes have never been better!
- + Canada. That is all.
- - Controls are sometimes a little cumbersome
- - The European version is censored