Created by long-time friends Trey Parker and Matt Stone in 1992 and 1995 as two separate animated short films, South Park has reached cult status across the globe. The television series started airing in 1997, with over 247 episodes to date over 17 seasons. The franchise has been doing so well, that the series is scheduled to be aired on Comedy Central until at least 2016.
As with all things that are incredibly popular in a hyper-connected world, the franchise has released its latest video game title, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment in collaboration with South Park Digital Studios and THQ, players take on the role of a new kid in the South Park neighbourhood, and have to help Cartman and his band of marauding misfits reclaim the Stick of Truth from a group of elves.
This of course is played out in a way most kids know best: backyard role-playing. Players are recruited by Cartman, and given rudimentary weapons to start out with. The title’s perspective is actually a bit confusing to explain: players are role-playing the new kid, who is role-playing with Cartman.
Given South Park’s reputation, does The Stick of Truth live up to expectations? The short answer is yes.
What we like about it
Although turn-based combat isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, in this case it works pretty well. The developers have opted to make it as close to your standard turn-based role-playing games as possible, which should be well-received by players.
Taking turns in attacking and defending, players have a choice of three different kinds of attacks: standard and heavy attacks, and a farting attack – which is considered magic.
While the focus of the title is on the South Park characters, the Stick of Truth and the sleeping town, the highlight of the title is definitely the combat system. Players also won’t have to take on multiple enemies alone, as they can choose one other character to accompany them on their journey, and in combat.
However, there’s more to this title than combat, as characters have free roam to wander the streets of South Park for as long as they want. While there isn’t much to do by just exploring, players will eventually bump into other characters, which will in turn provide them with a quest. It’s these quests that drive the entire narrative of The Stick of Truth.
Another plus point for the title is the facts that the visuals have been authentically recreated from the television series, with Stone and Parker doing the voices for the characters are well. It is clear that a lot of effort has gone into producing the game, and fans of the franchise should love it, but it’s not without its faults.
What we don’t like about it
The crude jokes and offensive religious references are indeed humorous, but the effect wears off quickly after a couple of hours. South Park has been known for trying to offend as many people as possible, but after a while the intention seems to shift from that, to showing cartoon sexual intercourse because they can, and it’s somewhat expected.
And the crudeness isn’t even that bad – it’s actually pretty mild – but fart jokes and teens swearing are only funny up to a point, then it becomes annoying.
One thing that gamers will probably never complain about, is a game’s playtime. Usually titles offer up far less than expected, but in Stick of Truth, it could have been just slightly shorter. Within the first hours, the game shifts from the titular stick, to something much bigger. It’s neatly wrapped in the narrative and held together by strange circumstances, but some battles and plot pieces seem negligible.
…And then there is the inclusion of zombies – Nazi zombies. Complete with chants and shouts in German, with swastika armbands.
Fans of the franchise will absolutely love The Stick of Truth, but it might (and probably will) get a bit too much for gamers who haven’t seen Cartman, Kenny, Stan or Kyle in years.
It’s great that players can wander around town and visit some of the series’ most iconic buildings, but the game struggles to find a good balance between combat, the plot and the length. Some quests were redundant or filled with unnecessary grind work, which makes the player feel cheated, while some of the better quests were over in a very short amount of time.
If words like “anal beads” or “dildos” make you giggle, then South Park: The Stick of Truth is definitely for you.
Our score: 7/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor