South Park: The Stick of Truth was released for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 by Ubisoft and Obsidian entertainment. The version this review is based on is the Xbox 360 version. Other versions may differ.
How often have you picked up a movie or television licensed game, only to find that it sucks balls? There are very few exceptions that I can think of (namely Spiderman 2, the Capcom Disney games and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay), but now we can add another game to the list. South Park the Stick of Truth perfectly captures the essence of the show it’s based on. It helps to have the original creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone handling the story, but everything about this game sucks you into the world of South Park.
What’s the story? A new kid (the player) moves to the little mountain town of South Park, and quickly gets invited by the local kids to take part in their role playing game, where the humans and elves battle over control of the stick of truth (it’s basically just a stick, but to the kids of South Park it’s the key to the Universe). And I should probably not say anything else, or I’d be ruining great reveal after great reveal. Let’s just say that it’s very true to the plot of an episode of the show and leave it at that. If you don’t know the setting of South Park: the show revolves around a group of 9 year old boys living in the small mountain town of South Park, consisting of the good natured Stan, the kind and clever Kyle, the scheming, disgusting and all around despicable Cartman and the always indestructible Kenny. They usually find themselves wrapped up in adventures, but more often than not they just want to play and be kids. Other stories revolve around the colorful cast of side characters, like the innocent and unassuming Butters and Stan’s uncontrollable and immature father Randy to name a few.
The writing is exactly what you’d expect from South Park: plenty of pop culture references and poop jokes, but at the same time it uses clever satire to give it more of an impact. I mean, any show can make a poop joke, but only South Park can use that poop joke to show how the American government is doing something idiotic. It’s clever and insightful humour, but you need to have your brain tuned to the potty humour frequency to get it. It does have some of the out there humour, ranging from Jew being a playable class, to Nazi zombies that wear a swastika and whose entire speech library consists of stock audio of Adolf Hitler (Yes, there is a character in a game voiced by Adolf Hitler. This is why I love this show!). Needless to say, if you’re not a fan of South park you won’t like this. If you haven’t seen the show, I suggest watching a few episodes, see how it gels and then decide if you want to buy this game or not. It’s full of fan service, with constant references to episodes, but at least this is kept to side gags. The missions themselves are something entirely new, so you’re feeling like you’re playing a story you’ve already seen on the show, which is important in a game like this.
Gameplay wise it’s a turn based RPG; one that is surprisingly deep and strategic at times. Enemies will hide behind other enemies or adapt stances that deflect ranged attacks, so you need to plan out your moves accordingly. You and you’re battle buddy use standard attacks, either light of heavy though your buddies attack is dependent on who you’re with, with Stan using a light attack that can hit multiple enemies or Kenny using a ranged bow, special abilities, or magic farts. Abilities are fun with their own benefits, but I felt like near the end your buddies get abilities that are somewhat over powered. Normally you would save these, but since your PP replenishes after a fight there’s no incentive to save you’re big moves. I found myself clearing encounters with relative ease, even on the harder difficulty, despite a fairly challenging difficulty curve early on. Games should balance their difficulty, so that the game gets harder as the player gets stronger. But near the end items are so plentiful and attacks are so powerful that it feels too easy.
There are also summons from the show that defeat an entire encounter in one move (except for bosses), but they can only be used one a day in game, so you have to ration them correctly. It’s more for the novelty than anything else, but at the same time they feel well balanced and don’t break the game. There’s a decent amount of customization, with different dyes, outfits with different abilities and patches, which give unique effects to your outfit. It also does a great job of immersing you in the world. The adults show up every now and again, trying to get you involved in what they consider to be bigger issues, but you want to get their sections over with so you can continue your game, which is very true to a typical plot of the show. Also a common fear in the show is the parents getting mad and grounding you, which carries over into this game. I was simply wandering around when the other characters had gone home to bed, but my father tracked me down and chastised me for being late. I actually rushed home the next day just so I wouldn’t get yelled at!
The graphics are mirror perfect to the show, from the cut scenes down to walk around town, it look exactly like the show in every detail. There are a few graphical glitches, like my character disappearing in scenes he is supposed to be in, dialogue or music cutting out, and sometimes a character will be standing behind your character, but appear to be in front of them. It’s hard to explain, but it looks like someone is standing behind an object, but their arm is over the side of the object. Fortunately these glitches are purely graphical and rare, though I did find one glitch where you can’t skip a cut scene where a character stutters continuously, but in previous cut scenes it’s made clear that you were supposed to skip these, or they loop. It did stop looping eventually so it didn’t break the game, but it’s a flaw regardless.
The story mode is a fairly decent length, wavering on shorter than average, about 7 hours or so, but this is extended to around 12 hours with side quests and exploring the town to gather all collectables. Plus the shorter length of the story makes playing through again as a different class more accessible. This is the best type of game to replay: I don’t want to keep playing because the game makes me with achievements or the like, but because I want to.
The sum up, South Park: the stick of Truth is a fantastic game; it’s funny and well written with a surprisingly deep combat system, though it tends to get a little easy towards the end and has a few graphical glitches. Fans of more complex RPGs or people not keen on the show will probably find it lacking, but it is a must buy for fans of the series.
+ Graphics and style emulate the show it’s based on perfectly
+ Well though out and complex combat system
+ Well-written story
– A bit on the easy side
– A few graphical glitches