“I hereby dub thee, Sir Douchebag!” – The Wizard King
South Park: The Stick of Truth is everything I could have dreamed for in a South Park video game. It had me falling out of my chair in laughter, cringing at some truly grotesque situations, and best of all, it was a damn enjoyable game. It’s a must-play for anyone who’s ever enjoyed South Park ever, and even if you’ve never watched the show, but enjoy a simple RPG that’s hilarious, it’s a must-play.
The story is where South Park: The Stick of Truth truly shines. In a nutshell, you play as the new kid in town with a mysterious past, and your talents with flatulence help you quickly become the most sought after child to join forces with either the Kingdom of Kupa Keep (KKK), lead by the Wizard King, Cartman, or The Elves, headed by King of the Elves, Kyle; more or less a gigantic game of Dungeons and Dragons that the whole town seems to be in on. The whole game revolves around The Stick of Truth which seems to be constantly getting stolen because, “whoever controls the stick, controls the universe.” The story places your character in all sorts of ridiculous situations that you would expect from South Park: Nazi Zombies, abortions, homeless people, the on-going battle between the Chinese and Mongolians, Canada, aliens, Taco Bell, and just about everything else that you can imagine. And believe it or not, it all ties together in the end in that wonderful way that only a South Park story can.
They clearly take some liberties with their story telling and humour that I expect they wouldn’t be able to get away with on television or even movies. Most of the time the jokes and situations had me holding my sides with laughter. Sometimes though, just sometimes, I found myself cringing or being slightly grossed out when they seemed to take things just a little too far, such as a truly hysterical quest to the abortion clinic where you can earn a very strange trophy.
The dialogue throughout the game is simply brilliant. Whether it be during a cutscene or just some banter between the boys while in battle or wandering would at the very least warrant a chuckle. There are cutscenes in the game where Jimmy’s seemingly endless stuttering would go on and on to the point where the game invites you to skip it altogether. I always let it go just to see how long they would let it go on (hint: extremely long). Cartman’s clueless racism and bizarre logic is ever present in this game, along with Butter’s duality of being extremely angry and lovable at the same time. During a battle, or even if you just stopped moving for a bit, the characters will start mocking you or start checking their phones, and once in a while, this is actually pretty funny. But they keep doing it. Over and over again, to the point where, unfortunately, it’s really annoying.
One of the most pleasurable things in the game is being able to go anywhere in South Park. Anywhere. Walk in to anyone’s house, their bedrooms, take a dump in their toilet, explore the sewers and every building that you’ve ever seen in South Park. On PS3 moving between sections of the map resulted in a few seconds of stuttering and lag, which didn’t really detract from the game much or even result in unwanted battles or mistakes, but it took away from the seamlessness and the feeling of being a part of the TV show. I did get a huge kick out of walking up to anyone in the town and fbeing able to get a comment out from the characters by farting or attacking them. Taking certain companion characters to different locations would lead to some funny comments. For example, taking Butters to the bank leads him into this angry speech about holding up the bank But, my favourite area in the whole game to visit is the Kingdom to the North, Canada. I would love to spoil Canada, but it’s something truly spectacular and it’s best if I leave it at that and let you experience it for yourself. There wasn’t a single moment spent in Canada that didn’t have me shaking my head from their always wonderful portrayal of Canadians or just flat out peeing my pants laughing at how ridiculous it all is.
It was actually really cool to finally see all of South Park mapped out. It finally makes sense why it never took the children very long to get from house to house on the show, or anywhere in town for that matter. It would have been nice to have a map available in “dungeons” like the school or sewers but they were simple enough to navigate without one once you went in a circle a couple times.
The only thing that really bummed me out while playing the main story is that no matter what you chose at seemingly pivotal moments didn’t change the way the game played out in any way. I went so far as to maintain different save files to just to see how it would differ, apparently not much. Even at the beginning of the game when you can customize your character’s appearance, you’re a boy no matter what. And once you start equipping armour and other costume features, you lose any essence of that character you spent time creating. The only thing that changes based on your choices are one or two cutscenes, and who your friends are for a very short period of the game.
Even if you’re not big into South Park, there’s a decent RPG game included in here too. If the gameplay wasn’t satisfying or in anyway boring, even being a fan of South Park would make it a chore to complete. But, how the game plays and works is actually very delightful.
Aside from the main quest, South Park has a number of side quests to complete that you pick up from speaking to random characters in the streets or walking into their houses. These are often fetch quests, that, if you weren’t a fan of the show, you would likely skip entirely, but things like assisting Al Gore in hunting Manbearpig, leads to some super cereal multipart quests. The best part of some of these quests is that you can unlock some pieces of gear that, if you know anything about the show, will make you laugh. Such as Chinballs. There are also a good number of collectables in the game that you pick up while performing quests like Chinpokomon or new Facebook friends that all will help you unlock new abilities and trophies as you play the game.
