When the idea of a South Park RPG was announced, the reaction was understandable. “Yes! We LOVE South Park!” shouted gamers in anticipation. “But wait, pretty much every other South Park game has sucked! What if this one sucks too?”
It does not suck. It, in fact, kicks a whole lot of ass.
South Park: The Sick of Truth is not your average South Park game, but it’s also not your average RPG. Carrying the hallmarks of the Comedy Central staple created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Stick of Truth includes racial jokes, sex toys as weapons, anal probing, a fetch quest for illicit substances, beating the homeless, incendiary flatulence, and more “shits,” “fucks,” and “goddamnits” than any “dark, gritty” shooter could dream of shouting.
The somewhat surprising part lies in the fact that underneath the outrageously-crude behavior of the residents of South Park, Colorado stands a solid, fun, and totally-serious RPG.
Players assume the role of the New Kid in South Park, forced out onto the streets by his parents to “make friends,” which, really, might just be every parent’s fantasy come true. He meets Butters, currently role-playing as a Paladin, fighting another kid playing as an Elf. After helping Butters out, he introduces the New Kid to the Kingdom of Kupa Keep, also known as (wait for it…) the KKK. There, the Grand Wizard Cartman and Princess Kenny (nobody knows why Kenny wanted to be a girl but just run with it) tell the New Kid about the legendary “Stick of Truth,” the relic whose holder determines the fate of the universe. The Elves, led by Kyle, and the Humans, led by Cartman, have been “locked in war for ages” over the Stick, which is stolen in an Elven raid. Meanwhile, a huge Taco Bell is being built where the South Park Mall used to be, so there’s that.
Right off the top, the art style of the game is complete crap – which is just as it should be for a South Park game. Realizing that previous South Park games sucked ass in a bad way, Parker and Stone told both Obsidian Entertainment and THQ (holders of the license prior to their bankruptcy) they wanted to be involved with development, and that they wouldn’t let the game go forward until Obsidian could prove they could replicate the two-dimensional paper cut-out style the series was known for.
Obsidian proved it then, and they nailed it now; the game looks like an actual episode of South Park. In fact the overworld provides no hint that it’s actually a game unless players press the heads-up display button, displaying their HP, PP, and other stats. The New Kid, the children, and all the residents of South Park have that same funny trot the show does, and their mannerisms reflect what’s seen on the show. The subscreen takes on a Facebook-like form that I was afraid might suck players out of the immersion, but it’s accessed in-game by a mobile device, so it still feels like a naturally-occurring part of a South Park episode.
Fans of the series will spend most of their time wandering the streets of South Park, swimming in fanservice all the way, from the collectable junk the New Kid picks up to the music heard in different locations throughout the town – all authentic from the show, including my personal favorite, “Let’s Fighting Love!” – to the characters and locations in the side missions. In fact, the side missions are so enjoyable there were times I forgot what I was doing in the main quest, especially when helping Mr. Kim get rid of the Mongolians (“OH HERRO MONGORIANS!!”) from the Tower of Peace located next to City Wok (“HERRO! WERCOME TO SHITY WOK!”).
Even the fetchquests were a blast. I actually tried to find all the Chinpokomon, beat all the homeless bums, and find ManBearPig, instead of blowing it off for the mainquest. It’s unusual that an RPG has sidequests equally as epic, and equally as enjoyable, as the storyline, but Obsidian Entertainment and South Park Studios have come together to make a solid product.
The battle system is reminiscent of games like Paper Mario where an attack hits, but the right button pattern can land a Perfect Attack for more damage. Stick of Truth swaps out the usual swords, daggers, and magic spells for wood planks, phallic toys, and firecrackers, and trades out the common status ailments for more common ones, such as being Grossed Out, Pissed Off, Shocked, or Bleeding. The New Kid can take any of the core South Park characters along with him to assist him in battle; their powers can also be used in the field, including Butters’ healing powers and Kenny’s… uh… charm. Of course, the most charming thing I can think of is a boy dressed like a girl flashing his nipples at the enemy.
Whatever gets you through the day though.
Stick of Truth knocks it out of the park for as long as it can, but one of the only major problems is that RPG die-hards might find the campaign a little on the short side, clocking in significantly shorter than other, more serious, no-fun-having RPGs. Also – I can’t believe I’m about to say this – I wish there had been more multiplayer or online capabilities. I might take my jabs at the shooter clones, the Super Call of Battlefield 39s of the world, but one place where I was really looking forward to some online action was during a game based on South Park, seeing our New Kids and farting on each other and the like, but there’s nothing to be found. It’s quite a shame, really, but fortunately with four classes to choose from, there’s still replayability found in Stick of Truth.
Listen, I’m going to need to have you RESPECT MA AUTHORITAAAH – South Park: The Stick of Truth is a riot. I’ve never laughed harder at a video game than I have following the adventures of four foul-mouthed children from a quiet, little mountain town. While I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting that part, I was delighted to see that there was still (after so many delays) a damn good adventure amongst all the references. Even if you haven’t seen the show in a while, South Park: The Stick of Truth will remind you what you loved about the show.
Now go buy it and play it already! Jeethus Chriiiiist!
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Rated M for Mature
PS3, Xbox 360, Windows PC. Review based on Xbox 360 version.