I’ve been a South Park fan ever since seeing the series on video back in the late 90’s long before my cable company even had Comedy Central. One of the episodes from 2002, The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers, poked fun at The Lord of the Rings films and LARP’ing (Live Action Role Playing) as only the show can.
It may have taken the guys their sweet time, but at long last a videogame has been made that more than faithfully captures the show’s sick sense of humor and expands on the kids RPG fantasy in South Park: The Stick of Truth.
The game places you in the shoes of the new kid who has just moved into town. Here you get to customize him to look like you want (sorry ladies, there isn’t a gender option, though you can find wigs and clothes to make him look like a girl). With looks out of the way, your parents urge you to go outside and make friends, leading you to meet the always friendly Butters who is pretend fighting against another kid. After saving Butters, he leads you to the Wizard King (aka Cartman) who decides to let you join them on their LARP adventure, which involves protecting the titular Stick of Truth, an object that holds immense power and allows anyone who holds it to control the universe (it’s just a plain stick).
From here you get to pick your name (doesn’t matter what you pick, as everyone will refer to you as douche bag) and class such as a warrior, mage, thief or Jew (yup, they go there), and then it’s off to a tutorial where Cartman guides you on how to play and learning the ways of turn-based combat. After selecting a target and an attack, you’ll have to time your button press to when your weapon shines to do extra damage. The timing also comes into play when someone attacks you and you have to time your block to successfully defend yourself. The only main differences between the classes are the special abilities you can use, such as the warrior using strong melee attacks with a baseball bat, or the mage using fireworks to simulate fire magic.
I found the attacks to be hilarious as you can actually set kids on fire, make them bleed, etc that also serve as status ailments. Or course there are items such as potions (small bags of cheesy poofs and bottled water) that will allow you to recover health and cure status debuffs on your characters.
Once fully prepped, you learn that the Stick has been stolen and must go on an epic quest to recover it. And with this being South Park, nothing is as easy or simple as it should be, as you’ll encounter government agents, aliens and more who want the stick and your new kid character for their own evil reasons. As you play, you earn experience points from fighting enemies and completing quests that will allow you to level up and upgrade your skills / learn new ones. You’ll also gain new abilities such as being able to customize your weapons and gear from making friends with people in town and adding them your facebook-like app on your cellphone. This along with finding hidden items throughout the game such as the infamous Chinpokomon toys laying around, almost feels like a zany scavenger hunt game while exploring the town and completing quests.
The main thing that really drew me into the game was how close it looks, moves and sounds just like the TV series. Any fan of the show will immediately fall in the love with the overall presentation. There were so many times where I caught myself laughing out loud at the dialogue (with Matt Stone and Trey Parker doing what they do best with the voices) and the things you can do while playing, from farting with the right analog stick (which becomes a super move for you to use against enemies later on) to just running around bumping into stuff and seeing people react to it.
Naturally, all of this fun isn’t without a few turds. I did notice from framerate issues as I ran about the town, ranging from just OK to the point I was scared the game might crash intensity. Also the combat difficulty can be a bit hokey, as sometimes you’ll be able to instantly kill enemies, while other times they can get the upper hand on you easily. Hopefully these are some things that can easily be fixed in an upcoming patch, but besides those issues everything seems to be fairly solid throughout.
It really helps to be a fan of the show to really enjoy South Park: The Stick of Truth, as there’s plenty of offensive and downright sick and twisted fun to be had here. It’s a shame the game’s technical achievements, it’s awesome replication of the show’s look and feel, are so often hampered by a lousy framerate and stutters. Still, hardcore fans and those not easily offended will find plenty to enjoy and laugh about here as they battle through and explore the wild and twisted town that is South Park.