Facebook, while it serves no actual function in the game, is one of South Park’s coolest features because it adds a sort of “live” feeling to the game. You get random, and pretty funny messages from all the characters in the game. Sometimes there are quest hints but they’re mostly useless. It also brings back memories of the amazing Facebook episode. Your character stats are displayed as part of your Facebook profile as well. It’s bloody genius in my opinion. Where this Facebook feature bothered me, at least on PS3, is that it was sometimes frustrating to navigate and sluggish. While there were controller shortcuts to quickly get to a specific menu such as the map or inventory, navigating between each of menu tabs using R2/L2 was slow and often took a second to move from one screen to the next. It was sometimes faster to leave the menu altogether and use those shortcuts rather than trying to navigate it. I would imagine that the PC version would be much easier to navigate.
The inventory system is fairly standard: you equip a helmet, armour, gloves, choose range and melee weapons, and certain weapons and armours allow you to attach add-ons, or strap-ons that give your weapons and armour special abilities such as adding fire damage, or gross resistance.
Throughout the game you’ll collect a lot of junk inventory, which you can simply just sell and for the most part ignore. However, if you take a minute to look at what most of those junk items actually are you’ll find a number of little easter eggs and references to the show such as Butter’s best selling novel that he didn’t actually write The Poop That Took a Pee. Liane Cartman’s room is also a gold mine of hilarity littered with dildos and drugs. Other than at the very beginning of the game and the few times I needed quest items, you don’t actually have to buy anything in the game. You collect almost all of your armour and weapons while playing the game. If you find yourself desperate for cash, there are plenty of breakable objects in the game that will dispense cash or junk to sell. That never happened for me, and for the most part the game provides you with an ample amount of potions and power ups so much so that having to purchase such items is a rarity.
The battle system in Stick of Truth takes you all the way back to the turn based gameplay of old Final Fantasy games, and it’s something I really missed. Having time to think about your next move and slow down the pace a bit was a nice change from modern RPGs. On every turn you can use an item and an attack. Depending on your class, you have different Abilities available to you, but just because you’re a fighter doesn’t mean you can’t equip a staff as your main weapon. It’s kind of pointless though, as it wouldn’t help you much in battle.
I played as a fighter, where I was able to equip a range weapon and a melee weapon which was great for fighting battles in such a way that you could attack enemies whether they were behind something or not. And for both types of attack you had a normal, heavy and magic attack, where you could fart prior to your attack adding “magic” damage to your attack. To keep the turn based battle system from getting boring, all of your attacks required timed button pressing or button mashing. Perfectly timed attacks obviously did the most amount of damage, and sometimes would also allow you to have additional attacks. When being attacked, you could block a certain amount of damage in a similar manner, and a perfect block would allow you an opportunity for a counter attack. One thing that makes the game feel a little too easy is that if you have a weapon that already does a certain kind of persistent damage, say bleeding, and you add a strap-on for fire, two types of damage that almost no enemy is resistant to, and on your second weapon you add a strap-on for gross damage, you could hit an enemy twice and then never again for the whole battle and still win. It was often the case while playing that my actual attack did no damage, but having those status affects would do a ton. But overall, this system was fun and on the odd occasion somewhat challenging, but never unfair. There is a summon system in the game, each of which can be used once a day and are acquired from doing quests for special friends. They can’t be used against bosses, and pretty much always result in obliterating the enemy, but they’re so goddamn funny, it never feels like a waste.
Throughout more or less the whole game you’re accompanied by one buddy, who can be swapped out for another at anytime, both in and out of battle. The great thing about each of these buddies is that they each have a special ability that can be used in and out of battle as well. Princess Kenny for example can distract enemies outside of battle; using the same ability during battle will lower your enemies’ defences. Butters can heal fallen friends in the world, or heal you during battle.
While South Park’s animation may not be the most spectacular, it was a real treat to play the entire game as though you were in control of an episode. The amount of effort actually required to emulate that sense of being in the show seemingly pushed the PS3 much harder than one would expect. As I mentioned above, moving between sections of South Park had a few seconds of stuttering and lag every time. There were also a number oftimes that the game would freeze completely and I was forced to restart my PS3. Strangely though, my girlfriend did not experience the same freezing issues as I did on her PS3, so I wonder if it’s something about my game, or my PS3. Either way, I missed some cutscenes as a result and had to watch them on YouTube, or while my girlfriend was playing her game.
South Park: The Stick of Truth was a blast from beginning to end. It had a few odd issues and felt a little too easy at times, but it was the most I’ve enjoyed playing a licensed game, and every second of the game had that South Park charm and wonderful brand of humour that you would expect from Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The tie-ins to the show always brought a fan sized smile to my face, and had me erupting with laughter. Despite the frequent graphic and game freezing issues that were at worst, mildly irritating, the game was still very much a blast to play through.