Title: South Park: The Stick of Truth
System(s): PS3, also available for Xbox 360 and PC
Release Date: March 4, 2008
Publisher (Developer): Ubisoft (Obsidian Entertainment and
South Park Digital Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Violence
South Park video games don’t exactly have a good reputation. Sure, some have their moments. South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! wasn’t too bad, and if there’s nothing better around, South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack will do. But nothing really stood out as a great game. Enter South Park: Stick of Truth , the first South Park game any fan actually has to play.
Stay strong, New Kid!
South Park: The Stick of Truth begins with a new kid. The New Kid, to be exact. His look may vary, as there are hundreds of possible ways to customize his appearance, but one thing is for sure. He’s something of a chosen one. Sure, he has a name, which the player decides, but that doesn’t matter. He’s simply the New Kid, whose family moved to South Park to get away from something, and his new task is to make friends and become part of the community.
Which proves pretty darn easy. Moments after stepping out of your house, likely because your father forced you to go out and make friends, you meet Butters. He’s a paladin and part of Cartman’s Kupa Keep human forces. Within moments, you’re the latest member of the Grand Wizard Cartman’s ranks and dubbed Douchebag. But there’s no time to celebrate. The Elves, led by Kyle and Stan, have come to take the Stick of Truth from Kupa Keep.
The New Kid joins the fray and it seems like the group has successfully repelled the Elven forces. However, it’s revealed that Clyde was slacking off and the Stick of Truth was taken in the process. Cartman tells Clyde he’s out and can’t play anymore, and the rest of the game follows the New Kid as he attempts to reclaim the Stick of Truth.
The gang’s all here, and they’re going old-school.
South Park: The Stick of Truth is an accomplishment. Obsidian has managed to do something any developer who’s ever made a game based on a series dreams. It perfectly captured the feel of South Park, perfectly bringing the town and all of its characters to life. It’s respectful (to the source material), looks exactly like the TV show, and manages to make a player actually feel like a part of this quiet mountain town. A Facebook-esque system is perfectly integrated as the in-game menu and status screen, all of the “junk” items are things any die-hard fan would recognize, and there’s a multitude of customization options to make your New Kid truly yours.
It’s coupled with an absolutely amazing script. Which only makes sense, as Trey Parker and Matt Stone took care of it. Equally poignant, clever, and even disgusting, I liked to think of South Park: The Stick of Truth as a mini-series of supplemental season of the show. It’s absolutely the funniest game I’ve ever played, but that doesn’t mean Parker and Stone sacrificed other important storytelling elements in an attempt to always be cracking crass jokes. Every joke is perfectly worked into the story and doesn’t detract from anything important.
I’m torn about South Park: The Stick of Truth‘s battle system, however. I really like the execution, in some ways. It’s turn based and, like the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi RPGs, allows players to deal extra damage or dodge if they press an action button right as a character is about to execute a standard attack or they’re about to be attacked. However, it manages to get a bit tedious. The special attacks should break this up, but I tended to avoid them as each one would involve pressing a certain sequence of buttons or moving just “so” to perfectly execute an ability. It was more trouble than it was worth and, given how easy most of the battles were, it was easier to just deal standard attacks for two turns until every opponent was out cold.
Of course, the special attack inputs weren’t the only area where South Park: The Stick of Truth left me frustrated. In this game, farts are magic. Yes, you read that correctly. You learn an assortment of farts, all of which move in different ways, and use the left and right analog sticks for proper execution. Now, actually performing these farts in the game proper was really easy. Yet, performing them during the tutorial section was like the ultimate trial. It seemed like the game was only satisfied with absolute perfect execution, which was odd because the rest of the game wasn’t nearly so demanding. Still, it’s a minor annoyance to overcome. Especially since farts are quite necessary for getting through South Park. You wouldn’t think you’d need them to remove blockades or stealthily creep past soldiers, but there you go.
Which brings me to another important South Park: Stick of Truth point. This game is always surprising you. Callbacks to pretty much every episode in the series are applied liberally, and even though it can be completed in under 15 hours, I’ve found myself thinking this isn’t just a game you can play once. Like any good comedy, it deserves a second viewing. There are bound to be jokes you missed the first time through. There are missable trophies, items, and Chinpokomon, after all. In fact, I’d almost say the game seemed designed to be the kind you can play through more than once so you can be sure you see everything.
Finally, there are the bugs. Fortunately, by the time I bought South Park: The Stick of Truth, they were mostly patched out of the game. However, I did notice some issues when moving from area to area in South Park. Sometimes there would be a delay or stuttering movements after just entering a new area. The lag was pretty noticeable, but usually cleared up within a few seconds. But, it’s almost best to think of it as a work-in-progress and I imagine this issue will be rectified soon with, you guessed it, another patch.
The best South Park game
South Park: The Stick of Truth is an accomplishment. Considering everything Obsidian Entertainment and South Park Digital Studios went through on the road to getting this game made, it could have been a total disappointment. But, the developers came through. They’ve given us not only the best South Park game, but proof that an all-encompassing game based on a popular series can be everything fans dream about. South Park: The Stick of Truth perfectly captures the spirit of the show and, while there are a few minor issues, is just what we needed in our game libraries.